In going through my morning routine of perusing the news in search of interesting developments in the world of manufacturing, I encountered nothing unusual. There was an interesting story about seven execs arrested for rigging bids on government contracts, and a story about another exec going off to prison for three years for tax evasion. There was an editorial expressing concern about the increasing wage gap as huge groups of workers have experienced the job affects of manufacturing ‘restructuring’. Business at Toyota is, of course, booming. A high ranking trade guy received a death threat for selling out to China and, while things are tough for manufacturing, business is thriving for bankers, insurance companies and others in the money juggling business. Of course, the usual non-business stories were there also – a mayor in trouble for ‘groping’ a woman, a murder or two, safety concerns on the transit system and so forth.
Perhaps I should have mentioned that this is one day’s news in the Japan Times.
How about if the lean community, once and for all, gets over the notion that manufacturing excellence is somehow a function of Japanese culture? I could have picked just about any country in the world and written the same piece. The temptation to cheat and take shortcuts overcomes a few business people everywhere. The allure of cheap labor is universal. The challenge of committing to a workforce in the face of dynamic market conditions is a manufacturing problem – not an American, or even Western, problem.
Lean experts who suggest that manufacturers must adopt elements of Japanese culture to succeed are misleading their clients. Manufacturers who rationalize their lack of lean success to the difference between their country’s culture and Japan’s are merely making excuses for management failure.
Manufacturing excellence is not about culture. It is about management.