I’m excited to present this interview with Michel Baudin who has had a very interesting and long history with the Toyota Production System.
In this interview, among other things, you’ll learn:
- Why Michel believes that Lean is to the Toyota Production System as American Chinese Food is to Chinese Food in China.
- Why he prefers the terms Lean-lite and Lean-deep to describe Real Lean versus Fake Lean.
- Why he feels Bob Emiliani is missing some critical aspects in his description of “Real Lean”.
- Why he likes Eric Ries’ Lean Startup principles, but fears that using the word “Lean” may backfire on him for reasons that have nothing to do with the ideas in his book.
Enjoy this very informative interview. And check out our other interviews also with other Lean Leaders.
Thanks Michel for spending time with us today. Can you please tell my audience about yourself and your work?
Thanks for the opportunity. I was born and raised in France, but, from an early age, used all the opportunities I could get to immerse myself in other cultures, first Germany, then the US, and finally Japan, where I went as an exchange student in 1977 after finishing my engineering studies. Three years later, a job that included organizing tours of Japanese factories for foreign industrialists turned me on to manufacturing.
Back in the US in the early 80s, I made my bones in factories as a process engineer in semiconductors, and moved on to the development and implementation of Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) for this industry, an activity which took me again to Japan five years later. There, I met consultant Kei Abe, who took me on as a junior partner in his group and I spent the following eight years on the road with him in factories in a broad range of industries, in the US, Europe, and Latin-America. In 1996, I started my own group in the US, the Manufacturing Management & Technology Institute, later renamed the Takt Times Group, after a newsletter we had published early on.
Kei Abe could have his hands in foundry sand in the morning when coaching a team through an experiment, and discuss company strategy with the board after lunch. In manufacturing, he felt, management and technology issues should be addressed jointly. You cannot improve an organization by just introducing technical tools, but you cannot do it either by just reorganizing. You must have an approach that changes the way people work at all levels, engages them, and grows their skills. The key to get started is finding the right opportunity within the organization. Years later, reading Robert Schaffer’s The Breakthrough Strategy, I found it consistent with what we had been doing.
Working with Kei, I became our group’s main presenter, and developed training modules that we used at the start of projects, on topics like cell design, SMED, Kanban, Quality, etc. Later, I collected these materials into short courses that I started teaching through UC Berkeley extension in 1995, and later through other institutions, as well as in house for clients. These courses were then the basis for my books.
My first book, Manufacturing Systems Analysis, came out in 1990, and was based on my early MES work. It was followed by Lean Assembly (2002), Lean Logistics (2005), and Working with Machines (2007). For more details, visit my blog or my LinkedIn profile.
How did you begin your journey in the Toyota Production System? Was there a specific event that sparked your lifelong interest?
A hallway conversation in Tokyo in 1980. A colleague told me that, if I went to any neighborhood bookstore in Tokyo, I would find at least two books about the Toyota Production System. It intrigued me because I had never heard of a “Toyota Production System” and who would want to read about this while standing in a commuter train? I assumed such a topic would only be of interest to specialists, not the general public. So I checked it out near my apartment, and this is where I bought the copy of Taiichi Ohno’s first book that I still have on my shelf.
After reading it, I took every opportunity to visit factories that my job afforded me, and it included not only Toyota but car plants from other automakers, heavy industry, consumer electronics, and even semiconductors. It was the spark. The following year, I moved to the US and went to work as an engineer in a manufacturing plant.
You’ve been vocal in the past between the distinctions between Lean and the Toyota Production System. Can you explain?
There are plenty of reasons not use an explicit reference to Toyota when applying the Toyota Production System (TPS) in other organizations. From a public relations perspective other car makers cannot openly copy a competitor’s methods. Outside of the auto industry, people are skeptical about the relevance of these methods. And then there are nationalistic responses to the effect that “Japanese management won’t work here.”
