be careful with Lean

We love Lean. Especially VSM. And also shining a light on overburden. And of course eliminating waste, especially bureaucracy.

Yet there are several weaknesses or risks:
1) Focus on efficiency is the wrong primary goal I the 21sr Century. Adaptability is more important.

2) JIT flows – with too much slack removed – are fragile, not resilient, as the world’s supply chains showed during COVID. Efficiency is opposed to adaptability if taken too far, losing resilience.

3) Lean is based on a paradigm of simple linear flow which can be modelled, and which has bottlenecks. A pipe. This so fine for some contexts, for highly bounded systems such as a factory. It’s not fine for complex systems, for networks of autonomous agents.

4) Lean talks about some aspirational attitudes and behaviours, without saying much about how to grow them. The key is changing how managing is done. Lean doesn’t talk about that.

5) Over-standardisation suppresses innovation. Generally the world fixes that by changing, and hence busting our standardisation for us, but it is still a danger.