The new frontier in Lean Thinking
There is no longer a compass that can point to the north. In the turmoil of recent years, companies and businessmen will only weather the storm if they can pinpoint the right navigation signals and look beyond the waves.
To take a metaphor by Karl Popper, the market over the past years can be seen as a clock whose workings were smooth, simple, predictable and ordered. You could read the variations and in good measure predict them: if demand grew, then the price grew too. The confines of the markets and the actors in the field were well defined, like a clock face. Customers’ requirements were as predictable as one second always following another.
On this basis, companies were able to draw up long term, accurate strategies because the strong demand for goods and services, typical of a mass society, also covered for any (unavoidable) errors in forecasting.
This mechanism has now seized up.
The emergence of new economic powers, of millions of new consumers and workers with heterogeneous cultures and the emergence of new technologies and the revolution in production processes are just some of the factors that have shattered the clock that has marked the passage of time in growth in the past.
The inadequacy of the clock model was in a certain sense foreseen in the early nineties by the advocates of Lean Production and Lean Thinking; the approach that is based on the TPS (Toyota Production System) and, even better today, on the Toyota Way, i.e. the Toyota Style.
Lean Production, TPS or, better still, the Toyota Way, promotes the adoption of methods and efficient techniques to eliminate waste in order to recover internal resources (economic, material and human resources). These new resources can be invested in listening more carefully to the market and adapting all the internal processes.
To make the Lean philosophy really productive, relying on techniques and hoping for a change are not enough. Instead it is necessary to plan a process for a complete educational, cultural and, therefore, behavioural renewal on all levels of the company.