But what is a good name? Consultants tried several. “JIT” was used in the early 80s, but it is does not encompass the whole of TPS. “World-Class Manufacturing” is too generic, and so is “Operational Excellence.” Finally, in 1989, John Krafcik came up with “Lean.” As it caught on, however, it was gradually drained of its TPS content and replaced with VSMs and “Kaizen events,” while implementers continued to believe that it was fundamentally TPS, with improvements.
I think I wrote somewhere that Lean is to TPS as American Chinese cuisine is to the original. The most popular “Chinese” dish in the US is General Tso’s chicken, which is unknown in China. It is reasonably harmless for cuisine, but the problem with Lean is these watered-down and distorted implementations failed to deliver the expected improvements.
We interviewed Dr. Emiliani recently and he makes a distinction between Fake Lean and Real Lean. Would you agree with him or are both of his distinctions fall in the “Fake” category in your mind?
I have talked more about Lean-deep versus Lean-lite. Lean-lite comes in many flavors, the most common one being the combination of VSMs and Kaizen events, but there are others, like doing 5S and nothing else. What all these flavors have in common is that they are simplistic and ineffective.
Lean-deep is not necessarily comfortable. It is an “Eat your vegetables!” message. It starts from an in-depth study of TPS. You have to drill down from specific tools to underlying principles that you can then deploy as needed, possibly with new tools, in a different context. The list of principles I have found the most useful for this purpose is as follows:
- Focus on people as the main driver of productivity.
- Search for profits on the shop floor.
- Make it easy to do what you do the most often.
- Flow, flow, and flow.
- Improve, don’t optimize.
Bob Emiliani’s Real Lean boils down to “continuous improvement” and “respect for people.” But there is more to TPS than continuous improvement. It contains a great deal on, for example, designing a production line, which is not continuous improvement. And “respect for people” is a mistranslation by Toyota people, of a principle that literally means “respect for humanity,” and it is taking advantage of the specifically human abilities of employees. Showing respect for people is being polite; showing respect for their humanity means putting their cognitive, sensory, analytical, and creative abilities to work. It is quite different.
If Lean boils down to “continuous improvement” and “respect for people,” then you can’t tell the difference with the now defunct “HP way,” with which Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard grew their company for four decades. When you read what Dave Packard wrote, and talk with HP veterans who experienced it, you can make the case that the company worked continuously on improving its products and its operations, and showed great respect for its employees, for example by subsidizing their PhD studies. In its day, it made HP a spectacularly successful company, but which in no way resembled Toyota.
I’m glad you bring that up. I’ve always used the phrase Respect for the Human. That’s what I learned. It has a much deeper meaning than just being polite as you say. It has more to do with the absolute reverence for other sentient beings. It actually has a very Eastern flavor to it that I think escapes most Americans.
Let me switch to another topic.
John Shook has said that “Lean is a Big Tent”, meaning that Lean is broad and is inclusive enough to include many different instantiations. To this end, we see Lean Branding, Lean Startup, Lean UX, Lean for IT, and many others. What do you think of all of this?
Remembering that TPS is the best known way to build cars, you have to ask yourself, on a case-by-case basis, how much of it is relevant and applicable to a new domain. I find it arrogant to assume that any business activity can always be improved by applying tools or even principles abstracted from TPS. In each case, it may be true, but you have to be open to the idea that it may be irrelevant.
I remember being impressed with steel makers in North America. These people and their organization had survived an intense shakeout that had bankrupted most of their competitors. They were the ones still standing. Listening to them left me in awe of their talent and experience, and I was not absolutely sure I could help them. It is an industry that is, perhaps, too mature to respond to Lean/TPS. You have similar issues at the opposite end of the maturity spectrum, in high technology, where you are chronically dealing with processes that are not ready for concepts like one-piece flow to work.
About Lean Startup, I have read Eric Ries’s book with interest. Having been involved with startups, I find that many of his ideas make sense, but I don’t see any connection with Lean. I think he attached the “Lean” label for marketing purposes, and that, while it has helped him so far, it may backfire in the future when the label loses its popularity, for reasons that have nothing to do with his ideas or their effectiveness.
