Here is a repost of some ideas I posted in a discussion group on LinkedIn regarding Systems Thinking and Lean. I hope to say more in specific articles on this blog, but… let’s deliver some value right now and improve later! The group is Systems Thinking World. Please note that this post does not address the Vanguard Method (advertised as systems thinking mostly in UK), but systems thinking as one can discover it for instance on Gene Bellinger wonderful web site Systems Wiki.
I can read a lot of comments about Lean toolset. Lean is IMO far more than this, for waving a tool without mastering the environment where you’d like to apply it, you risk hurting someone.
Lean does not advocates systems thinking, though I personnaly feel, when “properly” applied, it helps employees and management build a holistic view of their organization. I agree that all lean tools are reductionistic. But the approach, IMO, is not.
When you start transforming your organization toward Lean (that means for me changing to the new Lean business model, not just applying tools), you need to change the whole organization, not just parts of it. Because when you start to identify the value streams across your departments, you’re considering the whole system. Then, pulling from the customer’s point of view, you need to constantly adapt to what they’re going to buy (quality, delay, costs, etc.) and the pulling impacts the whole company (or should as some people limit it to some parts of the company, which is an error for me). So, yes, Lean only applies to the closed system of the enterprise (or the extended enterprise as advocated by Womack & Jones in “Lean Solutions”), but with a strong eye on the environment so as to constantly adapt the organization to the clients (=environment). From a Viable System Model, that’s decentralizing System 4 throughout the organization.
Then, speaking of continuous improvement which is usually done using the “A3 tool”, the process mandates that the one in charge of the A3 speaks to all involved and do that by going to the real place to see things by himself. Then talk to the people, get their ideas, get their approval, and then only propose the solution for the management and for all to try & improve later. The more you “do A3”, the more you build a systemic view of your company.
Should I need to speak of hoshin kanri, where a direction is set by management and all company hierarchy levels are asked to contribute with the specifics of their respective departments? Isn’t this a description of System 5 and the way it impacts sub-systems 1 as in Viable System Model?