Friday 27 March 2015

Systems Thinking, and why lean tools don't work on their own

This remains one of my favourite stories about how systems work together.

We all know about the "5 Whys".

But how do you know how many times to ask "Why?" if you don't fully appreciate the system in which you are working? (Clue: it's not always 5 times...)

The Lincoln Memorial story explains it beautifully.

Initially, the authorities had a problem where the facade was deteriorating rapidly.  They were concerned.

It would be easy to dive straight into solutions requiring builders, scaffolding, repairs - all costing $$$.

But the solution wasn't there.  The root-cause was the timing of the evening illuminations which attracted bugs.  I small change to the timing, and the results were enormous:
  • Less bugs meant less spiders.
  • Less spiders meant less birds.
  • Less birds meant less droppings.
  • Less droppings meant less washings.
  • Less washings meant less deterioration of the stone on the outside of the memorial.

In the real world, the issue can often boil down to a consulting dilemma:
  • take "the brown envelope" and assist in the multi-million $ repair program, or
  • find the clever, simple, solution that is far more powerful and effective
I find this decision easy.

Want to know more:
 - about Matt Arnold
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