IT is also an area that I don’t see as needing to learn from Toyota, as opposed to learning from companies that have been good at IT. People have been thinking about how to organize software development and implementation since Alan Turing. In his writings from the 1940s, you see discussions of the professional behavior of programmers that are astonishingly prescient, considering the profession did not exist when he wrote. In the 1970s, you had Fred Brooks’s “Mythical Man-Month” collection of essays about the management of software projects. Later on, Tom DeMarco’s remarkable insights. And today, you have scrum, with its pigs, chickens, sprints, and assorted mixed metaphors… All along, you have had people from the industry reflecting on its idiosyncrasies, and struggling to find ways to make it work better. It is not clear at all that they need to borrow from the car industry.
Healthcare, I think, is a promising area. 100 years ago, Frank Gilbreth successfully applied his analytical methods from production to the design of operating rooms, resulting in the organization in place to this day, with nurses making sure the surgeon always had the needed tools available. It means that there is a history of the health care world accepting ideas from manufacturing. Of course, it has to be packaged carefully, as the notion of a hospital run like a car factory appeals neither to health professionals nor to patients.
I am not familiar with Lean Branding or Lean UX, and have no opinion about them. In general, consultants and authors are free to attach the “Lean” label to whatever they want. It can be an attempt to create a perception that their offerings have something to do with TPS when they really don’t. After 25 years of being used in this fashion, the “Lean” label is long in the tooth, its meaning is diluted to almost nothing, and I am not sure using it is even a wise marketing move at this point.
Please tell us about Takt Times Group and some of the results that you’ve helped your clients achieve.
The Takt Times Group is a small network of independent consultants rather than a firm. I also learned this mode of operation from Kei Abe, who had worked in a large Japanese consulting firm and felt that having overhead and “mouths to feed” created a conflict for consultants. Having associates that you need to keep billable inevitably influences the advice you give, and not necessarily in the best interest of your clients. When he explained it to me, it resonated, because I had heard it before from an international marketing consultant in Tokyo, who had grown a firm to 40 associates and left it to go out on his own for that very reason. My partners and I have known each other for many years, work under the same brand, and share the proceeds of joint projects. For international work, we also partner with local firms, like Asenta in Spain, OrgProm in Russia, or China-Inno in China.
I think we’re in agreement regarding the utility, history, and role of value stream mapping. I know this is a hot topic for you. Suppose you were hired by an organization that had a value stream manager for every available value stream in their organization. What would you do if hired by this organization?
When introduced to a new tool, John Seddon recommends asking (1) who invented it, (2) to solve what problem, and (3) whether you have that problem, and I tend to agree. To find the answers for VSM, first you need to go back to the original name of the tool, which translates to “Materials and Information Flow Analysis” (MIFA). The closest I could come to an inventor is Toyota’s supplier support organization in Japan. And it was developed for the purpose of solving delivery problems with suppliers. So, if you have a supplier who delivers the wrong items, the wrong quantities or at the wrong times, you map the flow of materials and production control information between you and this supplier to pinpoint the source of the problem.
Can it be useful in other contexts? Absolutely. Should it be a mandatory first step in every Lean implementation? Absolutely not. It is not a big deal in Japan, and the only publications about it in Japanese are actually translations from American documents. For more details see “Where do VSMs come from?“.
Related to my earlier question on the Big Tent, what aspects of TPS which make sense for manufacturing don’t make any sense for non-manufacturing environments? Do you have a specific example you could share?
Facilitating simulation games in a manufacturing organization is an opportunity to observe behavior. In our games, teams have 50 minutes between production rounds to reflect on what worked and didn’t and the last round, design changes to improve for the next one, and implement these changes. Teams of managers and engineers rarely have a problem following this simple, formal process, especially if they are colleagues who work together in real life. Teams of production operators, on the other hand, struggle with it. You often see them rush to make changes on the production line without making any drawings or calculations.
