Sustaining Lean


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Robert B. Camp was my guest on the podcast, A Story of Sustaining Lean. Throughout his career, he has performed roles that have drawn heavily on his increasing body of Lean knowledge and experience. He is a board member of the Association for Manufacturing Excellence and the author of Go and See: A Journey about Getting to Lean, and most recently Sustainable Lean: The Story of a Cultural Transformation. This is a transcription of the podcast.

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Sustaining Lean

  1. 1. Business901 Podcast Transcription Implementing Lean Marketing Systems A Story of Sustaining Lean Copyright Business901 A Story of Sustaining Lean Guest was Robert Camp Sponsored by Related Podcast: A Story of Sustaining Lean
  2. 2. Business901 Podcast Transcription Implementing Lean Marketing Systems A Story of Sustaining Lean Copyright Business901 Transcription of Podcast Joe Dager: Welcome everyone; this is Joe Dager, the host of Business901 podcast. With me, today is Robert Camp. Robert has spent twenty years of his career working with the likes of Mobil and Lockheed Martin. Through his career, he has performed roles and drawn heavily on his increasing body of Lean knowledge and experience. He is a Board Member of the Association for Manufacturing Excellent as most of us know as AME and the author of Go and See: A Journey About Getting To Lean and most recently, Sustainable Lean: The Story of a Cultural Transformation. Robert, I would like to welcome you and start out by asking you; “What prompted you to write your latest book”? Robert Camp: Thanks Joe. It's good to be on your show. It's a real honor. I spent five years consulting to outside companies; most of my career has been spent consulting to my own company being an internal consultant. During my external consultant years, I started keeping data and working with other consultants, looked at the data related to how many transformations we became involved with that actually sustained or lasted longer than our presence there or two years, thereafter. The data was not good. The departamentive data was good, the message was not good. The other consultants that I worked with had about 84% failure rate. My experience, including both private internal consulting as external consulting was in the range of 85% to 90% failure rate. I began asking myself the question: Why do transformations fail? This book was written around the answer to that question.
  3. 3. Business901 Podcast Transcription Implementing Lean Marketing Systems A Story of Sustaining Lean Copyright Business901 Joe: You picked doing it as a fiction to tell the story. Why did you pick a fiction rather than non-fiction? Robert: It is interesting you asked. I spent a year and a half writing this book as a text, and after completing the book, I was editing it and realized, none of the target audience was going to read this book. I was shooting for executives, and they weren't going to spend their time to learn what I was trying to say. I decided that it was far more probable that they would read it as a novel. I went back and in a week, and a half, re-wrote the same information, this time as a novel. Joe: You started this conversation out by talking about an outside consultant and inside consultant. In the book, you painted two different pictures of consultants in the story itself. Could you explain both of them and why one did not work and the other one did? Robert: Certainly. An inside consultant is one that actually works for the firm that is having them conduct the transformation in their behalf. Roles that I held were world class manufacturing leader and continuous improvement manager. When I was working for a hospital, it was performance improvement coach and the difference is that I was working for someone, a couple layers below the key decision makers in the organization, and that is one of the key ways the transformations fail and we can talk about that in-depth in a second but let me answer the other half of your question was what's an external consultant and what's difference between what they do and the answer to that is, an external consultant is hired, by the senior leaders of an organization, to come in and help them
  4. 4. Business901 Podcast Transcription Implementing Lean Marketing Systems A Story of Sustaining Lean Copyright Business901 kick off a transformation. One works for the organization and is depended upon them for a pay check. The other one is hired externally to come in and help, and there's usually a contract involved. The parties agree on what the deliverables are and as long as the consultant delivers as promised, the pay check comes. As an internal consultant, it doesn't matter what you deliver, there is no guarantee of future employment. Joe: From the organizational standpoint that wants to institute Lean which one should I choose? Which do you think is better? Robert: Good question, Joe. Both work and yet the thing that causes transformation to fail is a failure of leadership. For many, they believed that all you have to do is bring in a consultant, and you can hire them to come in and work at your shop floor and get all the savings that Lean is capable of and in fairness, those savings are, in fact, there and you'll get them, no matter how you approach Lean, whether it is as an internal or an external consultant. The problem is, they're unsustainable, unless, leadership with the organization agrees that they're going to change. I make a point of referencing that in my book, early in the book, the protagonist, Jim, who is a plant manager is talking to a consultant that he's heard at a gathering, and he approaches him afterwards. Jim approaches the consultant afterwards and says: "I hired these external consultants to come in and we did great. They did better than they even promised me they would do. Then, I was pressured by corporate to cut off the contract, and in the two years
