I’m on my way back from a very successful Lean Accounting Summit, and I’m sure Bill and I will have more on this in the near future.
One major highlight for me was dinner with the father of lean in America, Norman Bodek, and then listening to his lunchtime keynote on Friday. I’ve heard him speak a couple times, and have enjoyed several conversations with him in the past. You are initially enthralled by the first-person stories of working with the titans of lean… Shingo, Ohno, and others. But when Norman begins to talk about how he simply wants to help people learn, and how he believes that lean practitioners have forgotten that only half of the Toyota Production System is about waste elimination and that the other half is respect for people, you realize he is someone truly special. There is genuine goodness in this man, powerful enough to make many of us look inside ourselves to see how we measure up.
His keynote was great, to the extent that some attendees apparently asked if next year’s Summit could include an entire “Bodek Track”. All Bodek, all the time, to paraphrase a cable channel ad. He focused on the other half of TPS… respect for people, and his comments made you think. Why has Toyota not laid anyone off since 1950, even in tough years, but GM and Ford this year alone will lay off tens of thousands? Why is inventory measured and reported down to the penny, but an organization’s most important asset, the knowledge and creativity of people, is nowhere on a balance sheet? The underutilization of people is one of lean’s forms of waste, but where is it measured? Human Resources, HR, used to be “HRD”… Human Resources Development. No longer. What happened to the “D”? “We must bring back the ‘D’!” Lean companies, such as Toyota, have extremely high levels of employee involvement… such as suggestion programs that average several implemented ideas per month per employee resulting in over $8,000 in savings per employee per year. He ended by having the 500 attendees stand up and swear that they will go back and make a difference.
At least some of us will.
At a time when companies like HP are dealing with spying on employees and GM and Ford are shedding tens of thousands of years of knowledge, Norman Bodek helps recalibrate us to what is really important. Many of us have focused on the tools, the planning, and the obsession with waste reduction… and have forgotten that the respect for people is just as important. I know I have, especially as I deal with some difficult people issues at a couple organizations I’m working with. Talking to, or more accurately listening to, Norman has reminded me about what is truly important. It came at an opportune time.
Thanks for the course correction, Norman.