Fake Lean with Bob Emiliani

Fake Lean with Bob Emiliani

by Patrick Adams | Sep 20, 2022

In this episode I was able to have Bob Emiliani back for a second time to discuss many topics to include his views on ‘Fake Lean.’

What You’ll Learn This Episode:

  • What is Fake Lean?
  • Findings of an Ongoing Root Cause Analysis on Lean Transformation Failures
  • Research studies Bob is currently working on
  • What is Bob’s favorite topic to discuss?

About the Guest: 

Dr. Bob Emiliani is an accomplished author whose work spans three disciplines: engineering, social sciences, and humanities. He has authored or co-authored 45 peer-reviewed papers in six different subject areas (leadership, management, management history, supply chain management, higher education, and materials engineering) and is the author or co-author of 22 books.

Important Links:





Full Episode Transcripts: 


Patrick Adams  00:01

Welcome to the Lean solutions podcast where we discuss business solutions to help listeners develop and implement action plans for true Lean process improvement. I am your host, Patrick Adams. Hello, everybody. This week I’m talking with Bob emiliani, engineer, researcher, author, historian of progressive management, educational reformer, and executive coach. Bob has also authored or co authored 45, peer reviewed papers in six different subject areas, including leadership management, management, history, supply chain management, higher education and materials engineering. He’s also the author of many different books, co author and author of many different books. Welcome to show, Bob.


Bob Emiliani  00:44

Thank you. Happy to be here. Patrick.


Patrick Adams  00:46

I’m excited to have you back. Bob, this is actually your second time on the show. Previously, we talked about Lean and leadership. And I’m excited to kind of dive into another subject today, specifically around fake lean. So that’s going to be fun.


Bob Emiliani  01:02

And data well.


Patrick Adams  01:04

So what have you been up to? These days? Bob? Are you busy with any specific research studies?


Bob Emiliani  01:11

Yeah, I’m continuing along the line of research that I’ve been doing for a while, which is to understand why most leaders are not that interested in lean or progressive management, transformation, any kind of major change. And so I continue to add little bits and pieces to that research. And so, yeah, the thing I’m looking at now, as now is trying to kind of move, thinking if there’s enough ideas that I have to move people beyond this notion of behavior change, you know, and that’s, that’s the answer to our all of our problems is getting leaders to change their behaviors. And people have been at that for, you know, about 100 years now, and without a lot of success. And so, I think we got to move on from that idea. So that’s my, my upcoming research project.


Patrick Adams  02:00

Now, that’s exciting. I’ll be looking forward to see that, but you also have a series of books out that, you know, kind of hit on some of these topics. And, you know, any, any any thoughts around, you know, why we aren’t further along than then where we could be right now?


Bob Emiliani  02:17

Well, I mean, what those books are doing is looking at the problem from four different directions. And so, you know, if you think of a fishbone diagram, why do we have this effect of leaders not so interested in laying what are the causes and so forth? And so I’m trying to run down, you know, what are the major causes, and I think the four books do a pretty comprehensive job of looking at the major causes from four different directions. And so there is just, you know, well, first book is looking at sort of the economic, social, political and historical reasons why we don’t do it, the next two book, two books are looking at aesthetic and spiritual reasons. And then the fourth book is looking at really focusing in on aesthetics and that things need to look a certain way in order to be accepted, and move forward with and if they don’t look a certain way, then you don’t move forward with it. And so lean to a lot of leaders doesn’t look like what it needs to look like in order to be accepted. And I think the latest book, The aesthetic compasses, kind of the really the easiest to understand. And then the other ones get into a lot of detail. What’s interesting, just a quick digression here is that one reader told me, you know, if you’re a lean enthusiasts, lean practitioner, you should read the four books and the order that I wrote the books. And if you’re a president of accompany, you should read it in the reverse order. Interesting. So practitioners should start with trying to classical management and executive should start with the aesthetic compass. Yeah, I thought that was interesting.


Patrick Adams  03:48

Why do you think that is? What would be the benefit of reading either way? Because obviously, we have lists that are on both sides of that, right?