  5. 5. Business901 Podcast Transcription Implementing Lean Marketing Systems A Story of Sustaining Lean Copyright Business901 since, things seemed to have drifted back to where they had been." Frank, the external consultant, says to him: "What you did wrong was you entrusted the transformation to somebody else. Unless, you are willing to lead it, it's not going to be sustainable". I think, therein lies half of the answer that A is got to be led by the leaders of the organization. The second piece to that is by leading, they literally get out front which means they need to understand Lean as well as anybody else and they actually have to drive the transformation. They can't hire somebody to come in and do that for them. Joe: I thought your description was excellent and that was the point of the story. I think it is true in real life that change is tough, and it normally takes some type of catastrophic event to cause someone to want to change. Is that what's needed to transform to Lean? Robert: Joe, it is a beautiful set up question, thank you so much. As you and I both know, we in the Lean community refer to that as the burning platform which means that you're forced out of the platform that you've been comfortable on and now need to move to a new place. There does need to be a burning platform. In the case of Sustainable Lean, the burning platform is that Jim is concerned for his own job. As he gets thinking about it, as Frank coaches him, he realizes it is not just him; it could be his entire plant. They could close the plant, and so that becomes his burning platform. Joe: So, you do think that an important part of implementing Lean is it has to be presented as a burning platform?
  6. 6. Business901 Podcast Transcription Implementing Lean Marketing Systems A Story of Sustaining Lean Copyright Business901 Robert: Well, if not, then the leaders have to arrive at the place where they see their competition employing Lean and say, "If we don't do this, we're not going to be able to compete in five years." It doesn't have to be an immediate burning platform as was the case with Jim who was worried about something happening in the next year or so. It could be looking out over the horizon and seeing that your competition continually scoops you by getting the market fastest with new products. Joe: One of the other things that I want to ask about and you mentioned it in your author's note. You condensed the story and showed a shorter time frame than what you should expect. We always create such an anxiety, this catastrophic event that you talked about. Can Lean be used for a turnaround? Robert: Lean is absolutely a tool to be used as a turnaround. As you know, in order for there to be a Lean transformation, the second clause of the title of my book needs to be invoked. There needs to be a cultural transformation. You just can't go in and start using the tools of Lean; Just in Time, Total Production Manufacturing and using Kanban. Those things all work and they will deliver results. They are not sustainable, unless, you create a culture that looks for them to be sustained and it continually looks to improve upon the games it already made. Joe: It's interesting you mentioned the tools, Kanban and Five S. In your book, you talk about Hoshin Kanri and strategic deployment. A lot of people look at Hoshin as a mature tool. Can that be used right out of the blocks?
  7. 7. Business901 Podcast Transcription Implementing Lean Marketing Systems A Story of Sustaining Lean Copyright Business901 Can we start with strategic policy deployment or is that after we know the other tools? Robert: I often say to businesses that even if you start at the shop floor using the tools of Lean, I won't work with you; unless, you simultaneously, begin a Hoshin Kanri, begin a strategic policy deployment. The reason for that is that I can get you the gains you want. I can grab you the savings that you want. We can improve your on-time delivery to the point that you can beat your competition. If the leadership is not willing to continue to provide the support that got you those gains, then they're unsustainable. If leadership all of a sudden arrives at the conclusion that we're losing money because we are investing too much effort into getting to zero defects, then A) you will never get zero defects and B) you are sending a message to the rest of the organization that defect-free product is not important to us. That's not a message you ever want to send out, any more than you want to send out the message that we don't care when we deliver the product to our customers as long as we get it to them. Neither are acceptable conditions. You need both and the only way you can get that and sustain it is when your leaders expect that of you and continue to pay to get the advances that are necessary. Joe: When I think about playing the catch ball, and taking it through the organization. You adjust it; you go through your objectives and strategies. I understand that, but when an organization is not used to doing it. That's a lot to put on, the other people's plate, the other leaders or the other managers or middle managers. They have a big learning curve, don't they? It just not the leaders buying into it and doing it, the other people have a big