This tells me that, while these operators may be great organizers in their private lives, at work they are not used to solving problems in teams. The will to do it is there, but you need a formal structure, a process to help them work through it. That is where tools like PDCA, Why-Why analysis, and a variety of forms are useful. Try to train a group of PhDs in an R&D lab on “problem-solving” in this manner, and they will throw you out.
Given all your experience and knowledge of TPS, what else are you working on?
I have had an interest in data science for a long time. In manufacturing, I have found clients and colleagues interested in the information I could wrangle from data, but their eyes glazed over whenever I tried to explain my methods.
At first, I restricted myself to using software everybody had — like Excel — so that others could easily reproduce my results. But it is too restrictive.
Manufacturing data is usually quite dirty, with, for example, the same product given different names over time, or Engineering, Manufacturing, Marketing, and Accounting each having different ways of grouping products into families, not to mention products with no sales but positive revenue,… You really need other tools than Excel to sort this out, especially considering that its overuse is the cause of many of these errors and inconsistencies. I have found the query capabilities of a database management tool like Access to be effective for data cleaning. Once you have clean data, I also found that R, a tool that is free to install but takes time to learn, opens the door to a whole world of techniques that are not available through Excel.
About Michel Baudin
In 1980, tours of Japanese factories made Michel Baudin switch his career focus from mathematics to manufacturing, and move to Silicon Valley in 1981, to work in the semiconductor industry, first as a process engineer, and then in the development and implementation of Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES), an experience that provided the material for his first book, Manufacturing Systems Analysis.
Starting in 1987, he became a consultant as a partner to Kei Abe in Management & Technology Japan, learning the art of Lean manufacturing implementation in a variety of countries and industries. He started his own consulting group in Palo Alto, CA in 1996, known first as the Manufacturing Management & Technology Institute (MMTI) and now as the Takt Times Group. He has distilled his consulting experience in his “nuts and bolts” series of books, which has so far three titles, Lean Assembly, Lean Logistics, and Working with Machines.
Michel Baudin was born in France and experienced different cultures from an early age, first in Germany and the US, and later in Japan. He received his master’s degree in Engineering in 1977 at the Ecole des Mines de Paris, now Mines ParisTech, and then went to Japan to pursue research in seismology at the University of Tokyo, where he learned the language and conducted research on the statistical modeling of earthquake occurrences that led to four refereed publications applied math.
Other Interviews You Might Enjoy:
Lean Leadership Interviews
|Jeffrey Liker, author of The Toyota Way, shares his thoughts on Toyota Kata, why sometimes root cause analysis isn't necessary, and what else he is excited to learn - even after 30 years of being a student of the Toyota Production System.|
|In this Podcast interview with Eric Ries, the author of The Leanstartup, we learn about the how he's applied Lean principles to starting companies. He also tells us about his consulting work with GE and how GE, worldwide, has applied Leanstartup throughout all its divisions and is considering Leanstartup as its new Operating System for the company.|
|Michael Balle is a leading voice in Lean. In this interview, he shares with us his thoughts on Lean, tells us about his book, and spends a good amount of time discussing Respect for People.|
|Michael Jones, Head of Content at eBay||Michael Jones is the Head of Content at eBay and is the son of Daniel T. Jones, the co-author of The Machine that Changed the World - the watershed book that first brought awareness of the Toyota Production System to America.|
|We caught up with Akash Trevidi, a product manager at Kiva.org, the microfinance company that aims to help entrepreneurs worldwide in order to alleviate poverty through self-reliance and entrepreneurship.|