Bob Emiliani  03:56

Yeah, yeah. Well, I think reading from the aesthetic compass, backwards is more of a softer touch. Classical management is kind of, you know, I guess, in your face, really get into, you know, I mean, the way I write or my style of writing is just to put the reality of it out there, you know, not sugarcoat and just say like, it is, you know, try try to be value, not having value judgments. Just say here’s, here’s how it is. Sure. And that can be off putting to some people themselves. And they can be


Patrick Adams  04:31

Yeah, and as far as it being off putting, what do you what would you say are some of the maybe the the points that maybe are the harshest in that people as you know, have a hard time accepting what would be some of those, those points.


Bob Emiliani  04:49

People have a hard time accepting what Lean does to one status. And so, you know, people work very hard in different ways. And we all do, we’re human. And so we have concerns whether we realize it or not about our status or relative status to others. How do we develop a higher status? How do we maintain status? How do we avoid losing status? And so that that ends up being a big part of this? Sure, a huge part of this surprisingly, try for classical management says, you know, it’s basically we have a political problem in terms of moving lean forward. And so, you know, looking at these solutions within the behavioral realm, you know, leaders behaviors really doesn’t cut it.


Patrick Adams  05:33

In anyway, yeah. That’s, that’s a couple of really great points. Do you think that that has a lot to do with why we see what you would call fake lien? I would, I would call that continuous appearance, right? Yeah. What would you


Bob Emiliani  05:49

mark Raven would call it lame. Lee? Yes, they can be executed. That’s right. Yeah. Well, just a little brief, brief history on lean, I mean, when I left industry, back in 2000, and actually was the 99. But around 2000 2001, I defined fake lean in a particular way, which was continuous improvement without respect for people, because it was apparent by the late 90s, that most organizations didn’t understand or practice GPS, you know, in the Toyota way or, or leading well or correctly, so it didn’t produce the business or the human results that you would hope, you know, the results were poor, you know, lots of layoffs. Due to productivity improvement, and the layoffs were due to a lot of factors. It was globalization going on and so forth. Although it is noteworthy that really no, none of the top people in Lean world publicly addressed the problem of layoffs, due to lean due to productivity improvement. I mean, they were silent on that publicly, they may have had private conversations with, you know, company leaders and so forth. But publicly, it was a silent anyway, that that bothered me, because, you know, I mean, our our, especially our people who are doing the value creating work got hit really hard. And these are the people I have a lot of empathy with, and for and, you know, anyway. So, you know, the layoffs bug me is just, you know, so I ended up writing about this in various places in the real end series of books, and I refer to it as labor side, you know, like its own kind of type of genocide sort of thing that the leaders didn’t weren’t able to, or didn’t want to distinguish between process costs and labor costs. You know, one of the things of value stream map was to show you that your your money problem is not labor, it’s tied up in all this inventory. That’s right. And they just, you know, they didn’t, they didn’t care about that what the value stream map seemed to show people was looking at all this labor, right? Instead of looking at all this inventory, and all this batch and queue processing, and so it just led to layoffs, over a 30 year period. Anyway, sorry, digression. So when I, when I started teaching, Lean leadership and university, I wanted to find a really simple way to describe the difference between you know, what continuous improvement without respect for people was, which I called fake lien and what continuous improvement and respect for people is, which is really, and that works really well, you know, for a long time, but in recent years, and you’ve probably seen on LinkedIn or heard elsewhere, that people are using fake lien as a pejorative term, you know, that basically disapproval of somebody’s Lean thinking or practice, right. That’s not how I intended just to distinguish between the, you know, the empirical reality of what’s happening in organizations. Right. And so,


Patrick Adams  08:52

Bob, what do you think, are the repercussions of organizations that do look at labor reduction as a part of their Lean journey?


