Why Does Lean Fail?

Why Does Lean Fail?

by Patrick Adams | Mar 20, 2024

What You’ll Learn:

In this episode, hosts Patrick Adams and Catherine McDonald discuss a common problem in organizations which leads to misguided initiatives and wasted resources: fake lean people.

Fake lean individuals falsely claim to adhere to lean principles, adopting superficial aspects without a genuine commitment to continuous improvement. On the other hand, real lean individuals actively embrace and implement lean methodologies, fostering a culture of efficiency, waste reduction, and continuous improvement that contributes to the organization’s success.

About the Guest: 

With 30 years of experience, Dr. Bob Emiliani is a progressive management practitioner and researcher, having held leadership roles in engineering, manufacturing, and supply chain management during his 15-year industry tenure. As a pivotal member of the Pratt & Whitney team, he contributed to implementing Toyota Production System (TPS) principles in both manufacturing and supply chains. Transitioning to academia, Bob spent 23 years as a full-time professor and is now Professor Emeritus, renowned for pioneering Lean leadership research, with 28 books and numerous publications spanning diverse disciplines, earning him recognition as a prolific and award-winning writer.


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Patrick Adams  00:00

Hello, and welcome to this episode of the lean solutions podcast led by your hosts Catherine MacDonald and myself, Patrick Adams, how’s it going, Catherine?


Catherine McDonald  00:41

Great, Patrick.


Patrick Adams  00:42

Good to see you again. Well, today we’re going to be talking specifically about fake lean, or as I call it, the appearance of lean. But as Bob calls it, our guest today fake lean. And so we’re going to talk about fake Lee and we’re going to dive into a topic within that around fake lean people. So fake lean individuals falsely claimed to adhere to Lean principles, adopting superficial aspects without a genuine commitment to continuous improvement. And this poses problems in many organizations, leading to misguided initiatives and wasted resources. On the other hand, we have real lean individuals who actively embrace and implement lean methodologies, fostering a culture of efficiency, waste reduction and continuous improvement that contributes to the organization’s success. So we’ll get into the details of that. But today, we’re joined by Bob emiliani. He’s actually been on the show a few times, and I’m excited to have him here again. But Katherine, can you just give us a little bit of Bob’s background before we turn it over and welcome him to the show?


Catherine McDonald  01:49

Yes, I’d love to. So with 30 years of experience, Dr. Bob emiliani, is a progressive management practitioner and researcher Having held leadership roles in engineering, manufacturing, and supply chain management during his 15 year industry tenure. As a pivotal member of the Pratt and Whitney team, he contributed to implementing Toyota Production System principles in both manufacturing and supply chains. Transitioning to academia, Bob spent 23 years as a full time professor and is now Professor Emeritus renowned for pioneering Lean leadership research with 28 books, and new publications spanning diverse disciplines, earning him recognition as a prolific and award winning writer. Welcome to the show, Bob.


Bob Emiliani  02:37

Thank you very much, Catherine. Pleasure to be here with you today. I Patrick. Hello,


Patrick Adams  02:42

Bob. Well, welcome back. excited to have you back on the show. This is a great topic. And unfortunately, we see it far too often. Whether it be in within organizations, you know, or again, with within leadership teams, which we’ll talk quite a bit about today. But before we do, Bob, can this term fake lean? I mean, you you’ve put this term out there years ago, and there are people listening in that maybe have never heard you speak or maybe they haven’t read a book from you and have maybe never heard this term fake lean. So can you just kind of kick us off by giving us some background and a definition around what fake lien is


Bob Emiliani  03:23

for sure. So it’s a term, like a lot of terms we have to be careful with because it could be easily misunderstood. Fake lien as I had defined it, about 2425 years ago, has a very specific meaning. It’s a description of organizations. So that’s organizations that practice continuous improvement without respect for people. And so I coined this term a long time ago simply to differentiate between those organizations that have the required people focus on respect for people and so on, and those that did not, because it was quite apparent. You know, when I was first trained in Kaizen and TPS by Shingu, jitsu in 1994. Soon thereafter, you could just see the both internally and externally with other organizations that, that this problem existed. And However, in recent years, I’ve seen this term used to disparage or belittle people, for whatever it is that somebody doesn’t like about them, you know, some but somebody else in the Lean community that somebody doesn’t like, so that’s an incorrect usage. And of course, that was never my intent. It’s not meant to be an ad hominem attack. I think this is mainly people who are unfamiliar with the term or the history of the term or the meaning of the term. Sure,


Patrick Adams  04:41

that makes sense. And I love the simplicity of your definition, too, because it you know, when you think about just a complete lack of respect for individuals, I mean, that’s, that’s something that I think most people understand and probably have experience. So it’s easy to connect the dots with that. But what I guess what one question that I would have is, you know, what would be some visual representations of, you know, what you might see at an organization that has, that would be considered, you know, having fake lean in place or


