Lean implementation tactics

Managers encounter a number of tactical questions in their lean journeys that call for decisions and actions. For example, should we have a “lean team”? Should we track lean implementation using bottom-up structures or top-down audit schemes? Should we offer financial and non-financial rewards for lean implementation to employees? These questions were recently answered in the research paper “Implementing corporate lean programs: The effect of management control practices,” by J. Schloetzer, K. Ferdows and myself, published in the Journal of Operations Management. This post* gives a summary.

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Academic life explained by WuMO

Oh, you’re an “academic”… but what exactly are you doing? Among my favorite cartoonists are Mikael Wulff and Anders Morgenthaler, who together write WuMO. Here are eight handpicked WuMo cartoons that explain the essence of academic life. Enjoy!



WuMo ©WulffMorgenthaler. Reprinted with permission of Universal Uclick. All rights reserved.

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Five critical success factors for implementing lean programs

Two out of three lean programs fail to achieve their initial objectives. My latest research asked 432 practitioners from 83 factories in two multinational corporations what they see as critical factors for succeeding with lean implementation. The research summarized five critical success factors for implementing lean programs that managers must get right. Is your organization on track?

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5S done right

5S. Five short Japanese words, each beginning with an “S”. The majority of employees in the industrial sector, and increasingly in the public sector, have heard about the “5Ss”. The problem? The vast majority of companies trying to “implement” 5S fails, and does so repeatedly. Many mistakes it as a concept for cleaning and tidying up—boring but necessary activities for any professional business. This post* takes a closer look at each of the five S-words, and finds that many of us might have missed the point.

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Lean in the primary school?

Do concepts from the assembly line at Toyota apply to the learning environment of children from six to twelve years? One pioneering school in Rogaland, Norway, shows how some elements of lean thinking can be successfully adapted to create better conditions for teaching and learning.

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Poor performance? The problem is you! (A review of Lead with respect)

“The problem is you”, is the honest response of a senior manager when a supplier’s CEO asks more time to solve a quality issue. He continues: “I don’t mean you as in the company. I mean you personally. You’re the senior manager here”…. This is the intriguing start of a business novel on lean leadership. Here is my brief review of Lead with Respect: a Novel of Lean Practice by Michael Ballé and Freddy Ballé.

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Lean broadcasting: Lean in the BBC

A service you probably consume every single day is broadcasting. Can lean principles help the broadcasting industry produce better value for the audience – and do so more efficiently and more effectively than today? Admittedly, I had never thought about broadcasting as a new application area for lean, but clearly it is coming. This post looks at lean broadcasting, where the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is a first mover.

Lean broadcasting_BBC Spark_

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Liker on Lean Leadership

Why do most firms fail in their lean transformations? Because they have not understood the power of lean leadership, says Professor Jeffrey Liker. I spent the last two days together with the Norwegian aluminum producer Hydro ASA, listening to and learning from Liker. Here is a brief reflection on the essentials of lean leadership.

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The top-ten Dilbert cartoons on lean

Is your organization struggling to implement lean or any similar process improvement program? This post presents the 10 best Dilbert cartoons on lean management.* Scott Adams’ brilliant and popular cartoons provide a reality check for any change agent involved in process improvement. Next time, ask yourself: What would Dilbert do?

#10 Develop a long-term corporate lean program
Dilbert lean TQM Six Sigma 10

DILBERT © 2006 Scott Adams. Used By permission of UNIVERSAL UCLICK. All rights reserved.

Restarting a new improvement program every quarter or year? The only ones wagging their tails are the consultants. Instead, develop a lasting corporate lean program—and stick with it for a long time.

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10 benefits of lean games

How can we boost the learning experience when teaching lean production? Admittedly, presentations and monologues from the front of the classroom are rarely something people remember for a long time. Learning can be greatly improved by using games and simulations, which provides the learner first-hand experience in lean and its benefits.

The Volvo Trucks Lego Lean Game played at a MBA course in Norway

My own Volvo Trucks Lego Lean Game played at a MBA course in Norway

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A Letter of Tribute to Fred Kavli

On this day, exactly one year ago, one great Norwegian passed: Fred Kavli (1927-2013) was an engineer, entrepreneur, leader and—most importantly—a philanthropist. On my way to work, whether it is here in Cambridge or home in Trondheim, I pass one of his many living legacies. In Trondheim, it would be the Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience  at NTNU (with fresh Nobel Prize winners in Medicine). In Cambridge it is the Kavli Institute for Cosmology. Both these examples are beneficiaries of Kavli’s passion for science, and both perform high-risk, world-class research in their respective areas. Mr. Kavli certainly deserves a letter of tribute.

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Factory response to a corporate lean program: The 4A model

How do factories respond when the headquarters of a multinational firm rolls out a “new” corporate lean program? In a paper in the International Journal of Operations and Production Management*, Professor Arild Aspelund and I propose that factories can respond in four generic ways; explained by the “4A model”.

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Making operations fly – what business can learn from pilots

I am still smiling. On my flight from Oslo to Rome this weekend, I was asked to sit in the cockpit. I gladly accepted. My seat ticket read C01 – Cockpit 1. In a fully seated Boeing 737-800, the captain and copilot of SK4713 showed me how to get 194 passengers safely and timely from far north to the south of Europe in about three hours. I could not possibly get a better start on my travel to the annual conference of the European Operations Management Association, this time in Palermo, Sicily. For a scholar of operations, it was truly inspiring to get a first-hand view of how the aviation industry operates. What can other industries learn from aviation? A lot, for sure. Here are five quick reflections from my flight over Europe.