Bob Emiliani  09:03

Well, you know, there’s some weird things go on, because leaders will say, on the one hand, we can’t find people, you know, and hiring is difficult and, you know, all those sorts of problems, and but then they’ll lay people off, and they’re really not thinking too hard about, you know, moving people around into different parts of the company. And that’s partly because people get pigeonholed in certain ways. You know, you’re an engineer, well, you know, maybe the engineer wants to transition into HR, or maybe the engineer, mechanical engineer. There’s a lot of engineers, by the way, who are mechanical, who know a lot about software. Sure, and they want to get into, I don’t know, DevOps or Scrum or agile or whatever. You know, and so, companies don’t often give a lot of thought to the desires that people have, because maybe they don’t want to be an engineer lifelong. Um, there was a recent article about regrets that people have in their college majors. And, and, you know, some 20, or 30% of people regret their engineering major. And, you know, some people higher up the scale that they showed in the chart, you know, are unhappy with their humanities major, you know, so, and this comes to you at different points in your life, you may be happy with it, your engineering degree and the first five 710 12 years, but then you kind of get tired of it and want to do something else. So, generally speaking, companies, aside from sort of internal postings are not really good at understanding, you know, people’s growth and evolution over time and their changing interests and, you know, just these kinds of passages through life, and I think we need to understand that and respect that. And, you know, if, if, if somebody is in HR and wants to go to engineering, that’s a harder hill to climb, you know, because of your degree as an HR person was, let’s say, communications, just pick something that’s not engineering, or, you know, major in Spanish language or something like that. But, but there’s still positions in engineering world that they could do. Sure,


Patrick Adams  11:10

absolutely. And that, that, that would be the the, obviously, the, the alternative of laying people off would be, look for other areas in the company, if you’ve, if you’ve found, you know, enough improvement opportunities to be able to reduce by one engineer, whatever it is, then, you know, look for other areas that that person may be passionate about, that you can shift them into, where you maybe have a gap in your organization.


Bob Emiliani  11:34

And also, and also CEOs, hey, work with your fellow CEOs, say, hey, we have some engineers that we’re letting go, can you hire them? Sure, you know, don’t, don’t just cast them on the street, get off, get on the phone, do a little bit of work, we know you’re busy. But do a little bit of work, call up some of your fellow CEOs, your business is shrinking. Okay. But there’s this growing column up, you got some engineers, or whoever, you know, doesn’t have to be engineers, obviously. You know, can you you’re hiring, can you? Could you look at our folks. Absolutely. That’s not hard to do. But it’s not the customs not the tradition to do that. It’s just let them go. And then, of course, they’d be, you know, have to get unemployment checks every week, you know, it’s, it’s not a good thing, just to dump these people out onto the state


Patrick Adams  12:22

right. Now, what about the flip side of that, because there’s a lot of companies right now that are struggling to either find good employer find, find any employees or, you know, find the right employees or retain? Employees, what would you say, you know, is the benefit of having really the right type of continuous improvement culture that are being on the right Lean journey? What would be the benefits of that for those organizations that are struggling to retain or find employees?


Bob Emiliani  12:54

I mean, there’s a very simple relationship. And I know you’ve seen it, and we’ve all worked in companies where people have bad ideas, and the boss has said, No, do it my way, my way out, you know, if I want your idea, I’ll ask you. And then the magic day comes when, you know, either a new boss comes in or, you know, Kaizen comes in, and so forth. And people have ideas. And those ideas happen now, you know, at this moment that I’m speaking, and then they actually move forward to try out those ideas, you know, 10 minutes from now. And then, and then they try it out, and it works, or it doesn’t work or whatever. And as a team, they solve a problem. And they’re like, Wow, I love it. You know, it’s great, we finally can, can, you know, try out ideas that we have, and you see it flips, like a light switch, practically. And that they become very satisfied with the workplace, almost immediately, almost directly on that sole basis, that we were allowed to think and work and try new things. That’s right. And, of course, yeah, it’s huge. And part of this, of course, is if you if you have a boss that’s not supportive of this, then, you know, that’s, that’s an ongoing problem. But otherwise, it’s, it’s a major thing that leads to employee satisfaction. Because, you know, one of the things we always say is that, you know, we need to understand the workers because they’re the experts at in the job that they’re doing another way of saying this is workers have complaints about various things. And if they’re the experts and know the the origins of these complaints, then we should listen to it. Well, the origin a complaint is not just related to doing your work. It’s also how your work is managed. And so if the workers are unhappy with the management, they’re the experts as the receivers of management and leadership practice. And so we should be listening to them and saying, if they’re the experts, and they’re saying leadership and management stink, or needs improvements or whatever, then we should be listening to that and make changes but it normally, you know, in the classical management construct The workers are mere instruments to get the job done and you don’t care what they have to say. Right? And then, you know, in the Lean construct workers, what they have to say about the job as well as the management and leadership of that job matters.