Bob Emiliani  05:20

not see people that aren’t real happy with the with their work, they’re not really enjoying it, or they’re not coming up with new ideas, you might see a visual board or a Standard Work Combination Sheet that was produced a year or two ago, that’s still up there that suggests nobody’s had an idea, since then, on how to improve the work. A lot of you know visual boards, where everything is all green, you know, work great, perfect, no problems. And so it’s, you know, usually bureaucratized lean, where you check the box, the leaders are going to walk through every, you know, once a year, and we got to have our boards looking all green, you know, that kind of thing. So it’s just, it’s just, it’s the appearance, the appearance of lean. I might mention, though, that I coined this term as I was making the transition out of industry and into higher ed, because I was teaching a course and Lean leadership. And I wanted some sort of convenient way to try to describe the differences in organizations that are practicing this some much more successfully than others, because it’s was so called Real lean, as opposed to the other ones fake lean. So it’s pretty, it’s very apparent when you see it, the place might be a bit disorganized. There’s shadow boards for tools, but some tools are missing, lots of inventory around, that’s not moving, they might still have legacy of the batch and queue system where they have travelers that show that these parts have been moved for months, you know, constant, rescheduling disconnection between supply and demand. It’s not sell one, make one. And that’s one piece flow. But even in small batches, it’s not that way of doing business, and of the old way, and that’s probably because the information system hasn’t changed. They still have MRP, they still have the the old metrics and KPIs in place that are forcing people to do things the old way.


Catherine McDonald  07:09

That’s such a good visual representation. I can almost imagine walking in there with your description of three really good. And we’ve probably all anyone who works in the Lean space probably knows what you’re talking about, because we’ve all seen it. What would you say? So it sounds like these organizations have a good intention, they do set out to do something differently. They set up the visual boards, they have some idea that, you know, they want to use Lean tools, they want to be lean. So what do you think happens? Why do you think the things drop or stop?


Bob Emiliani  07:41

Well, I think, you know, in a recent blog post, I, I wrote a sentence, something to the effect of that. The top leaders, you know, the the CI people have to contend with the hallucination that top leaders have, that all this change is possible. Yet the top leaders don’t allow the CI people to make the changes necessary to achieve the results that the leaders are hallucinating about. So we see it all the time, where leaders, you know, start to start to engage lean, they themselves are of course exempt. But everybody else, you know, go do this Lean stuff. And they expect big results. But when the CI people come and say we got to change this mat, this, move things around, do this and that change, this metric is no good. You got to change it and so forth. They’re like, No, no, no, no, no. That’s why I refer to it as a hallucination amongst the senior leaders and immense frustration for the CI people, of course.


Patrick Adams  08:38

Yeah, that I can see where that would be super frustrating for a CI team, and I’ve experienced it myself. So I know exactly what you’re talking about. And just kind of piggybacking on what you said, around leaders, I think back to the comment that you made about, you know, this 2025 years ago, I think you said when you when you coined the term fake lean, you were thinking about Lean leadership and how to teach that and how to talk through. So obviously, this ties heavily back to leadership. And, you know, just kind of unpack that a little bit and talk about, you know, if we’re, if we’re in an organization that we would consider practicing fake lean, then there’s probably leaders that would be considered, you know, fake lean leaders, or, you know, I don’t know what what you would call that. But, you know, I know that that’s something you’ve talked about, you’ve posted about, so what do you call them and what makes a leader fake it?


Bob Emiliani  09:39

I mean, we can call them fake leaders, I suppose, if you like, as a as a class of people, not as an individual, because that would be an ad hominem attack. Sure, but I mean, they’re the leader who’s, you know, says one thing and does another, you know, I mean, they’re, they’re telling people do all this Lean stuff. They themselves are not engaged. They don’t know what it is they can’t lead it in any way they don’t understand it. They don’t understand the language. I wrote a blog post years ago about the language of lean, you know, you don’t use phrases like maximize and optimize and lean world its improvement. You got to know the difference between those things. What were there was a bunch of words is escaping me at the moment. But you have to understand why and lean world you don’t say those things are learning curve. You know, that’s a batch and cue world way of thinking about things. I remember my sensei, the first Sensei, I had I had, I wanted to ask him a question about learning curve. I didn’t agree with the concept of learning curve. But before you can even spit that out, he hit me on the head and goes, That’s the wrong way to think. I mean, he didn’t hit me on the head hard, but you know, he was just he was making his point. And I said, Yes, I understand that, but I want to I want to engage in a conversation about and then he said, Okay, you know, but I’ve had that with other sensors, where I want to talk about something and they’re like, anyway, it’s funny. So, you know, they’re just engaged, and I had was on an earlier, Zoom today with somebody, and I refer to the CEO is the CCO the fake the fake Lean leader, instead of the CEO, being the CCO chief confusion officer. Because they are saying that let’s do this Lean stuff. But then when you go to them and say, You got to rearrange the equipment, you got to get rid of this monument, huge piece of equipment, we only need a small one. We need some, you know, a moonshine shop, you know, to create and invent and build our own machinery. Instead of buying this stuff all the time. We need to right size it. And of course, the leaders like what are you talking about? We spent $2 million or $20 million on this thing, and it was just two years ago. And you want to junk it? And then yeah, yeah. No, no blame. We’re not blaming anybody for having bought that thing made a lousy decisions and spent too much money. Right. So so they just confuse everybody, because they’re basically asking for something that they’re not willing to allow people to go do. Yeah, could be the chief frustration officer, right? Yeah, really no. So. But there


Catherine McDonald  12:19

also be a little bit of shiny object syndrome in there, where leaders it’s a, it’s a lack of focus, maybe where we know good things come from lean, you know, we start doing it, we understand those benefits to a boat, and something else takes our focus. And suddenly we’re on that we don’t see the link between lean and maybe other things we want to achieve, or we’re just not making that that connection. How do we how do we, I suppose guide leaders to I mean, reduce that kind of practice and focus more when they do hear about Lean and want to implement lean? How do you how do we bring that focus,