  8. 8. Business901 Podcast Transcription Implementing Lean Marketing Systems A Story of Sustaining Lean Copyright Business901 learning curve. Robert: Joe, you are so right, and that, of course, is the point behind Hoshin Kanri. I thank you for taking me back to that. The whole point of the Hoshin Kanri is to identify the critical goals that an organization has committed themselves to achieve. I, typically, take my customers back to the mission statement and get them to extract from the mission statement those things that are critical to them achieving their mission. Once we've established that, we identify who within the leadership organization is going to be held accountable for those attainments. We're going to determine what are the things that we're going to measure in order to ensure that we are actually achieving that goal. So, we've now got someone who's accountable, and they have a clear goal that they are trying to achieve and they have on- going measures that tell them how they are doing against that goal. Those get cascaded down through the entire organization from the vice-president to the director, from the director to the manager, from the manager to the supervisor, the supervisor to the lead person and ultimately, down to the manufacturing line. What I just laid out was within the manufacturing side of the organization, but the same tools work in accounting, work in procurement, work in quality and not only do they work there, but as you know, Lean is holistic, all the pieces have to work together, or you have a one sided transformation. In order for a manager or a supervisor to make this transformation, the senior leaders need to begin a training program that the senior leaders at least kick off, if not actually give the training. So that the subordinate leaders understand how important this initiative is to future
  9. 9. Business901 Podcast Transcription Implementing Lean Marketing Systems A Story of Sustaining Lean Copyright Business901 success. Joe: When we play catch ball, it's not like we are changing the strategies and the vision all the way down through the organization. We're leaving people take control of what they actually do to fulfill what we are trying to get accomplished. Robert: Spot on Joe. Spot on. That's exactly what occurs as you've stated when I cascade these expectations down through the organization; I am not expecting folks at the bottom of the organization to achieve the master goal by themselves. What I want them to achieve is the piece for which they are responsible, and I think that's the kernel inside your question is that we're not asking them to boil the ocean. What we're asking them to do is take control of their organization so as to achieve the goal we've set for them. As you've indicated, the whole role of catch ball is to throw the goal out there from their supervisor, from their manager, from their director, through the goal out and say, this is what I want you to achieve, what are your thoughts on it? Can you do it? If not, what can you do? Am I being aggressive enough? Are you capable of doing better? The ball gets tossed back and forth until both parties agree: "Yes! This is doable, let's accept this as our goal". Joe: Can we start with a few pilots and form around a particular value stream, for example, and institute Lean that way or does it have to be or do we have to do an all-in approach? Robert: No, you do not have to do an all-in approach. The leadership has to be all in. Absolutely, a pilot's work,
  10. 10. Business901 Podcast Transcription Implementing Lean Marketing Systems A Story of Sustaining Lean Copyright Business901 beta testing work and it's a great way to get people to commit to Lean is to show them in a micro-causim what's achievable and I love the word you used "value stream" which is a continuous set of processes which end up with the completion of a product or a group of products. You could go into a value stream and have that value stream manager responsible for implementing Lean in their area. I might use a tool, like a value stream map to identify where I need, as value stream manager, to focus my Lean efforts? Do I have a problem with machine up time? Do I have a problem with defects in a particular operation? Is my set up time too high at a given point in my operation? What are the things that are deterring me from hitting my goal? I would start using the tools of Lean to make my goal. Joe: We talk about leadership in Lean and the implementation. What is needed to sustain Lean through leadership changes? Robert: That's the question that I think eluded many in our country for at least four decades. It's not going to be an easy answer to give. In short, they're going to have to understand what Lean is about. They are actually going to have to understand not just the tools, but as you know Joe, they got to understand the philosophies, the management that the business behind Lean. You can't continue to practice business as usual and complete a Lean transformation. Let me give an example. Accounting is usually the easiest place to go to point out where we have to change. If I continue to believe that inventory is an asset, as most accountants will tell you, what I am doing is setting myself up to fail at a Lean transformation. Inventory is actually a
  11. 11. Business901 Podcast Transcription Implementing Lean Marketing Systems A Story of Sustaining Lean Copyright Business901 problem for me. I have to pay taxes on inventory. I have to warehouse inventory. Anything that is in inventory is subject to engineering changes that could make it obsolete or at least make me have to pay to refurbish it. What I want to do in a Lean culture is to make something only when I've actually sold it which means the moment I make it, it is really to move out the door. If I take that new attitude than inventory, actually, is a detriment to my organization. If I consume a raw material before I am ready to process it the whole way through my organization, then I can't use that raw material for anything else. Moreover, it becomes work in the process in which I have the full value of the material, and now I've added labor to it, and it's going to sit on my floor until such time as I'm ready to begin the next process on it. Every time material gets stopped, inventory gets stopped in the process. It delays cash flow. I know I'm not telling you anything you don't know. That's why we have to take a different approach to accounting. Joe: The accountants always seemed to be problem. Robert: I didn't say that Joe. Joe: I look at the fact that when we talk about Lean and leadership changes, that the people that hire the leaders, the board. Has to have a background in Lean and that's since they're not hands on, not easy. Is there an easy way for them to gain the knowledge of Lean? Robert: There is absolutely a way. I think, Joe, brilliant question because it points to the underlying problem in the failure of so many organization to transform
