Why RadioLean?

Welcome to the RadioLean blog. My mission with the blog is the same as it is for the RadioLean™ internet broadcast; to promote operational excellence in all types and sizes of organization by providing Lean content, resources, and networking opportunities for readers of the blog.

I’d first like to thank Bob Miller, Ralph Keller, Pascal Dennis, Jake Stiles, and Cliff Ransom for taking the time to be our launch guests. They all provided some great content on a variety of Lean topics. I hope you’ll all take the time to listen to the continuous stream, or sign into the vault for on-demand listening.

Also many thanks to Mike Lamb at Wirewaves for helping me get the broadcast off the ground; thanks also to Laurie and Lewis for the design and functionality of the website.

Now, a number of folks have asked me why RadioLean? Why now? Well, many reasons.

For starters, let’s just say that Lean converts, believers, and practitioners are not as prevalent in North America today as I believe they should be. Our RadioLean™ guest Cliff Ransom estimated the total size of the community to be about 10,000 people. He cited attendance levels at the places where Lean folks gather as further evidence of how few in number we are; “A well attended Shingo Prize conference is around 500 people” he said, “A big AME conference is around 1000 people”.

Twenty-five years after Lean tools and principles were introduced the US and despite the growth and financial success of Toyota, Danaher, Allied Signal, Alcoa, and Autoliv the number organizations in both the public and private sectors actively pursuing operational excellence via the Lean path is still an alarmingly small fraction the total number organizations on the North American continent. Depending on whose numbers you believe estimates range between 7% and 15% of the whole.

Despite the collective Lean works of great minds like Womack, Jones, Shook, Spear, Liker, Dennis, Ohno, and Shingo far too few institutions of higher learning offer desirable majors in this field of study. There are more than 500 Division I and II schools out there, I’ve found less than 50 Lean related degrees. Worse yet, I believe the Lean education you can obtain via the Lean Enterprise Institute or from a few reputable consulting houses like Simpler and TBM far exceeds what you’ll find in most of our nations institutions of higher learning.

Main-stream media doesn’t get or understand Lean as evidenced by the surprisingly few mentions of the success of organizations like Danaher in the news. Try finding one in the past three months that doesn’t appear to have been instigated by a consulting firm to publicize their work. Yet look at the feeding frenzy that ensued when Toyota as a company acted in keeping with a fundamental principle of Lean by halting deliveries of several models to prevent defective units from getting into the hands of the consumer.

During the current economic crisis when companies on the Lean path should be redoubling their efforts many instead slowed or even halted their pursuit of Lean altogether. I base that statement on the flood of phone calls and emails from Lean practitioners and implementers I received through-out 2009 who had been laid-off because the Lean efforts in their company had been partially or completely axed, or the consulting firm they had been working for let them go because of a downturn in business. It’s obvious to me that leadership in these organizations either didn’t see the value of or understand how full inculcation of Lean principles across their organization could help them emerge from the crisis stronger and more competitive than when it began.

Despite the vast natural resources on the North American continent and the combined ingenuity and industriousness of the American people the United States continues to send value creating jobs off shore to lower wage rate countries. Again, depending on whose data you believe somewhere between 2.5 and 4 manufacturing jobs have been lost overseas since 1998. I’ve seen some absolutely disastrous examples of what can actually happen to an organizations bottom-line chasing after a lower wage rate overseas. I have to wonder how many of those decisions to off-shore were made without first giving any consideration to what Lean could have done to the bottom line. The short-term impact and costs of these decisions is mind boggling. More concerning to me though is that in sending these jobs off-shore for the sake of a lower wage rate, in the long term we’re also outsourcing our nation’s ability to create and retain wealth.

Now, I don’t think I can change all of this with a fledgling internet broadcast. However, I do believe in the old Chinese adage “A single grain of rice can tip the scale”. I don’t know who that single grain of rice is going to be. But I do believe they’re out there.

Those are my motivations. My objective is simple; to draw more people and organizations across North America into the Lean fold.

So, if you share any or all of my concerns listed above, or perhaps harbor a few I didn’t mention share them with us and then spread the word. Lean works, it’s the road to operational excellence, and RadioLean™ is up and broadcasting that message.

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