#5 Reflecting on the 2008 Lean Transformation Summit

by | Mar 17, 2008 | Blog | 0 comments

Earlier this month, more than 350 LEAN thinkers from 21 countries attended the second annual Lean Transformation Summit in Orlando.

This year’s theme was “Applying Lean Thinking Across the Enterprise.”

The Lean Enterprise Institute (LEI) again was the summit’s sole sponsor. This 10-1/2 year old nonprofit training, publishing, conferencing and management research organization puts on terrific conferences.

As one of the few non-engineers and the only LEAN communication professional in attendance, I was impressed with LEI’s conference acumen, flow and speaker line-up.

Some observations that may resonate with those of us who either conduct conferences, attend lots of offsite meetings, or both.

  • Follow along with your new Nano plus 3-ring binder. Yes, we summit participants received our very own iPod Nano when we registered, plus a three-ring binder built into a black special micro fabric briefcase. The Nano was loaded with all the speaker presentations plus a newly updated glossary of LEAN terminology. How sweet is that?
  • Eat and drink all you want. Over the two-day conference, LEI provided substantial breakfasts and lunches as well as day-time snacks and evening receptions with lots of food and drinks. This arrangement encouraged people to stick around and talk with one another, which helped increase the convenience factor and overall value of the conference.
  • Stick to LEI. By providing us with Nanos, LEI has an easy and simple way to give us an incentive to go to their website to download additional information about the summit. For example, LEI is planning to post videos of some of the talks.

The summit presented substantive content, too, with a wide variety of speakers, primarily from industry. Many of them had studied LEAN from the masters, including Dr. W. Edwards Deming, a broad thinker known for improving manufacturing production in the US and Japan, Taiichi Ohno, the individual most responsible for the Toyota Production System (the roots of lean manufacturing, lean thinking and Just in Time), and Joseph Juran, the pioneer of quality control who died earlier this year. It was inspirational to hear these modern-day thinkers and doers quote the masters, such as:

  • “It is not enough to do your best; you must know what to do, and then do your best.” (Dr. Deming)
  • “Management should concentrate on the “vital few” rather than the “trivial many.” (Joseph Juran)
  • “Having no problems is the biggest problem of all. ” (Taiichi Ohno)

Many speakers had their own words of wisdom, which we communication professionals can benefit from too. Some examples are:

  • “We had to learn to bunt. It was more valuable to our long-term results to get on base than to swing for the fences.” (Carolyn Corvi, Vice President and General Manager, Boeing Commercial Airplanes, Boeing)
  • We have been paying people for their hands for years, and they would have given us their heads and hearts for free—if we had just asked.” (Robert Chapman, Chairman and CEO, Barry-Wehmiller Companies, Inc.)
  • “In looking back on our implementation of LEAN initiatives, we underestimated how important it was to spend time upfront providing a vision of where we wanted to go and involving our staffs, both in communicating with them and training them.” (multiple speakers)

This conference proved that doing less with less is not LEAN. Instead, LEAN is closing the gap between what your customer wants (and is willing to pay for) and what you’re currently doing.


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