  12. 12. Business901 Podcast Transcription Implementing Lean Marketing Systems A Story of Sustaining Lean Copyright Business901 because the folks there behind the scene. The board, the owners, if they aren't brought in, and then they start having expectations that are not achievable until the transformation is well on their way. Is there an easy way for them to get that knowledge? Knowledge by its nature requires someone: A) look for, and B) then try to do something about it. As I say in my book "You don't know what you don't know". Unless a board president starts looking for what can make this work and what would we have to do in order to actually implement that, they're probably not going to look upon Lean as a solution to their problem. Joe: Lean is a pretty common place anymore or at least the term. It is misunderstood outside of the Lean community. Outside of the immediate Lean community, it is still looked at as manufacturing or at least a waste reduction methodology. Robert: You know, I can't tell you how many organizations I went into as an external consultant that the workers, the moment the word "Lean" came out of our mouth, starts hearing lay-offs. One of the first things we started doing was to assure them. This isn't about lay- offs. We wouldn't even work with a client who is contemplating a lay-off and what we typically said prior to going into a transformation, we told the client if you're anticipating that you're going to need to have a work force reduction, have it before you begin this because if you don't, then what you're going to do is you're going to kill Lean forever in your organization. Joe: Since publishing you're book, what have you learned from it?
  13. 13. Business901 Podcast Transcription Implementing Lean Marketing Systems A Story of Sustaining Lean Copyright Business901 Robert: Yours is an interesting question, I don't get asked it very often, but you're so right that when you write a book, you do learn from the actual writing and in writing this book, it deepened my understanding of how important leadership is. Joe: What is the most satisfying about your own journey in Lean? What have you, personally taken from Lean? Robert: I think the thing as you know, my most recent position was that of a vice-president of operation for a medical supply company and in that role, I had the opportunity to employ everything that I have taught others to employ and in the course of doing so, watched it worked and watched a transformation taking place not just in terms of what we made or how well we made it. I watched the transformation taking place in lives of the people that work for me, and it was just a wonderful thing to watch as people began to blossom like flowers. They became less concerned about their job, knowing that if they did the right things right, they have no reason to worry about their jobs. Joe: What's upcoming for you and the best way for someone to contact you? Robert: I am in the process of working to create my own consultancy. I am working with the colleagues here in the Phoenix area to develop a Lean consultancy here and to begin reaching out to primarily small to mid-size businesses. That's where the growth of the United States has traditionally occurred and as I say in my author's note at the end. As a graduate of the military academy, I feel a profound responsibility to this Country, and because of my field of expertise; I want
  14. 14. Business901 Podcast Transcription Implementing Lean Marketing Systems A Story of Sustaining Lean Copyright Business901 to give back as much as I can in that field. I believe that by helping small and mid-size companies compete globally, I'm going to be helping the US economy at least as it exists in the State of Arizona. My email address is My cellphone is 704- 798-6980. Joe: You are active on LinkedIn and I think you offer some great commentary on their occasionally. So, someone can also contact you there? Robert: Absolutely Joe. Thank you for pointing that out. As a matter of fact, that's how you and I met and what a lucky day for me. Joe: I would like to thank you for the opportunity to do this and this podcast will be available on Business901 iTunes store and the Business 901 blog site. Thank you very much Robert. Robert: Thank you, Joe.
  15. 15. Business901 Podcast Transcription Implementing Lean Marketing Systems A Story of Sustaining Lean Copyright Business901 Joseph T. Dager Business901 Phone: 260-918-0438 Skype: Biz901 Fax: 260-818-2022 Email: Website: Twitter: @business901 Joe Dager is president of Business901, a firm specializing in bringing the continuous improvement process to the sales and marketing arena. He takes his process thinking of over thirty years in marketing within a wide variety of industries and applies it through Lean Marketing and Lean Service Design. Visit the Lean Marketing Lab: Being part of this community will allow you to interact with like-minded individuals and organizations, purchase related tools, use some free ones and receive feedback from your peers.