In manufacturing — especially when I was a production manager — the big craze was “lean.” Lean manufacturing as a spin-off from the Toyota Production System was all about eliminating waste from the system.
Waste in the form of defective products. Waste in terms of WIP (Work In Progress). Waste in terms of unnecessary time and steps and processes, etc.
No you can’t really run lean without an engaged workforce, but that didn’t mean quite a few manufacturers didn’t try their hardest, adopting all the outer elements of lean while only reaping half the benefits.
But it seems to me that the biggest waste one needs to eliminate in an agile company, especially a service-based business, is cognitive waste.
Observations and insights your frontline people have that never get spoken or acted on.
Opportunities to delight a customer that aren’t taken up.
Ways to help the next guy out as part of teamwork, etc.
And the waste happens for two reasons:
1) Management doesn’t see their people as a cognitive resource
2) There isn’t enough emotional encouragement and support to make speaking your mind and taking initiative a safe thing to do.
What lean manufacturing was in the 90s and 2000s, and what agile start-ups were to the 2000s and 2010s, I think agile service will be to the 2020s. And it will necessarily involve as much emotional content and frameworks as intellectual ones.
Toyota went from dominating small cars, to dominating family cars, to dominating the market for all cars from the 70s to the 2000s based on lean manufacturing. They reset the customers demands for build quality and trouble free performance, until no car manufacturer could compete unless they were using a TPD-inspired manufacturing process.
Amazon has gone from dominating the e-commerce sale of books to dominating the e-commerce sale of everything to soon-to-dominate retail. They have reset customer expectations and demands for customer experience and customer service.
I think we’ll soon see a similar pattern not just for retail but for service based businesses. Not just for massive national brands, but for local businesses as well.
a Wizard of Ads Partner