SAS cockpit operations

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Implementing the Volvo Production System in a truck plant

To follow up my previous post about the effect of implementing lean in the global Volvo Group, here’s one short story of the implementation of the Volvo Production System (VPS) in the truck assembly plant in New River Valley, Virginia, USA.

Mr. Ebly Sanchez presents the Volvo Production System, POMS Atlanta May 2014

Mr. Ebly Sanchez presents the Volvo Production System at POMS Atlanta May 2014 (Photo: author).

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Do Lean Programs Pay Off?

Multinational companies roll out lean programs or XPSs. The objective is to improve the operational performance of all the factories in the global network. The party killer? It is documented that about 70 % of all general change programs fail [1], and similar figures has been suggested for lean [2]. So, do lean programs really pay off?

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A speech from a PhD to fellow PhDs

The annual Doctoral Degree Awards Ceremony has just been ceremoniously arranged at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), in Trondheim. I got the great honor of giving the Fellow Speech to the 370 new Doctors of Philosophy (PhDs). This post is an excerpt of this speech. It is a call for PhDs—in any field—to use their hard-won knowledge to contribute to a better society.

NTNU Doctoral Degree Award Cermony 2014

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Beer and Bullwhip: What happens as you drink?

Do you know the far-reaching implications of you ordering a non-regular beer in a bar? I mean, in addition to all the personal pleasures (and problems) that may follow? If you have ever played the Beer Game* you know what I’m talking about: The Bullwhip Effect. When you create small variations in customer demand you start a chain-reaction of amplifying variations upstream the supply chain**. Follow me to the bar. Continue reading

A gold standard lean production system: the Madshus Business System

It is Winter Olympics in Sochi. The world’s best winter sport athletes use world-class winter sport equipment to fight for honor and gold. Just like the athletes use exercise regimens to become stronger and quicker, equipment manufacturers can deploy lean production programs to better their production. This post highlights a gold standard lean production system developed by a leading sports equipment manufacturer.

Lean sports

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The Concept Epicenters of Lean, TQM, Six Sigma & co

When it comes to improving production, a standard question is this one: What are the differences between Lean, Total Quality Management (TQM), Six Sigma, Agile, Quick Response Manufacturing (QRM), and all the other prescribed improvement programs? Underlying the question is a rational need to find a way to navigate through the jungle of “solutions”, and select the one(s) that fit exactly your firm. In this blog post, I suggest that considering “Concept Epicenters” might be helpful in making the right strategic choices.

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How to defend your PhD dissertation

So, I made it. Yiihaa! Four years culminating into one day. My first post as a fresh Doctor in Operations Management will be my reflections on giving the defense. I hope the thoughts will be somewhat helpful or comforting for all those shivering PhD candidates yet to come. One thing’s for sure; I’ve got respect for the process. A PhD defense is – and should be – a serious ceremony. Yet, it can be one of the best days in life. These tips and tricks on how to defend your PhD dissertation are not just my own; many thanks to all the professors at NTNU who shared their advice with me. I’ll pay it forward.

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Chess mate! What does chess have to do with operations strategy?

What’s the most usual image for strategy? Google Pictures leaves no doubt: Chess! These days, the FIDE World Chess Championship is held in Chennai, India. The reigning world champion Viswanathan Anand is playing on home ground against the Norwegian chess wonder Magnus Carlsen. In this regard, one of the readers of my blog asked me to explore the question: What does chess have to do with operation strategy?

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Go Lean, get Green?

Good news*: your operations can reach excellence in both Lean and Green. But to hope for success you need to treat Lean and Green as interconnected strategies—not isolated projects. That tip is a key take away from the SMARTLOG seminar “Lean & Green? Yes please both” that we arranged at SINTEF in Trondheim this week. Leading academics and corporations** in Scandinavia were invited to share their latest experiences on the topic. Do Lean and Green go well together?

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Factory Beauty: Does looks impact performance?

Factories are like people; they come in all shapes and looks—some more attractive than others. There is no doubt that a good looking factory is nice for workers and visitors, but does it also have a significant impact on the plant’s operational and financial performances? How much should management care about factory beauty?

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Factory Fitness: What managers can learn from Athletics

This week, the 2013 IAAF World Championships in athletics is held in Moscow, Russia. If plant managers watch carefully, they might pick up a few ideas for improving their factories. A specific concept that comes to mind is the notion of Factory Fitness – proposed by Kasra Ferdows (Georgetown University) and Fritz Thurnheer (Hydro ASA) in 2011. The key take away is the following: Whereas becoming lean is right for many, becoming fit is right for all. How to become world champion depends on the event.

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The rope team: Theory of Constraints

Climbing the highest mountain in Northern Europe, a few thoughts on the Theory of Constraints came to my mind. To get to Galdhøpiggen, 2469 meters above sea level, the most common route takes you over a glacier where rope teams are used for safety reasons. In his must-read book “the Goal”, Eli Goldratt (1984) uses rope teams to illustrate an efficient production system. Why should you run your production as a rope team.? Why not?

In rope team towards Galdhøpiggen, Norway, 21-7-2013

In rope team towards Galdhøpiggen, Norway, 21-7-2013

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