Patrick Adams  15:14

Sure, sure. Yeah, that’s, that’s a great point. So it’s a powerful point, by the way, because there are so many, so many leaders that don’t understand that and won’t listen to that. Because, you know, maybe they think they have all the answers or whatever it is, who knows, but you know, you you can’t be selective, right? If you’re going to say that you respect your employees, and you respect their opinions about the things they’re struggling with, when it comes up that its management, well, then you need to take action on that you need to actually listen and do something about it. What would you say for someone that’s listening, that maybe the executive leaders or upper management, maybe doesn’t support? A continuous improvement culture? They don’t? Maybe they maybe they talk the talk, but they don’t walk the walk? Right? Maybe they, they say that we should do these things? Or maybe they don’t. But either way, there’s no action that’s happening from executive leadership to support, you know, a Lean journey, what any advice that you would have for someone? Yeah,


Bob Emiliani  16:18

you know, they need to understand the social science aspect of leadership and management. And there is, this is the work that I’ve been doing over the course of the four books that we just talked about, is to understand the social side, I call it the institution of leadership and the system of profound privilege. Because you’re faced with two choices as a employee or, you know, salaried or hourly employee, you’re faced with two choices to be frustrated forever. Because, you know, do bosses don’t get it and all of that, or you can search for the, you know, your ideal lean company, and job hop, which has certain benefits and certain problems and doing that, sure. Or you can educate yourself and say, you know, what’s going on here? Why does this happen? And, you know, that’s, it’s, it’s, you know, took me 15 years of research, and I’m still researching it, to understand what’s going on. And it leads to a lot of, you know, oh, you know, a lot of enlightenment, like, oh, you know, now I finally understand what’s going on, I don’t like it. And solutions are difficult, but at least now, I’m not frustrated, and I understand the lay of the land, and I can make better decisions, career wise, now that I do understand the lay of the land. And if I do job hop, I will have a better understanding of, you know, either what I’m getting into or what I need to go to. Sure. And so, too much of Lean has been involved with, you know, the technical aspects, a three reports and looking at from Buddha and all of this, and, you know, lean community really needs to understand that the the social, economic, historical, philosophical, business, aesthetic preconceptions that create classical management, which are, which you need to displace in order to be successful with Lean. And that’s difficult to do, as we all know, but at least you understand what’s going on. And so that, you know, people who read my books are like, you know, very, you know, really a super informative, and now I understand what’s going on, and, you know, and then some people are, like, I now can use your books to better interact with my top leadership team of my company, because I know what, where their heads at. Right?


Patrick Adams  18:36

Right. Yeah, understanding that where their heads are, at is, is so key. And, you know, because upper management and executives are thinking maybe a little bit different than what you know, you might be, you know, their, their, the language is even a little bit different in that they’re looking like we talked about a little bit earlier, and maybe they’re looking for financial benefits or whatever it may be, but understanding just where they’re coming from, and what their thoughts are, can definitely help someone in, you know, starting conversations or, you know, figuring out


Bob Emiliani  19:06

importantly, they are looking for social benefits. That’s the social science aspect, that this is been is, you know, been neglected for way too long to my work is correcting this to understand because most people approach to management, but look at this cost savings and look at this, you know, increase in throughput and reduction of lead time and quality improvement and teamwork. And that’s not hitting that the social science aspects that leaders are concerned about.


Patrick Adams  19:37

What would you say would hit the the those social science


Bob Emiliani  19:42

first we have to understand why status is so important to them maintaining status, not expanding status, not losing it and things like that.


Patrick Adams  19:51

And you you talked about classical management earlier. Can you can you just help us define that?


