Five years ago life was pretty good. I had helped turn around a couple of medical device operations and had executed a rather successful turnaround of a photonics equipment manufacturing operation. The Superfactory resource website was growing rapidly and I was on the board of AME, both of which gave me access to a vast network of knowledge. I had tasted success, I knew about the importance of culture, and I could drive change. I thought I knew a lot about lean.
So of course I thought I’d write a book and spend the rest of my life kicking back on a beach, living off of the income stream. I even went so far as to submit a book proposal.
Fast-forward to today… and reality. Within months of leveraging lean to create a 5x capacity increase at the photonics company, the bottom fell out of the telecom industry and I had to shut the plant down. I got together with a couple friends and started a small contract manufacturing company which still exists, but is no where close to the absurd dreams we originally had. I began consulting and eventually decided to take a long-term assignment with a local medical device company. The Superfactory resource base continued to grow and the affiliation with AME continues.
This passage of time was driven home yesterday when I received a letter from the Wiley publishing house rejecting my book proposal… almost five years after it was submitted and with no contact in the interim. They even attached my original letter. The irony of a publisher taking five years to respond to a book proposal on lean is hard to escape. But no regrets… the book would have been a bomb and an embarassment.
The last few years have been eye-opening. I’ve met some great minds of lean… people like Doc Hall, Norm Bodek, Masaaki Imai, Art Smalley, and our own Bill Waddell. People that forget more about lean than I could ever learn. I’ve been exposed to some unique but critical aspects of lean, such as lean accounting. And I’ve consulted with organizations that have very unique issues… which took a lot of work on my part to comprehend and then turn around.
I now realize that five years ago I knew almost squat about lean.
Which just drives home the point that real lean is also about continuous learning. Every day I learn more from the lean community… such as by reading the lean-oriented blogs on the left menu, reading new books by real authors who actually have important new insight, visiting the real-world factories of colleagues, and attending conferences such as AME’s Annual Conference. I try to return the favor with the Superfactory knowledge resource base and this blog.
I’m now humble enough to realize that I still know relatively little about lean. Five years from now, instead of realizing what a blathering idiot I was only a few years back, I hope I look back and realize how much I’ve learned.