Debunking the history of lean.

An article (pdf) at Art of Lean launches an ongoing series on the history of lean production by pointing out that there are many popular misconceptions about the early formation of lean ideas. For instance, the author argues that despite how Taiichi Ohno is usually presented (e.g., I’ve done it myself) as the single founding genius of the Toyota Production System, Ohno is just one of a number of important figures in the early years of lean production. The “early years” of lean production, for that matter, lasted for many decades, as many people in many locations gradually worked out the revolutionary ideas.

Fair enough. As I said in my previous post, I don’t claim to be an exalted authority on the nuances of lean production, and that certainly includes the pre-history of those ideas. I will try to take it easy on the Ohno-worship, while acknowledging (as everyone else seems to) Ohno’s pivotal role in the development of lean production.

And I’ll be closely following that series of articles as it debunks more of the myths of lean history. I love a good debunking… sometimes: Japanese engineers didn’t actually get the idea for kanban systems from a visit they made to an American Piggly Wiggly grocery store? I find that very disappointing.

Again, I’m just a guy who is interested in lean ideas and wants to figure out how to apply them to everyday life rather than dishwasher manufacture (or whatever). As such, when I finish my early series of posts on the types of waste and some other findamental lean principles, I will try to shift focus more to the practical in-the-trenches issues that come up when you try to apply these ideas to real life.

That’s really where I’m trying to go.


About adbenking

A journeyman sociologist living in Chicagoland.
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