Ever since the classic Lean Thinking book1 talked about perfection as a principle in 1996, I have wondered what this really meant. What is perfection?
Here, the Shingo approach helps us with a definition: “Perfection is an aspiration not likely to be achieved but the pursuit of which creates a mindset and culture of continuous improvement. The realization of what is possible is only limited by the paradigms through which we see and understand the world.”
In my own mind this chimes well with my own experiences since the early 1990s with a simple tool like value stream mapping and engaging teams to want to implement and embed future state maps. What I found is that simply telling or even facilitating a team to develop a future state map rarely resulted in a sustainable change. Why? I believe this was because many in the team did not understand why they were doing this, what they were trying to achieve and most importantly that the future state that they were defining was even possible.
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Nowadays, a large number of companies are establishing principles of excellence as the path for their companies. Every day companies from various types of industry call me and ask to join all those who have taken the path of enterprise excellence based on principles. Although many have understood that such principles are the basis of competitive organizations, many still battle as to how to interpret them on a daily basis. It is not that simple for them to define what the application of the principles looks like on the floor – at the gemba – where things happen every day.
Although little-by-little companies understand the importance of involving and committing every member of the organization to create the golden dream of sustainable continuous improvement, there are still many concepts that are hard to understand and translate in simple and accessible terms – even among CEOs to whom the new era of excellence based on principles is not a common theme. In fact, many mistake the path to excellence for tools and systems that are totally misaligned from the true goal. So often, this misalignment creates situations that go against principles – particularly seeking perfection.
Continue reading “The Power in Pursuing Perfection”