Bob Emiliani  12:58

we got a long way to go on that. Because if you can imagine, you know, Genet we’ve had since people became aware of TPS that’s 50 years ago, if the average tenure of a CEO across that time is five or seven years, you know, it’s six or seven generations of CEOs coming and going. And people who are devoted to TPS and Kaizen and lean and continuous improvement, I’ve been at this for years, trying to find the secret formula to get the, you know, the CEOs to recognize the potential here for everybody, you know, employees, suppliers, customers, investors and communities. And that hasn’t worked out as planned in terms of being able to do that on a consistent basis. It’s more of a just a random basis, which is not a good plan. You know, one of the things I criticize, if we keep doing the same things, as we have done in the past, in terms of trying to appeal to CEOs, you’re gonna get the same result, which is just a randomized, a CEO here and there that takes serious interest in this. And that’s not a that’s not a good plan. So I think we have to have some appreciation for all the effort that has been tried out there by people across that 50 year period, and in the years of scientific management and Frederick Taylor between 80 Mindee in 1935 38, something like that as well. And they struggled with this too. So there is no magic formula for doing this. It’s Patrick’s read the book, the triumph of classical management, over Lean management, and basically it involves status, rights and privileges that lean diminishes or disrupts in small ways, but nevertheless, very important ways for top leaders and a lot of leaders see lean as, as not an improvement in management practice or in leadership. They see it as contradictory to good leadership and management practice. So, you know, we have much work to do to change those perspectives.


Patrick Adams  15:04

So, in AI, I think everyone knows that we’re not talking about all leaders at this point. That’s correct. And you’ve been very clear about that, Bob. But there are unfortunately, you know, many, many people in leadership positions that would fit that. And I’ve worked for many of them in with many of them. So I know that they’re, I know what they look like, I’ve I know what the experience feels like when you’re working for someone like that. It’s very difficult, especially as a CI practitioner trying to implement change in your organization. And if you don’t have that, that support, or they say one thing, but do another. It’s it’s super frustrating. So I know exactly what you’re talking about. For, you know, so kind of going back to what Catherine said, I mean, we’re, how do we how do we change it? If we’re in an organization that where we have fake leaders is? Is it even possible to do anything? That’s one question I have. And then the other question kind of along those same lines is, are we promoting the wrong people into leadership positions? And should organizations be thinking about that? Like, why are these people in these positions in the first place? And how do we, if they are already there? How do we how do we adjust that if they’re not there yet should be considered how you know who were putting in those positions?


Bob Emiliani  16:25

Well, so I spent from 2015 through last year, writing a series of six books to unravel the mystery looking at it from sifted six different directions, status, rights and privileges, irrationality, secular spirituality, aesthetics, workmanship, and something else I forgot. And my purpose of writing those books is, Hey, I can’t I can’t, I can answer one question that’s been around for 100 years. Why do most leaders resist, reject or ignore progressive management? Okay, that questions answered been around 100 years now it’s answered. Next question is what do you do about it? Well, I, you know, my approach would be to read the six books to understand the lay of the land. And then, do a Kaizen do your Kaizen thing and generate ideas to try once you understand the lay of land. So we know in Kaizen, you do a few days of pre work, to understand the lay of the land of your problems, too much walking distance, too much Park travel setup times too long, you do some time studies, you collect some information, but then you understand and you move forward with with your Kaizen, while lean world is hasn’t done that those typically two days of pre work Thursday, Friday as a prelude to doing Kaizen in the following week, or two or days, however long the Kaizen may be. But if more people get their brain into that mode of let’s do the pre work, then we can answer the next question of how do we get more leaders to accept this? And, you know, go forward with this? So you can’t you’re not gonna get anywhere if nobody does the pre work, or if everybody thinks they know what, what it is, leaders are risk averse, you know, the standard list of 20 or 30, things that are operate at the surface level, they don’t want to they don’t want to give up power, you know, there’s many more things going on below the surface. But if we’re stuck with the notion that, oh, yeah, we know why leaders don’t want to do this. Well, but look, what’s happened over the past five decades, not much. So you don’t know really what the problem is. And now that’s another way to look at it and lean world. What problem are you trying to solve? What’s the real problem? People think they know what the problem is? Secondarily, are they promoting the right people? Yeah, from the perspective of classical management, they sure are promoting the right people. Because as you rise in the organization, you’re dealing with bankers who think in terms of the old way of doing things, batch and queue processing, you know, all your inventory is an asset and so forth. You’re dealing with lawyers, you’re dealing with, you know, private equity, whatever. They’re all in into, you know, an 18th century understanding of economics, and then law and other stuff. And granted, there’s been changes in evolution since then. But it’s rooted in, you know, 18th century way of thinking certainly, in terms of economics, the 18th, the 19th century. And so, to their eyes are promoting exactly the right people. And this is why we don’t you know, you might notice in some organizations, some of these very capable lean people sort of rise to the top but they’re not doing that lengthening anymore. And we see it also in organizations like pharmaceuticals, where somebody is trained to think critically as a scientist and so forth. And then they get to a general manager level and they start you know, they make decisions like their peer group would which are not based on facts. It’s maybe more political, more appearance oriented. In terms of decision making, decision making benefits the company more than the customer, you know, and you start to see that dynamic happening as well. Sure. Sure.


