If you’re counting on technology to swoop in and save the day, you may be wasting a lot of hope, and a lot of money. That was my view late last year in this essay I did for Government Technology:
As anyone who has been a public servant for more than a decade knows, improvement initiatives seem to come and go like the tide. Total Quality Management. Zero Defects. Six Sigma. Performance Management. Business Process Management. Balanced Scorecard. The list goes on.
Usually they come in with a bang and leave with a whimper. However, they keep popping up because, at our core, we share a fundamental desire to get better. The results may be mixed, but failure to try leaves us bitter and cynical.
When Lean first started gaining popularity in government circles, I thought, "Here we go again." Now, I must admit I'm a big fan of Lean (a.k.a. Lean IT or Lean Government), and I think there's a wealth of good we can accomplish by applying Lean methodology to our operations. In fact, having worked with multiple types of Lean methodology in project teams, I'm more encouraged by it than any other government improvement effort. There certainly is potential.
Lean is the process that elevated Toyota, is embraced by private-sector companies around the globe, and seems to focus on all the right areas. It even sounds healthy. But it also sounds like the flavor of the month and runs the risk of being overemphasized, underutilized and could evolve into another bit of jargon for sales pitches.
Who knew the new year would be so tough on Toyota and its elevated status. Probably the people who were actually paying attention to what was going on on the ground. Read the rest of the original essay from December 2009 about lean and me.