Bob Emiliani  19:58

Yeah, well, traditional way of doing things the old way of doing things, batch and queue way of processing material and information, kind of organization do what you’re told, don’t think, you know, generally speaking the phrase, whatever is is right. Whereas, you know, the Lean thinking would be whatever is is wrong, in other words in need of improvement, whatever it is, right. So, yeah,


Patrick Adams  20:26

absolutely. We also talked a little bit earlier about your root cause analysis on Lean Transformation failures, I actually saw your, your fishbone diagram that you put together. A few weeks ago, I went through it, and it was pretty interesting. But what was the, what was the basis through that? Or what was the process, I guess, that you went through to conduct that root cause analysis? What did that look like?


Bob Emiliani  20:50

Well, yeah, I mean, that fishbone diagram was a simple analysis. I don’t know when it was long time ago, 1518 years ago, okay, like that. And that’s advanced a lot. And I’ll tell you in a moment, but background, my background is engineering and my interest in failure analysis comes from my engineering background. I did technical failure analysis of engineered components for three years. And it was an important learning experience. And it always stuck with me as a valuable methodology for learning and improving. And, and much more so than studying what works and why it works. And as you know, the phrase, you learn more from failure than from success. So, there are first of all, there’s there’s two types of Lean failure that we analyze using a, not a fishbone diagram, a different process that I’ll describe in a minute, but okay. So the first is the failure to popularize lean as a management system. And I mean, popularize it amongst the the C level crowd, not, not the practitioner crowd. So that’s the first type of failure. The second failure is Lean Transformation failure, why so many companies set out on a path to transform and we’re on success unsuccessful and doing it? Yes, they were successful in application of some tools and getting some, you know, improvement, but they’re not the transformation that was expected. So. So in my university course, we analyzed both types of failures using a root cause analysis method that I designed in 2005. That was to analyze failures in business. And that methodology has been improved, you know, ever over the years, I’m sure. So I created that method. Because when I was teaching in a business school, the professors teach basically success stories. They teach a case study method, and here’s, you know, why Intel is successful, and Apple successful and so forth. And they never talk about these disasters that you read all the time in the Wall Street Journal, like the 737 max Wells Fargo, the marandi Bridge in Italy, the opioid epidemic, and so forth. And so it just ignore all the product failures, the service failures, bankruptcies, the GM ignition switch problem, you remember that being Michigander? You know, so overall, over the years, we analyze 70 of these types of cases. And the method uses a four page format. The focus is really on the human factors is hugely important areas of failure that, you know, things like a three reports don’t cover, because a three report basically is a problem solving method. It’s not a failure, analysis, mapping. And so it includes things like beliefs and untested assumptions, the different forms of the logical thinking the different forms of cognitive biases. And so it’s looking at the social science aspects of failure. And it’s not solely the technical aspects and the technical aspects, you know, weave into the stories. But it’s mainly, you know, what are the social science aspects? So, you know, the first page of the format talks about, you know, what are the leaders of the company concerned about before the disaster and after the disaster, and it breaks it down by different stakeholders, which stakeholders are concerns about customers, employees, suppliers, investors, etc. You know, what did they do after the problem emerge? What are the inconsistencies between what did they say, What did they say? And what did they actually do? The beliefs and untested assumptions. So, that’s page one. Page two is the traditional cause and effect relationship. But there’s a second variation on the cause and effect relationship which is a process based cause and effect relationship. You can think of a fishbone diagram as sort of the traditional cause and effect but this one is a process based cause and effect relationship where we look at business processes, HR, engineering, process, development, finance, etc. The third page is a 10 Why’s Root Cause Analysis? As with countermeasures. And the fourth page sums it up or examines the cognitive biases, the different forms of cognitive biases are the main forms. There’s hundreds of them. Right, but the main forms that relate to poor decision making, and then the main forms of illogical, illogical thinking, wow. And so, yeah, so it’s very comprehensive. It’s very useful. I mean, there was this student the other day, saying it was the most intellectually challenging, you know, best course I ever took in university. A lot of students had that to say, wow.


