In a recent speech, Dick Schonberger packed a PowerPoint slide with a list of techniques associated with lean operations, a looooong list, in fine print. That’s why organizations that regard lean as a collection of techniques can never master them; nobody lives long enough. And if management “runs the organization” by principles that conflict with the human side of the techniques, a lean initiative “fad” stalls well short of its potential.
Lean is a way of thinking, a human development process, not absorbed quickly; same with Compression Thinking, only much more so.
Compression Thinking conflicts with much normal psychology, and it’s reinforced by business practices. Psychologically, we opt for short-term tasks and rewards, even when we see data on long-term consequences. More seems better; as when reasoning that if a little fertilizer or cleaning agent is good, more would be great. This too could become a veeeeeery long list.
So where to start? A study group, or discussion group. No sane management should plunge into coping with Compression without leaders getting a firm grip on what and why, and devising some approach to go about it. Set aside a regular time to map out what is involved, and how it will change everyone. In time, study will hopefully lead to action.
We can start by trying to become a vigorous learning organization, eventually adding partners, maturing into a vigorous learning enterprise. None of us will ever learn enough to start – or even afterward, but we can do our best. A key element in this is attitude. Our behavior is crucial, so psychological discipline may be the toughest part. For example, it is hard to learn to listen, to engage in open exchange with others, and to keep problem resolution dependent on facts, without blame casting and hidden agendas.
We can start practicing this immediately, grappling with today’s problems, not those of 2040. But the difficulty is suggested by a quote attributed in various forms to Groucho Marx, “Business success is honesty and transparency; fake that and you’ve got it made.”