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The righter we do the wrong things...

Lean Thinking Lesson: The righter you do the wrong things . . . the wronger you become.

We know this . . . right?

But the pace of change often keeps us in the urgency of the smaller game. Always fixing and working at the parts -- losing a sense of the larger system. The result is that we may be actually making things worse . . . by making them better.

Consider this: What does the architect design first -- the house or its parts? Of course, she starts with the whole house -- then starts to work on the parts. But here is the critical point . . . she will not let a “part” hurt the “whole." In other words, if the client wants a larger kitchen, the architect can't do it in isolation (like most of our work in organizations!). The "whole" design must be considered. Again, we rarely do this -- feeling satisfied that things seem to be getting better (at least the things we are responsible for). It looks like this:

Delivery times have been cut in half but product quality still sucks.

Lean thinking at its core requires systems thinking -- the capacity to see the whole -- not just the parts. It's the discipline of knowing when we can continuously improve the parts -- or bring all stakeholders together to make the larger system work better for the business. For example, reducing delivery times will not make a difference if product quality is bad -- because the customer is just getting the "wrong" thing faster! As lean thinkers we know when to get up on the balcony and ask:

Reformation or Transformation?

Reformation: Leave the system as it is but try to change the behaviors (doing things right)

Transformation: Changing the purpose and goals of the system (doing the right things)

These questions are not semi-regular or even routine. They need to "haunt" our daily work (if we truly want to be lean).

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