Patrick Adams  20:09

Catherine, I know you have a question, I wanted to jump in just real quick. And just offer another suggestion, Bob, I don’t know what your thoughts are on this. But one thing that we’ve done with organizations is tried to create some benchmarking opportunities for the leadership team and actually take them out of their organization and bring them to an organization where, where they do have a really, really great, you know, positive, you know, true Lean culture, and let them talk with some of the leaders there and meet with the leaders. And I think that’s had some positive benefits to them, kind of starting to think outside of the box a little bit. I don’t know, if you have experience with that or not, I mean,


Bob Emiliani  20:50

that, that can work. But, you know, when that when a leadership team sees that sort of thing, they recognize that they start to recognize the scope of changes that are involved. And a lot of them end up not being very interested in that. And I remember, you know, our burn talking about they have people come in and, and the workers would basically explain what’s going on and so forth are the team members. And they had people coming in from companies who had exactly the same machinery as Wiremold. What took it took eight hours set up and turned it to eight minutes. And those leaders were like, that won’t work in our company, you know. So, you know, saying, we like to think Seeing is believing. But there’s a lot of other things that are going on, that prevents the seeing, and that are that are deeply rooted in terms of people’s preconceptions about how business should be status, rights and privileges, what things should look like, that’s the aesthetics piece, you know, and on and on it goes. And so it’s not just, it can work. But it’s not just a simple thing of ulimit, you know, every, you know, 100% of the leadership teams that you take to see this will say, Yeah, let’s do Lean. It’s more like one or 2%, we’ll move on that path. Sure.


Catherine McDonald  22:50

is what you’re saying is so what really what we need is we definitely need support from the top, if we don’t have support from the top, everything is likely to fall down, but not definite, because there is the potential or the possibility for some really great lean leaders to be present in the organization, even if maybe it’s not a top level. And maybe they do such great work that they influence the people around them. So they’ve got the right not competencies for Lean, they’ve got the right knowledge, but they’ve got the right, you know, attitude and their people, people and they are able to influence the people around him. So that’s possible as well, isn’t it I’ve seen, I


Bob Emiliani  23:27

think it generally goes two ways. You have a top leader who says, I’m empowering you to go do it. I don’t want to have anything to do with it myself. But you go do it. All right. And I’ve seen that be very successful. And that leader was serious. They don’t at that they don’t want to be involved, and that you can do it. And they didn’t interfere. But otherwise, as you know, our burn is fond of saying everything must change. And, you know, probably 90% of leaders, when you say everything must change for Lean are going to say no thanks. You know, and it is true. The metrics change the KPI change the physical rearrangement, how you interact and treat people change, you know, most of the successful Lean transformation, so that profit sharing is associated with it. At least historically. So yeah, a lot of things end up having to change in arts parlance, everything must change. He’s right. But it’s also a message that I think falls on deaf ears.


Patrick Adams  24:28

In that peer group. Yeah, that’s unfortunate. What would you say are the results Bob, of having, you know, this fake, Lean leadership perspective within an organization? I mean, what happens holistically across the organization? You know, again, obviously, depending on if you have some really strong lean leaders in the organization, but you know, what, if you didn’t, what would that organization look like? What would happen?


Bob Emiliani  24:57

Well, I think one of the things that you see out there lot with leanness as people are very fond of it at lower levels, you know, and they like it because they’re learning new things and so on. Okay, that’s great. But if if if if the leader doesn’t empower you whether they’re engaged or not either way, if you’re not empowered to go move things around and etc, in the shop and office and so on. Then you have a situation where you’re learning a lot, but you’re not doing much. And one of the things that’s, that’s really emphasized, and there’ll be a blog post tomorrow on this, which, which, whenever this airs, it’s been weeks earlier, but it calls it’s titled, learning is not good enough. Because in, in Toyota world, and in other companies that have mindsets similar, they don’t have to have been influenced by Toyota, necessarily, but there are other practical minded leaders, who one of the things they care a lot about, not totally, but one of the things they care a lot about is no, how do you know how to do this, I mean, you can read a book on how to play a guitar, and you can know music theory by reading about it. But do you know how to play the guitar, and that’s know how learning is reading the book and playing guitar, for example, or talking to other people or whatever. Learning is, is typically understood as preceding practice. And so the thing that’s happening in those organizations is the know how is lacking I mean, in terms of doing the kind of things that that ended up, showing up, not just on the bottom line, income statement, balance sheet statement of cash flows, but also better quality, growing market share higher profitability, greater customer satisfaction, new features, and benefits to new products, and so on. So you have an organization that’s learning but so what the know how for creating a flow line, check a check the line, the chocolate chocolate to say, to properly align, you know, these things set up reduction, these things are lacking. And that’s what really matters. So when people say, lean is all about learning, I, that upsets me, because it’s the learning has to take the next step into the know how, and if you’re really committed, you’ll get into the next step, which is to know why. So whether so whatever your background is, it could be law or sociology. But if you’re doing this stuff, you might want to study the science, the physics, the engineering, the sociology, the psychology or whatever, that makes something work or not work. You know, just on your own study, you know, like, you don’t have to be, you know, it’s not a school study thing. But you want to get into the know why and beyond the know how. But at least we got to get to the know how, and that’s not happening in these organizations. And while many organizations may still see organizations that you know, doing doing this Lean stuff, but they’re still got a huge warehouse of material, and you have all kinds of mismatch between supply and demand, and so on.