Patrick Adams  25:35

But what were your findings that came out of that? Can you give some examples of some of the things that you found coming out of that?


Bob Emiliani  25:42

Yeah, yes. And I think it’s important, just to make a note of, you know, one thing that Ono said, if you try to adopt only the good parts, you’ll fail, and but I was looking at the technical aspects, the thing I’ve been interested in, is, is the social science aspect of why are they adopting the only only the good parts? is a technical aspect to that, but what’s the social science aspect of failure? Sure. So So anyway, so. So what did we find? So managers, it’s the find this unusual managers. They’re, they’re inconsistent in what they said, compared to what they did, which I think we’ve all kind of experienced. But they relied on beliefs and untested assumptions and just things that they think to be true, but are not. They don’t test those assumptions. And of course, we can’t go through life, testing every belief and assumption, and some beliefs are untestable. But when you’re in a leadership position, you have a responsibility for other people. And so there’s certain beliefs and assumptions related to executive decision making, that are testable, and you do need to test Sure, the leaders are trapped by different cognitive biases, you know, they’re human. So you would expect that right? Like anybody, and they suffer from different forms of illogical thinking just like anybody else does. But again, they’re in leadership positions. So they need to understand what are these cognitive biases, the main ones that affect poor decision making and the different types of illogical thinking that they’re likely going to get trapped into? And you would, you know, the results are surprising, because you wouldn’t expect this from very smart people with a lot of business experience. But we constantly find that, you know, 70 cases that we’ve studied over the, you know, you know, what is it 18 years or something 17 years, is that leaders make these errors in combination with one another. So there’s no 8020 rule for faulty leadership decision making. If you look at the the six major cognitive biases and the 10 or so, major forms of illogical thinking, they don’t Pareto out into anything that, you know, recognizable, they’re all, all these things happen. Together, they’re intermingled with one another. So, so what we find is, you know, leaders talk a lot about change, but they prefer the status quo. Leaders are really bad at estimating. They’re easily anchored into wrong ways of thinking. Leaders stick to their decisions, even when the facts show them to be wrong. They ignore evidence that contradicts their views. You see that with lean all the time. Here’s the evidence, ignore it. Right? in favor of the illogical thinking. There’s different forms called abuse of expertise. So people, you know, tend to abuse power when they have false assumptions. Due to a lack of go see, there’s a lot of lack of Gaussian organization. So there’s faulty assumptions, avoiding the force of reason. And politics figures into that, why do you avoid the force of reason because you have a certain public political belief system. So we ignore facts, a lot of red herrings to avoid responsibility. So you know, that the fourth page culminates into, you know, a section where it says, identify your significant learnings. And so, you know, there’s a lot of lessons now, unfortunately, you know, the lean community, I gotta stress, the Lean leader, lean movement leaders, in particular have completely indifferent to these to these failure analyses. I mean, they’re just, like, there’s nothing here, nothing to learn. But they’re aware of the problem. You know, a couple of years ago, you know, Jim Womack said there aren’t enough successful lean transformations. And, you know, so he’s written about that not often, but periodically that this isn’t working out as expected. And the you know, The countermeasure, I’m sorry to say is ridiculous, because it’s basically to address symptoms and not causes. And, you know, to do things that are? Well, as I said, it’s just ridiculous because the Lean world, if anything, should be people who are interested in root cause of why, why we have these two problems, you know, I don’t know how many people are part of this Lean community that put in a lot of effort over a lot of years. to, to, to, to, you know, convince CEOs to adopt lean. So that’s the first type of failure I talked about, you know, why was the Lean movement more successful with the sea level crowd? And then secondarily, why weren’t there more lean transformations? And, you know, after 30 years or more to sit and say, you know, let’s just fix this problem by dressing symptoms. You know, just seems very weird.


Patrick Adams  31:01

Yeah. And you, you mentioned that every everybody knows them with, you know, knows the causes, or they or they can read about them, obviously, through your, your study the results of that. But they, they just aren’t doing anything. And it makes me wonder why, why why is it not being addressed at the root? Any thoughts on that?