|We caught up with Hugh Molotsi at the Lean Startup Conference. Hugh is the VP of Innovation at Intuit Labs. In this interview, we discuss how to encourage everyone's voice in innovative product development and in solving problems.|
|Zetdi Runyan Sloan leads the startup and entrpreneurship events at the New Mexico State University. Learn about how use of Lean Startup.|
|Al Dupree is the head of innovation at the National Institutes of Standards and Technology. In this interview, he discusses his use of Lean Startup principles in the world of research and innovation.|
|Cory Strong, Lean Leader at Nebraska Health System||Cory Strong first learned Lean by learning the Kawasaki Production System. Many years later, he finds himself in the exciting and high impact world of Lean Healthcare as a Lean Leader at the Nebraska Health System.|
|We interview Kaizen Institute (Kaizen.com) CEO Jon Miller. In this interview, we get a glimpse of Jon's balanced and thoughtful approach to learning, teaching, and the application of the Toyota Production System.|
Global Head of Lean Management at Hartmann Group
|Jonathan Escobar Marin is a Lean Leader and practitioner who first learned of the Toyota Production System while he was on a benchmarking trip to Toyota while employed at Procter and Gamble. In this interview you learn about his journey and how he blends the High Performance Organization Model with Lean.|
|Interview with Daniel Debow, Senior Vice President at SalesForce.com; In this podcast, we discuss Deming, Lean at SalesForce, and the SalesForce Wearables Initiative.|
|Matt Long, VP of Continuous Improvement and 24 year veteran at Herman Miller Inc. shares with us the history of Lean at Herman Miller, their association with the Toyota Supplier Support Center, and about the Herman Miller Performance System.|
|This interview with Dr. Bob Emiliani covers several aspects of Fake Lean versus Real Lean. There are real insights here from the "Lean Professor".|
|Michel Baudin is an author, highly-sought after consultant in the Toyota Production System. In this interview we learn about his distinctions between Lean-Lite versus Lean-Deep and how he understand the Respect for People Principle versus Respect for the Human as is used internally at Toyota.|
|Lean Branding is an application of Lean principles to branding. Read her provocative and practical approach to brand branding using the principles of Lean.|
|Robert Martichenko is the Founder and CEO of LeanCor - a lean logistics and supply chain company. He is also the author of the book "A Lean Fulfillment Stream", published by the Lean Enterprise Institute. In this interview, he shares with us how Lean can be applied effectively beyond the 4 walls of manufacturing and outside the office, but infused into the entire supply chain.|
|Leanpub is an innovative approach to book publishing, where Peter believes that lean principles apply. He claims that writing a book is essentially a startup. And, the worst waste of all is writing a book that nobody wants. Read more to learn how to apply lean to the world of book publishing.|
|Keith Sparkjoy is the Culture Officer at Pluralsight, a Utah company that raised $135 Million in 2014 - an unprecedented amount of venture capital. And, here's the really cool part, as the culture officer, he's trying to transform his company using Dr. W. Edward Deming's teachings.|
|David J. Anderson is the pioneer of the application of Kanban for creative knowledge work. His methodology and approach has had widespread acceptance and adoption and in this interview he shares results from companies that have tried his approach and other lessons learned.|
|Dimitar Karaivanov is the CEO of Kanbanize, a visual kanban system designed for creative and knowledge workers. In this interview, we discuss the product and its many uses and how it embodies the principles of Lean.|
|Chris Hefley is the CEO of LeanKit, a company that provides Virtual Kanban software for software development teams and knowledge workers. Reah his interview and learn what led to the development of LeanKit and the role Lean and the Toyota Production System plays.|
|In this interview with Dan Markovitz, we learn why he believes that everything is connected to the customer through the office. Based on this belief, he feels that Lean for Office makes the most sense. Read and learn how he's implemented Lean for the Office.|
|Jason Yip is a noted thoughtleader in software engineering. As a consultant, he helps software engineering organizations get better. In this interview, we learn the state of software engineering and the role of Agile, Lean for Software and Kanban.|