Catherine McDonald  28:07

So, Bob, for any organizations, maybe there’s people listening in, who are working in organizations who know a little bit about Lean and are interested in it, maybe they’re a little bit scared because of you know, it’s not easy. But it is, but until you know how it’s not. So what would you what would you say to those people in terms of starting off their journey, because we want, you know, we want lean to be done right, efficiently, effectively, we want the right people, we want people with the right competencies. So what would you say to those organizations to start? How would they start off on this journey?


Bob Emiliani  28:41

You so you’re talking about how the leader should start off on this journey? Well, let


Catherine McDonald  28:45

it take could be a leader, a manager, that could be the CEO, but I guess it’s different. But let’s say you’re maybe in the senior leader team, and you want to talk to your team about lean, and how we become a lean organization, what would you recommend, the


Bob Emiliani  28:59

first thing to do is to avoid making the mistakes that most other leaders make, which is they stand up there and say, Oh, we’re in a competitive environment, our costs are too high. And you know, they give sort of the technical details of why they want to do Lean. And they don’t instead of make it sort of a multi step process to acclimate the workforce to what Lean is what they have to do their own pre work, by the way, as a senior leadership team, hopefully, having engaged in Kaizen before they even bring this up in their company. So they understand something about it. And then I did a blog post years ago on a multi step process on how to how leaders should avoid these mistakes. And in a stepwise fashion, engage lean, there may be six or seven steps prior to initiating Kaizen in an organization. And those six or seven steps would happen over the course of two or three months. So you have to do a little Nemo wash, you know, prepare the ground, not all the sudden just, you know I dig that deep hole and find out there’s a gas line or electrical line there, which basically would be the equivalent of workers going What the hell is this and resisting it being passive aggressive? Right. But that’s what leaders do is they just sort of dig in, in a in an aggressive and what’s the word? I don’t know, you know, in such a way that it doesn’t connect with people. Yeah. So immediately they mess up the respect for people thing. Because you’re not saying part of the object and one of the steps. Second step, I think it was to say to people, the objective here is to make your work easier to make it less struggle to have less problems, less opportunity for blame, you know, if you start to eliminate problems, you’re gonna get out of the blame game. And then they have to make certain commitments about, you know, nobody’s going to lose their job due to continuous improvement. Market conditions are a different story. everybody probably knows that. And, you know, so you’d have to warm people up to this, because we can’t go back to our current, everything must change. And it’s true, everything must change.


Patrick Adams  31:08

Yeah, I, one of the things that I’ve experienced similar to what you just said, Bob is a leader that, you know, goes on a tour or reads a book, or whatever it is, and comes back to the organization and stands up in front of everybody and says, we’re going to do this, we’re kicking it off today, here, everything’s gonna change, and they’re super excited or motivated, or, you know, whatever. And then within a week, you know, you don’t see him again, and nothing happens. Nothing, they’re gone. And, you know, that’s super detrimental, because the team is like, you know, was up for real, or he or she were there for real or,


Bob Emiliani  31:47

you know, flavor of the month again,


Patrick Adams  31:49

right flavor of the month. Yeah, here we go here. And then he goes to he or she goes to another conference comes back with another thing later on. But what I was gonna say is, the leaders that, you know, to your point, it’s not something that you, you, you have to make this big announcement or, you know, start out huge. I mean, as a leader, just your actions, you have to start with your own actions and change your own actions first. And it can be something that happens slowly, figure out for yourself, what’s one improvement that I can make every day, one small thing that I can do every day or, you know, instead of, you know, being out at the gamba, some month, can I just can I try to get out there once a week,


Bob Emiliani  32:33

most leaders will not do that, because it’s it shows weakness, and they don’t want to show any of that kind of vulnerability to anybody. Right. Take the example of Boeing, you know, Boeing has this quality problem with the door blowing off. So what do they do they have quality stand down days, you know, where everybody stops work and talks about quality, but you never hear you never they don’t do a leadership stand down day to say what did we do as leaders to create the environment that causes this stuff to happen? So there’s no hon say, there’s no reflection, there’s no introspection, it’s somebody else’s fault down below bottom of the organization, as always, you know, that will be their mentality. And they’re just most leaders are not inclined to go do that sort of thing.


Patrick Adams  33:16

And so in what would you see what would you say? Can you explain Hans a little bit and reflection and maybe expand on that a little bit, for those that maybe are


Bob Emiliani  33:24

hearing it, you reflect on what happened good or bad, and, and good. Either way, if it’s good or bad, you think of, of changes that you want to make the next time you encounter such a situation or just just in terms of your routine, daily routines, and how you engage and interact with people and so on. And you set some challenges for yourself and that to, again, whether you use whether you objectively did well meaning somebody other people said you did well, you can still think of, well, what can I do to further improve that? And if you reflect upon yourself, either through feedback or your own assessment of the situation and say, you know, that such and such was, you know, people didn’t say it, and it didn’t seem too much like it to them, but to me, it was a disaster. I mean, I would finish teaching a class. You know, I taught students in the evening, and so the class was over, like 830 and they were just still sitting in their chair when I was done and I’m like, they’re so enraptured. This wasn’t every class this wasn’t all the time. But it was like okay, you can leave but I would reflect back on those classes saying you know, that was a disaster I should have done this and that better the sequencing of something was out of water probably confused and they didn’t even realize it because they don’t know the subject but I got a you know, and I would go home that night. You know, get home at nine o’clock, turn on my computer, make the revisions. Right then and there might take me 10 minutes might take me an hour, because I’m gonna forget about it and get busy and just going to do it, you know, right and do it now. Right? Just do it. Do it. Now. We know that and Ringworld


