April 2016

From the Chair - Lean

We’ve all had contact with the “Lean” movement, this month I will review a book recommended to me by Hiram Uphouse a Senior Engineer at Goodyear.  (Full disclosure: Hiram is also my brother-in-law but neither he nor I have received any compensation) The book is Lean-Driven Innovation: Powering Product Development at The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company by author Norbert Majerus.

Most often Lean processes are associated with manufacturing lines.  This book is unique in its focus on Lean Design; I wondered how “Lean” could be applied to a process as fluid as design. 

Norbert Majerus, the author, begins by pointing out that the Wright brothers were very effective early users of lean design.  Lean Design dictates that the engineer tests known parameters prior to design.  The Wright brothers had tested all manners of bicycle parts and even tubing in frame manufacture.  They knew the limits of the materials going into the process and only then did they start testing various parts/things/designs of what they didn’t know.  The results become the airplane. Majerus asks us to “Develop the missing first and then design and build the Prototype.”  Today we use computers to simulate, avoiding the Wright brothers trial and error approach to what they didn’t know and greatly speeding up the process of learning.

The key is to break down the technology into critical elements; then develop “bench-scale and full-scale equipment in order to foster the knowledge of the critical elements in place before they are combined with known elements to form the new manufacturing method.”

An area of lean development that I’d never given any thought was the management of human capital and knowledge streams.  Majerus points out the most organizations rarely have a process in place to practice/capture Hansei. (Japanese for “reflection”) Organizations have valid reasons for avoiding Hansei after a project is complete, some obvious like no one wants be the messenger as to what went wrong (or even be associated with it) to simply that team members are often excited to move to the next project.  However, what I really liked was the observation that “Good people in bad processes look like bad people.”  In other words, use Hansei to improve process and your organization will become leaner.

How does a team leader effectively achieve Hansei?  Marjerus gives pointed checklists throughout the book that can be acted upon.  In regards to Hansei he suggests:

Skip plus and minus format – Ask what should we keep doing? Request suggestions for improvement

Interview people individually - Show appreciation for their feedback

Thank people for pointing out problems - Reassure them it is okay to point out what they did not like

It's not emotions you seek - The first time you get angry is the last time you hear the truth

Rarely documented is what does not work and what we do not know – Find it, document it

Another great point made is that exit interviews cannot capture the value of senior experts.  Is there any way your company can keep them part-time or as a consultant?  This has the added benefit of preventing company knowledge from ending up with a competitor via consulting.

Below are some notes I took from the book, some are direct quotes; other are my paraphrase.  I highly recommend this book.

*Change: you should assume that 5% of the population will support the change, 5% more visually or covertly oppose it. The other 90% we'll wait and see and need to be convinced.

*Leverage:  A four month strike by the United steelworkers of America was a great time for change. The Innovation Center in Luxembourg did not have such an event and therefore it took several attempts to copy what already had been accomplished in Akron Ohio.

*Assemble a “Small Coalition” of open-minded people who embrace the change, who find the low-hanging fruit to convince the rest.

*Invite one or two people who you believe will actively oppose the change. It will lead to an understanding of other view points and help the coalition prepare for battle. Bonus: it will potentially surface a counter position that would not be considered by the change agent.

*Communication must be honest and humble, not the typical PR announcements with spins that make the word-story look positive.

*It also should be messaging that is unique each time - not a daily publication that rehashes the same subject over and over. That type of communication can have adverse effects and people get tired of it.

*People may have been afraid to try something new, but they are often not afraid to try to prove you and/or the sponsor wrong.

*A resistance map before implementation enables you to keep a pulse on your friends and enemies.

*Do good things and talk about them - German proverb.

PDCA - Plan / Do / Check / Adjust

Brook’s Law: New resources at the eleventh hour are not effective because they rarely can contribute.

Advice on Consultants: They know what they know and want to advise on what they know not necessarily what is needed and what is accepted by the people who work the processes.


The best method to figure out what customers really want this to go see. Sometimes it takes a little experimentation to find out what the customer perceives as value. Tips to help you do so:

*Always work in short learning Cycles with a customer. Make something, show it, change it, and show it again. Look at what other teams are doing as well, and learn from them.

*Go see and ask, ask, ask.

*Practice good listening skills. Repeat back what you here to ensure proper understanding.

*Clarify customer priorities, and rank them from the most important to the least important.

*Be positive, but recognize that the customer may ask for the impossible. Discuss that too, but do not commit to it.

*Assess the customer value vs what is important to you to explain that and negotiate, if needed and appropriate.

*Make commitments only when you are sure you can deliver the value desired.

*If the job is too big and complex, break it down into manageable pieces.

*Be prepared to educate the customer as needed - that is what sales people do in the stores.

*Provide honest and professional advice to the customer if you notice the customer needs an education.

Notable About Goodyear:

Three Innovation Centers: Akron, Ohio; Luxemburg and Hanau, Germany.

Three times the products with the same engineer headcount.


I was able to check out a copy from my local library

Buy the Book Here at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Lean-Driven-Innovation-Powering-Development-Goodyear/dp/1482259680

Or Here with Google Books:  https://books.google.com/books?id=gH5jCgAAQBAJ

Great FREE Video:

Dozuki Workshop: Goodyear's Guide To Lean Product Development


Mike Sickenger
Chapter Chairman
SME Chapter 354