Working in the New Normal 16: The Big Lie About Lean

One of the changes we’d like to see in the New Normal is a resetting of the idea of what Lean is all about. In this video we’ll uncover a rare interview with Taiichi Ohno, the father of the Toyota Production System, where he admits that a focus on waste as a diversion strategy he used to confuse Westerners. The same can be said for a focus on Quality.

That’s not to say that bad quality or waste are good things. Taiichi Ohno’s primary focus, however, was in building a “river system” that connected all processes and supply chains into a fast moving flow. Waste elimination and good quality were (somewhat) means to an end.

And why the “diversionary tactics”? Because he really didn’t want to help American and European companies gain a competitive advantage by using TPS or Lean methods!

Here’s a link to the source document from Amazon:

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Tony Heath

    Thanks for this important note. I saw a video in which Mr. Ohno explained this very point about 18 months ago. But I have made exactly no progress in convincing anyone of its truth. Clearly wastes are the inverse of flow, but it’s more complex than this. It may be that many native speakers of English can’t imaging flow in all of the staccato business processes we see. Maybe we don’t want to go to the trouble of changing our slides and videos. Whatever the reason, I enjoy imaging the service processes I see as rivers. Ahhh.

  2. Bill Gilbert

    I read the Ohno interview several years ago and felt it filled a void in the current understanding of the TPS/Lean philosophy. I was so impressed that I wrote a four-part series about Ohno’s “Lean River System”. You can access Part 1 here:

    The other three parts follow it. I include many of the Ohno quotes that you have referenced and also expand on how the river system approach meshes with the underlying TPS principles and practices. I also use it to illustrate why current accounting methodologies do not always support those principles and practices. Feedback would be welcomed.

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