Catherine McDonald  35:01

That’s what you got to do. Yeah, that that resonates so much with me, because probably half the work I do is actually leadership coaching. And I only got into that, because when I started, as a lean coach, I realized that it leaders in organizations, sometimes they need support and development, on the leadership skills and style in order to coach the people on their teams to support them through Lean and becoming leaner. So if you don’t have leaders with the right skills, you those leaders can’t lead the teams and everything falls down, as we just said earlier. So do you think there’s maybe a little there’s a lack of that there’s a lack of coaching ability to coach in terms of the leaders in our organizations? Could that be a barrier as well?


Bob Emiliani  35:44

Yeah, I think it I think it is, but I also, you know, it’s difficult to distinguish between, you know, what’s really going on if people are doing are performatively, responding to coaching, or whether that’s really happening. I was talking to somebody a while back, it was a healthcare organization. And the person was saying, yeah, all our it was a European healthcare organization, our executives, our doctor, so they’re all critical thinkers. And I said, Whoa, wait a minute, I can easily see them as critical thinkers and so forth for delivering health care to a human being. But in the management of an organization, rarely do you find the critical thinking for one’s discipline extend to their professional role as a as a manager as a leader? Because then you have, I mean, your organization is hierarchical, its political, you know, it has money involved, even if it’s a not for profit, whatever. And so people start making weird decisions based upon, you know, you see lots of biases, cognitive biases come into play lots of illogical thinking. So, no, I’m not so sure. I’ll say categorically rephrase that not so sure. Categorically. There is a lack of critical thinking going on, you know, scientific thinking, if you prefer that term. Typically, from middle management on up at times they think, scientifically, but as a rule, no.


Patrick Adams  37:16

Yeah. Oh, go ahead. Sorry, Kathy.


Catherine McDonald  37:18

Just was going to make one quick comment that the link between maybe scientific thinking and coaching, as you were talking, I was thinking, it’s really about asking questions to questions. And it’s about listening. So maybe that’s the piece that I was trying to figure out when you were talking? Is it this lack of, you know, being able to stop ask questions? Listen, that’s maybe it’s related to scientific obviously, the critical thinking only comes when you ask people questions, and you give them time to respond. So maybe there’s a, that’s kind of what I’m trying to pick up from, from what you were saying in terms of the barriers. So


Bob Emiliani  37:52

you mean, the getting the leader to be able to ask the right questions or stimulate


Catherine McDonald  37:56

a sort of a scientific thinking organization, we have to develop those scientific thinkers, we’re not going to send them all to college to be scientific thinkers. So how do we develop that? You know, so I was trying to figure out what is it we need to do to develop those skills and people,


Patrick Adams  38:11

one of them would are not humble enough to even admit that they need the coaching or they need the you know, the help with that? Yeah.


Bob Emiliani  38:21

Yeah, I mean, you’d have to take them along the journey of okay, you were trained, trained in biology, and scientific and critical thinking, or you were a philosophy major with lots of critical thinking there. Were liberal arts English major, also lots of critical thinking, Okay, how come in on leadership at your organization, you make these decisions, that you say customer first, but then you make a decision that clearly has a negative impact on the customer? What happened to your scientific thinking? Yeah, and let them explain it. Good. Yeah. Yeah. Problem,


Catherine McDonald  38:55

self reflection.


Patrick Adams  38:56

Good. Yeah. How do you teach scientific thinking, Bob, if if someone was listening in and they were like, I really would like to learn to critically think better? What would you? Well, I would


Bob Emiliani  39:11

suggest kaizen. So in my own story, you know, bachelor’s, master’s, PhD in engineering, every teacher along the way K through 12, college grads, who will all tell you main thing I’m teaching as critical thinking, okay, maybe you are, but then when I get my first Kaizen experience with Shana jitsu in July and August of 1994, I’m like, well, on a one to 10 scale, I was, you know, a three and these guys, you know, in a couple of days brought me to a seven or eight you know, and I, you know, keep wanting to keep going past that and have kept going past that. But, I mean, that’s the the light bulb goes off there in a way that, you know, does not happen in the formal education. system. And it’s difficult in hierarchical organizations, because to be a super, you know, to raise your critical thinking from three to five to 678, it involves asking questions. And a lot of bosses don’t like questions, you know, I did a LinkedIn post the other day, we’re the most in demand thing. You know, bosses say all the time, we want critical thinking, the employees don’t have enough critical thinking skills. It’s a joke, because what they’re really saying is, I want people at the lowest levels of the organization to think critically about their job, and not making mistakes. But lo and behold, if you question the leader about, hey, you talk customer first, but you made this lousy decision that wrecked a bunch of customers, you know, they don’t want to hear that. Don’t think critically about how the organization is being led and manage, you know, you’re always complaining about inventory costs. But how can we keep building all this inventory? How come we’re not going to smaller batches, one piece flow, synchronize supply with demand, you’re running your organization, as if it’s a seller’s market out there, when you compete against 10. Other companies, it’s a buyers market, so you got to go from batch and queue the flow, they’re not going to want to hear that. That’s not the critical thinking that they’re looking for. So it’s just ridiculous.