Bob Emiliani  31:23

Well, yeah, I mean, you know, I believe they look, I don’t know for sure that I, you know, I don’t have these conversations with these teacher. But it would be fairly logical to conclude that they would somehow consider that these types of failure analyses, you know, if you really understand what’s going on with somehow be damaging to the Lean movement, or to lean itself. And so they just rather ignore it, than confront the fact. And my difficulty with that is, is that if you respect people, including your customers, or consumers of Lean training, lean conferences, lean books, and so forth, you owe it to them to not ignore relevant information as to why they’re struggling and, you know, lean 101. Or at least the way I learned TPS, 101 is you shouldn’t allow people to struggle your your, you know, I was taught in a very forceful way, you’re a delinquents manager, you’re no good as the manager, if you allow people that you are responsible for and your team to struggle. And yet, the indifference to understanding the causes of those two types of failures, leads people to struggle. And so that’s, you know, a glaring inconsistency in regard to respect for people. Yes, it is. So, the other, you know, it’s not clear who’s leading the Lean movement. You know, that’s another problem we have. Who is the leadership of this movement? You know?


Patrick Adams  33:12

Sure. Now, it was interesting to me, as you were reading through those causes that were those findings. They were all very specific to leadership, there was there anything outside of leadership that was identified?


Bob Emiliani  33:28

Now, they’re all very specific to leadership, because the the structure of the failure analysis, I mean, the original naming of this thing was decision failure analysis. So the various failure analysis of leadership decisions that lead to crises and problems in companies that related to their product or service, going bankrupt, whatever the case may be, you know, Wells Fargo fraud and so forth, because these have their roots in leadership decisions. Sure.


Patrick Adams  34:00

Well, leader was huge, a huge part, you know, of any failure, whether its base was or whether it was part of decision making or anything. I mean, leadership is obviously a MasterCard.


Bob Emiliani  34:13

Yeah, I mean, for example, a Wells Fargo, the former CEO had a mantra of eight is great. Meaning or with some phrase like that eight is great, meaning any Wells Fargo customer should have eight of our products. And so that led to pushing products onto customers, even when they didn’t want it and surreptitiously signing customers up for products so that they could meet the metric that eight is great. And the CEO being far removed from the gamba doesn’t know what’s going on. And so this eight is great. rhyme, ends up and monitored ends up leading to a lot of fraud really at all levels of the company because everybody ignored you know, what’s, what’s actually happening. And, and so forth. So Yeah, I mean, leadership is really important. And and if you’re not connected to that again, but you don’t know what’s going on, you know, and all of these failures that we looked at our, you know, billions of dollars, you know, one of the one of the common learnings is that leaders are Pennywise, and pound foolish, you know, they’ll set to save a nickel, like the Boeing 737, it wasn’t exactly a nickel, they wanted to save a billion dollars on development costs, because a brand new plane would have been 10 billion, the fiasco ends up costing them close to $50 billion. That’s an extreme example, in terms, but we see that all the time in these failures, a lot of these management decisions relate to saving a little bit of money, but it ends up costing them huge amounts later. Right. Right.


Patrick Adams  35:48

I think a big part of that, too, is the fact that I see for a lot of companies, for whatever reason, nowadays, I see leaders in positions no more than, you know, two to three years, five years at the most. But it seems like many leaders feel like they have to make decisions based on the three years that they’re going to be in that position, or the four years. And so a lot of the decisions that they’re making, are just based on such small, such a small timeframe, rather than looking, you know, long term and thinking what’s best for the company, what’s best for the organization, what’s best for the team, and let’s make decisions in you know, that that are going to be more long term benefit, yeah,


