Deming, Maslow, Erhard and Ohno. Quite a list. This article shares my thinking about how these theorists may all be linked.

These developments were not too far apart from each other on timescale:

+ In the 1940’s and onwards Ohno devoted his time to building on existing cultural strengths to create a defining Lean culture in Toyota. One critical aspect of this was respect for people and involving all in improvement efforts (stating the obvious for those in Lean circles).

It is a system that says there is no limit to people’s creativity. (Ohno)

+ Deming spent much of his time encouraging the focus on quality, removal of fear and empowerment of employees across Japan (1947 onwards), Western Europe and the US (roughly 1980 onwards), at times puzzled by the cultural anchors that prevented rapid and full adoption of these principles in the western world. Deming was considered a statistical expert and despite a technical focus still recognised that the behaviours of those involved could disrupt the system.

People care more for themselves when they contribute to the system. (Deming)

+ In the 1960’s and onwards the Humanistic Psychology movement developed, emcompassing Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (from 1943) and popularising the principles and calling it the ‘Human Potential Movement’ which led to many strains of popular psychology, one of which being the training seminars by Erhard (EST – Erhard Seminar Training) focussed around empowering individuals to improve the quality of their lives. This was all around individuals realising their capabiltiy and creativity – appreciating how they process triggers internally.

You and I want our lives to matter. We want our lives to make a real difference – to be of genuine consequence in the world. (Erhard)

I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.’ (Jung)

So how do these all relate to each other? People. Behaviours. Psychology. Mind Set. Yet from my experience it is common for lean training courses and implementations often to skip or skim these critical areas and to be focussed on the technical aspects : framework, tools & techniques.

My take away is to start to assess lean implementations as a composition of many individual journeys – understanding that success is reliant on the majority of participants (at all levels) understanding how they contribute, what value their contribution brings, how they can do that better and then the support they need for this. Even with the best frameworks and the most effective technical approach, if people don’t believe in it, it will not thrive. This will involve the facilitators using empathy, taking time to ensure participants want to, and are ready to, embark on the lean path. This time up at the front of the programme may lead to drop outs and that might be hard but when the programme kicks off in earnest the momentum and sustainability will be greater due to the reduction of resistance and deep rooted behavioural change.