Patrick Adams  41:17

I think about some of the different words that you use to train traits, characteristics that you have mentioned, as we’ve been talking about, that would probably fit the description of someone that is a you know, that would be a leader that’s leading in the right way. I heard you mentioned. The respect for people I heard you mentioned. Humility, I heard you mentioned critical thinking. So let’s just imagine that there’s a leader in an organization. Or maybe there’s a leadership team and an organization that is practicing all of these characteristics in the organization. What would the organization look like? If we walked into it? The three of us together, what would we experience? If we had conversations with people and we walked through the facility? What would it look like?


Bob Emiliani  42:07

I think you’d find it. First of all, it pretty be apparent pretty quickly that that would be the kind of place you want to go work at. You know, and I used to tell suppliers when I was a supply chain manager, it’s like, typically, if you’re and I dealt with machining suppliers, and so machining, suppliers are always looking for machinists. And I said that that’s an in demand job at all times, practically. And they have a choice of where to go work. And I would I would tell my students, by the way, when when I was teaching them about Lean leadership, you know, in the future when you go on job interviews and stuff, these are the kinds of things you should look for is to our pupils, my shiny eyes was what the senses would tell us. Are there smiling faces, or are there Dilbert cartoons all over the place that are a parody of somebody’s boss or the workplace? Are people conforming to you know, basic requirements, safety glasses and so forth? You go look at the recycle bins for the chips of the different metals. You know, one says titanium the other says nickel are they are people throwing nickel in the titanium and titanium and the nickel to wreck the recycling of the material. You know, passive aggressive behaviors like that. So you look around for these kinds of things. I had a whole thing on what to look for.


Patrick Adams  43:28

But yeah, love envisioning what that would be because it to your point. I mean, that’s the kind of place that all of us want to go work at. Right. Yeah. Versus the the opposite. So


Bob Emiliani  43:41

you want to talk about fake clean person at all?


Patrick Adams  43:45

We do. Yeah. So with that said, What would? So do you want to expand on fake a faith?


Bob Emiliani  43:57

Yeah, I guess we should talk about that a moment. Because I don’t know how long you want to spend today on the podcast.


Patrick Adams  44:03

Lots of we could go all different directions. Yeah, we


Bob Emiliani  44:06

surprised. I mean, there was a commitment early on to talk about this, we probably should. So again, this is another thing to be very careful with because it’s a term that can easily be misunderstood. Like fake lean, basically people has a specific meaning and reflects an existential problem in the Lean world. And it refers to a group of people, you know, not a person. So again, it’s not an ad hominem attack is just a characterization. So the group consists, in my view, and my construction of this longtime lean professionals, lean influencers and lean movement leaders, whoever they may be, but sort of the influential big names and so forth, who publicly professed continuous improvement of respect for people but in private, and we’ve all had those conversations, you know, they’re disrespectful of people. And what they’re really doing is constraining and limiting continuous improvement because they are shutting down certain lines of inquiry, certain types of work and so forth. And so they hold back the progress of Lean management that they appear on the surface to be so dedicated towards advancing. Okay. So, you know, I have seen this for a lot of years, and, frankly, got tired of it recently, and gave it a name of fake lien person. You know, again, I don’t mean it as an ad hominem attack, it says Pay clean person, but it’s meant to reflect a group of people, it’s not a pejorative, pejorative term, it’s just a description of the, you know, the lack of desire or inability for certain people to walk the talk. And kind of, you can think of it as synonymous with hypocrite people who say one thing and do another. But we also have to recognize that hypocrisy is part of the human condition, and nobody’s perfect, and everybody gets new information. And so they revise their views. So we have to keep that in mind. But when there is a consistency to publicly professing something, but privately, you know, disparaging it, or others, or whatever it within that realm. You know, the people who are as I cited lean movement leaders, lean influencers, particularly, have a special responsibility to the community, and a lot of this community has customers, of the people who run these lean organizations and the Lean influencers who get income from wherever they speak, and whatever they do, they have a special responsibility to the community overall, to walk the talk. And if you can’t do that, then go do something else.


Catherine McDonald  46:55

Yeah, because it’s so misleading then, for other people. Yeah, especially.


Bob Emiliani  46:59

And it just, it looks stupid. I’ve had a number of conversation with these kinds of people who are like, Oh, this x organization that, you know, promotes Lean is doing such a terrible job, horrible, and they get into some specific examples. And then they will, you know, on LinkedIn, and at a conference, talk about how great that organization is doing.


Catherine McDonald  47:23

And then, if that’s how we would look at and describe a, let’s say, fake people, in organizations, how would you describe then, let’s say truly in people, what sort of characteristics or competencies would they have? Or what would we see in them?


