By Kevin Meyer
Good article in the latest High Performance Manufacturing Consortium newsletter that maps some of President Eisenhower's quotes with lean concepts. The original full text is from Jon Miller at Gemba Panta Rei.
Dwight D. Eisenhower served as the 34th
President of the United States of America, from 1953
to 1961. Eisenhower was a man of great insight
gained through action. He knew war, and hated it.
He knew hard work, and loved it. Here we share his
timeless words of leadership which speak to us and
even help us understand the lean philosophy.
1. "Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is
a pencil and you're a thousand miles from the
In Japanese we say "genchi genbutsu" and in English
"go see for yourself". The lean philosophy is based
on management by fact, and the belief that facts exist
where they are created, not far away from it. All
improvement, whether it is technical innovation,
process method redesign, or policy, must be based on
the actual needs of the situation observed for oneself.
2. "Pull the string, and it will follow wherever you
wish. Push it, and it will go nowhere at all."
Push vs. pull. One of the challenges of lean
management is to change our habits from pushing to
pulling. In terms of production, pushing is making
whatever is convenient or least problematic, rather
than making just what the customer (next process)
needs right now. In terms of leadership, push is topdown
command-and-control while pull is motivating
and teaching to create alignment of purpose.
8. "Here in America we are descended in blood
and in spirit from revolutionists and rebels –
men and women who dare to dissent from
accepted doctrine. As their heirs, may we never
confuse honest dissent with disloyal
Challenging fixed ideas and paradigms. These words
speak to the importance of a culture that is open not
only to improvements that are comfortable but also to
challenges to the status quo. Too often it is the things
or policies that we never adequately challenge that
result in our downfall. We gradually become
comfortable with a situation that at one time bothered
us, or feel powerless to make a change, or we are
attacked as disloyal for speaking the truth. It is the
harder path, but we need to chip away even at these
monuments that stand in the way of progress.
10. "If a problem cannot be solved, enlarge it."
Andon. These words make sense from a lean point of
view from two perspectives. First, a fundamental
principle of lean management is to make problems visible. This may not require making a small problem
bigger, only making it clearer or bringing it into focus.
The andon system (andon = Japanese for lamp)
allows team members to call attention to a problem so
that the local support can arrive immediately to
contain the problems. In fact most problems are
bigger than they appear precisely because we are
only seeing a small visible portion of the problem. We
don't need to enlarge it if we can simply make it more
visible. Second, taking a problem situation and
enlarging it can be likened to creating the so-called
burning platform – raising the sense of urgency to a
critical level compels us to take action. Most of the
time these big problems are already in front of us and
we do not need to enlarge them in fact, but only in
terms of importance within our minds.
11. "In preparing for battle I have always found that
plans are useless, but planning is
PDCA. Most plans don't go according to plan. Even
the best plan created by the brightest minds does not
survive contact with reality. So what we need is a
strong and adaptive planning process. The PDCA
cycle is a way of thinking, managing and improving
what is central to the lean philosophy. When we plan,
do, check and act over and over this is planning. We
plan by going to the cornfield to see the actual
condition and understand. We do by taking action.
We check by going back to see the results for
ourselves. We act by learning from success and
failure to set the next plan of action. The quality of the
resulting plans and actions are improved as we learn
Check out the full post at Gemba Panta Rei for all 13 quotes.