|Matthew May is an author and influential voice in Lean and also Design Thinking. He worked close to a decade at University of Toyota to help codify the Toyota Production System. In this interview, he shares with us his thoughts on his experience and what we can learn from it.|
|Lean Healthcare expert Mark Graban stops by and share his thoughts with Shmula readers on how Lean can be applied to arguably the most important industry in the world, healthcare.|
|Art Smalley is one of the most honest and influential voices in Lean. He was the first American to work in Japan's Kamigo plant, the plant where Taiichi Ohno began the Toyota Production System. He shares with us his thoughts on the Lean Movement and where it is going wrong.|
|Lean is being applied to every facet of business. Jeff Gothelf shares with us his thoughts on applying Lean for user experience, or Lean UX.|
|Cecil Dijoux shares with us his thoughts on applying Lean to IT, definitely a must-read if you are in the information technology space.|
|Brent Wahba is a fellow at the Lean Enterprise Institute and shares with us his thoughts on Lean for Sales and Marketing.|
Interview with Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos
Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos
|In December 2008, I was fortunate enough to interview Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos. In a 5 part series of interviews, we discuss the Zappos strategy and Tony answers questions on why he chooses to focus on the customer and how he sees that as strategic.|
Interviews with Customer Experience Experts
|Mark Roenigk, COO of Rackspace and Board Member at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation||Rackspace Interview on Customer Experience: We interviewed Mark Roenigk on June 10, 2013. We discussed the Net Promoter Score and also topics around process improvement and how Rackspace places the customer first.|
|Shep Hyken Customer Service Interview: We interviewed Shep Hyken on June 3, 2013 and discussed topics close to his heart - the customer. We focused our discussion on customer service and how focusing on the customer is strategic, not just tactical.|
|Annette Franz Gleneicki on Customer Experience Strategy: Annette Gleneicki is a customer experience thought leader and Director at Confirmit, a voice of the customer platform. We discuss her thoughts on customer experience and the direction of the overall field.|
|Michel Falcon on Improving the Customer Experience: Michel Falcon is a former executive at 1800GOTJUNK and was the person who propelled 1800GOTJUNK to become a customer service powerhouse. In this interview, we discuss what he did and the lessons he learned.|
|Adam Ramshaw, a customer experience consultant with Genroe, explains the relationship between continuous improvement and customer experience.|
Aza Raskin, Author, Startup Founder, and Son of Mac Inventor Jef Raskin
|This is a multi-part Interview with Aza Raskin, on the Humane Interface.
Mary Poppendieck, Author and codifier of Lean for Software Engineering
|In this multi-part interview with Mary Poppendieck, the pre-eminent evangelist and teacher for Lean for Software, explains Lean Software Engineering.
|The inventor of Clocky, Gauri Nanda, shares with us her thoughts on innovation and the birth of Clocky|
Gretchen Rubin, Author and evangelist of Happiness
|In March 2010, I held a 2 part series of interview with Gretchen Rubin, the author of the Happiness Project. Her answers to reader's questions on a variety of topics centering on happiness will enlighten you. Gretchen Rubin, the author of The Happiness Project, shares with us here thoughts on how to be happy and what our part is in choosing to be happy.|
|Spencer Rascoff, the CEO of Zillow, shares with us his thoughts on this interview with Zillow back in June 2006.|
|Josh Coates, the founder of Mozy, shares with us jokes and the innovation behind Mozy.|
|Lloyd Hildebrand describes Diabetic Retinopathy and how his company, Inoveon, a Telemedicine Company, aims to eradicate diabetic retinopathy.|
|Ryan Kiskis of xFire, the developer of World of Warcraft, explains his thoughts on innovation.|
|Kaboodle, was clearly the predecessor to Pinterest. We learn about Kaboodle and the innovation behind it.|
|Mark Jen, VP of Product Management at Plaxo, a Contact management company, the predecessor to Linkedin speaks to us about innovation and the business of business networking.|
|Bzzagent, the word of mouth marketing company, explains the power of the buzz.|