Bob Emiliani  47:42

So things like, you know, of course, they’re there, they’re living the principles and they’re dedicated to the craft, as you would typically expect to see somebody who considers themselves a professional, so shorthand walking the talk, somebody who’s committed to Kaizen, you know, to get past the learning to the know how, and hopefully some of the some of the know why they’re not why is difficult. It’s, it’s more work. You know, lifelong interest and discovery and creativity. And promoting that with people, you know, going, developing the know how, as I said earlier, helping other people develop their skills, their know how to improve. Oh, and accepting and respecting people who disagree with you, or even who hate you. You know, I got a lot of people who hate me, but I don’t I don’t, I don’t, I still respect them. They’ve done great work, there’s no denying it, you can’t sit there and say, because you hate them that they did lousy work, did very good work, notable work, work that has a lasting legacy. But, you know, I’m not going to let their hate influence my, you know, how I feel about them. And their work. It’s just, you know, you have to recognize good work as it isn’t just,


Catherine McDonald  49:02

yeah, a lot of that is just, it’s about putting ego and pride aside, isn’t it? That’s what it sounds like.


Bob Emiliani  49:10

No, I don’t know what what my trouble them, but but I’m not, you know, I’m just gonna fall victim to the nonsense. Sure.


Patrick Adams  49:21

But last question, what would be the benefits? You know, again, we identified kind of the problem early on, have a fake lean person, and then you talk to God in person. I mean, what would be the benefits? In an organization that has real lean people? What would the results look like?


Bob Emiliani  49:42

Well, one thing I want to say is, sometimes there is no no benefit, you know, because sometimes you can be out on a limb here, and you’re just doing it because it’s the right thing to do and you may suffer some consequences. And I think a so called really in person isn’t concerned about a lack of insulin. Their lack of benefits being an obstacle, that they’re just going to try and plow forward. And, you know, one of the things I don’t want people to do, and a lot of, I talk to a lot of people and I, you know, come to blame themselves for not being able to generate more progress in an organization and they start to, you know, they get down on themselves and so forth. What they need to do is realize that the power of classical management to maintain the status quo and to support their efforts. So I think, you know, the benefits are, are many, I wrote a recent blog post about the 15, joys of kaizen. So in that framework, you know, you’re upgrading your skills and capabilities, you’re advancing from kind of the low hanging fruit of understanding what improvement is to a much more granular understanding of, of how you can improve. So, for example, in a lot of cases annual, initially from a batch and queued with even a flow or not quite flow situation, there’ll be hundreds of percent improvement. And you’ll look at somebody’s to get into the more granular level, the hand motion that peoples are making to, people are making to reduce wasted motion. And instead of looking for hours of savings, you’re looking for down to minutes down to seconds down to tenths of seconds. Not going crazy about this either. But just you know, this is sort of a granularity that you develop with experience, in terms of removing waste, and so forth. Moving past work, problem solving, you know, we got a problem, let’s just pick this tool. Instead, use the tool in the context of kaizen. You know, the joy of creating material and information flows. I mean, I’ve seen I’ve seen people who are so one team in particular, that was so quick on the uptake of what the Sensei was asking that they created a flow line, it was it was a week long kaizen. And by Tuesday at lunchtime, or one o’clock, they were done. And they created a flow line. And they showed it to Sensei and the rest of us and I literally had tears in my eyes. And I couldn’t believe what they did. In such a short period of time, they junked the big equipment, they found all the equipment, and some nooks and crannies of the company that were all right size, and the quality just quadrupled. I mean, it’s just incredible. Just incredible what they were able to do. I love it. Love it. Yeah, love


Patrick Adams  52:28

seeing that kind of stuff. I mean, just amazing what what Lean, you know, true, continuous improvement can do for organizations,


Bob Emiliani  52:35

it is amazing, you know, and the fun, the joy of making changes quickly, try storming, getting out of the brainstorming mode in the conference room, get into the real world, again, by office and shop and try it out. Try out all the ideas, not just the ones that you think will work. Try out the ideas you think won’t work, you know, inventing, testing, improving, you know, creating, inventing, testing Google kind of a PDCA type of PDCA cycle. You know, all that stuff. Yeah. Wow, that’s wonderful. Having fun at work, right?


Patrick Adams  53:14

Like you said earlier, and you know, walking into a place where you would like to work yourself, you know, you can tell the difference, for sure. You really can. Bob, I hate to close this up here. Because again, like we said earlier, we could go down so many paths with you. I mean, you have, you know, so many books out there, and so many different topics that can help people that are listening in right now, where where’s the best place for people to go to find a book that fits, you know, a challenge that they have.


Bob Emiliani  53:42

So if you go to my website, Bob emiliani.com, forward slash books, you’ll see the books, you can click on the images to find out the detail. And obviously, they’re going to be all available on Amazon or support your local bookstore, they can certainly get it to where you know, they can get it through Ingram, that book distributor.


Patrick Adams  53:59

Perfect. Well, we’ll drop a link to your website into the show notes. So if anyone’s interested, you can go right to the show notes and click on the link and it will get you right to Bob’s page. So again, Bob, appreciate you being back on the show. Maybe next time, we can maybe we can pick one of your books and just dive into a topic that we could pull out of one or one of your books. But either way, we’d love to have you back on the show. Always love the conversations and just love the the the the impact that you’re having with all of the amazing content that you put out there. Whether it’s through your books, social media, or even, you know, through higher ed, we just appreciate you so thank you.


Bob Emiliani  54:38

Thank you. Thank you, Patrick and Catherine. Thank you.


Catherine McDonald  54:40

Thank you so much.


Patrick Adams  54:42

All right, take care of up you too. 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.