Bob Emiliani  36:29

and get it get to get input from the bottom of the organization. But that doesn’t work that way, in classical management. The other thing to realize is, you know, as far as I know, in MBA programs, leaders aren’t, I mean, it’s the course that I created decision failure analysis, completely unique, there is no other course like it, and in higher education, and I recently retired from it. But you know, these courses don’t teach, you know, they don’t teach this stuff in MBA school, they don’t teach you that if they teach you cognitive bias, as it is extracted from leadership decision making, and the kinds of high profile failures like the 737 Max, they don’t teach you how these what the different forms that illogical thinking that that the leaders of Boeing fell into. And so, you know, you come out of MBA school not realizing that, you know, your, your chance of failure is greater is great, much greater than, than you realize. You know, here’s one of the takeaways, by the way, I had, I have a slide up here, and glad I remembered to refer to this, but, but basically, managers critical thinking skills is not good. We learned from all these cases. And I’m going to read from it directly, it says the things that managers are most confident about, which is analysis, logical thinking and decision making, are the things they should be least confident about management information processing is highly error prone, because of the cognitive bias or theological thinking, and the stakes are huge, right? I mean, you look at the Boeing 737 Max, I mean, just the stakes were huge there. But even if one life is lost, or one person is injured, it’s still a huge steak, right? Sure. doesn’t, doesn’t have to be 350 people killed and a lot of that. Yeah, it’s huge. It’s huge.


Patrick Adams  38:26

And where would you say is the balance between, you know, taking longer, longer time to really analyze the data and make sure that we’re making the right decisions? versus, you know, PDCA cycles, quick, rapid cycles? I mean, what what’s the balance between the two?


Bob Emiliani  38:45

Well, it’s, by the way, so I’ll answer it this way. These failure analysis courses embodied in a book now called a wheel of fortune, and the Wheel of Fortune, talks about, you know, how to how to create a strategy, we’ve, we’ve refocused this from simple decision failure analysis, strategy, failure analysis, because a lot of these failures were integral to a business strategy that the company had Boeing, for example, Boeing 737 was not a corporate strategy in the sense of what business do we want to be in but a business strategy in terms of a product line? Anyway. So in that book, we highlight you know, what would you do to avoid the mistakes that everybody else commonly makes in the development, execution of strategy and the failure of strategy, which usually happens because execution that rarely goes according to plan and, you know, the strategy is of a wish, with very little flesh on the bones as far as how do you actually do it? And so, a lot of people in the company just sort of go on about doing things hoping that these things produce the the process that leads to the result. And oftentimes it doesn’t. So anyway, it’s a wheel of fortune, if anybody’s interested in it. And it’s, you know, it was it was, it was a great course and students love it. Perfect.


Patrick Adams  40:11

All right, so one last question. What would you say is the favorite your your most favorite topic to talk about? Kaizen is


Bob Emiliani  40:20

so fundamental. I’ll just say quickly that, you know, people say Lean is all about learning. But it’s really about discovery and learning. And what’s missing from lean because Kaizen kind of fell off the radar screen, in Lean world in favor of 83 reports and value stream maps and gimble walks and all this other stuff. But the discovery piece has been missing. And this is critical to developing people and, and expanding the learning as a result of things you’ve discovered through the Kaizen process.


Patrick Adams  41:02

Powerful, a good way to close this out today. So again, I will throw the link to your your page into the show notes. So if anybody’s interested to go check out Bob’s books, they’re all in the show notes there. You can obviously follow Bob on LinkedIn and we’ll throw throw some of some of your other links into the show notes for for some of your other books and points as well Bob, thanks again really appreciate having you on I love the love the information and excited to have you back on again at a later point.


Bob Emiliani  41:38

Thanks, enjoying it. Take care Patrick.


Patrick Adams  41:42

Thanks so much for tuning in to this episode of the lien solutions podcast. If you haven’t done so already, please be sure to subscribe. This way you’ll get updates as new episodes become available. If you feel so inclined. Please give us a review. Thank you so much.

Meet Patrick

Patrick is an internationally recognized leadership coach, consultant, and professional speaker, best known for his unique human approach to sound team-building practices; creating consensus and enabling empowerment. He founded his consulting practice in 2018 to work with leaders at all levels and organizations of all sizes to achieve higher levels of performance. He motivates, inspires, and drives the right results at all points in business processes.

Patrick has been delivering bottom-line results through specialized process improvement solutions for over 20 years. He’s worked with all types of businesses from private, non-profit, government, and manufacturing ranging from small business to billion-dollar corporations.


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