Lean House – Thinking through the elements

Framing an operating philosophy for your business

Little Lean Houses, for you and me

Not long ago, while I was preparing a new presentation, I searched for “Lean House” in google images.  There are many different interpretations of the original Toyota House and I wanted a couple for some comparisons.  Sadly, I was struck by the diversity of interpretations of the house and the limits of understanding they seem to reflect with respect to an integrated lean system.

Back in 2004, after much digging and observing people at Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky (TMMK), I created my own version of a lean house.  It has only slightly changed since the first time I presented the house in an article published in the Defense Acquisition Review Quarterly way back then.  If you’d like, you can get a free copy of that article here.

The Missing Block

One block in my lean house is distinctly different from all the others I’ve seen.  That surprises me a little because I built my lean house carefully from published Toyota Production System (TPS) practices and my own observations of behavior at TMMK.  Although this block is missing from other lean houses, people still like to talk about it, sort of.  Most people now refer to some mystical “people” or “culture” side of lean.  Yet they still don’t build it into the structure of their operating philosophy, which is what the lean house should really represent.

Lean House. In a field representing "Respect for People" lies a house structure featuring a foundation of "Dynamic Stability", a floor of "Satisfaction", two pillars - Just in time and Jidoka supporting a rooftop of "Customer Satisfaction"

My Lean House

The different block in my Lean House is “Satisfaction.”  Other versions of the house have blocks representing stability, JIT, Jidoka, and some kind of roof, but none mentions satisfaction.  Satisfaction refers to employee satisfaction on the job, which correlates to satisfaction in life.  There are distinct contributors to satisfaction that leaders need to design into the work we have people do.

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to go through this lean house as an integral system and include some very specific things leaders need to do to build a stronger and more sustainable lean house.  As with any good house, I’ll build it from the foundation up, first explaining “Dynamic Stability” in language and examples you can use for your own workplace.

I hope you’ll follow me and learn with me.

-DSV

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