Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Lean Thinking - what is the connection with sustainability?

Talking to a friend in Denmark earlier tonight we ended up on the question, "Lean Thinking - what is the connection with sustainability?"

To be honest this question is spinning in my head for about four months when I was driving home from an interview in Lichtenstein and while talking to my interview partner in the car back to the railway station to catch my train back home on the day of the interview. 

What does "LEAN" really mean? Doesn't it mean reducing the in processes inherent existing waste (also called MUDA -to use a technical lean term;-)) in order to fulfill customer needs (reasonable priced product delivering all customer needs) and also to save money for the company in order to improve the competitiveness of other companies on the market?

Is that all there is? Really?

Does the company live on its own and has all the necessary resources to turn them into customer demanded products/ services? I guess that not the way it is in this world. Through a chain of suppliers, the materials come naturally from somewhere on our world (mostly originating from natural places, like ore for the making of steel, forests for the making of paper). 

My question: Reducing the use of raw material (such as ore or wood) doesn't have an impact on the overall world resources balance, does it?

(Most companies act on that assumption, as they are not "thinking lean" and waste a lot of material forcing the customer to pay for their short sightedness).

Wouldn't it be possible to embed this resource saving into present day accounting even going into the public necessity?

Just a little out-of -the-box thinking about current ways of making money by organizations and how they could be changed in the future;-))

Best

Ralf

PS.: The above applies of course to any organizational structure around the world!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Team Academy - management school without teachers

Hi everybody,

today I have stepped across a totally different topic: new ways of management training.

A couple of weeks ago while participating in the 3rd SoL Global Forum in Mucscat, Oman, I met some folks from a -generally seen- pretty crazy management school in Finland. Just a few minutes ago I got an invitation to the starting event of Teamfactory in Paris.

What Team Academy is basically about is: 

When you enter Team Academy on your first day there everything we think goes on in a management school turns out to be upside-down. Right from the start you are "thrown" into the business wilderness (what some of us experience only after some years of studying, visiting lectures, writing examens - not really knowing what it is to be in the "real business world") and start off as "entrepreneurs" on their own. They start their own business -of course with some help in the background (there are several thousand business angles, coaches, experts they can call during their "business journey" on things to solve) and learn in this way the lessons for the coming business world.

Recently the concept is expanded to France where Teamfactory is being on the start and there are already (how could it be different in these times;-)) connections to the Team Academy folks and some mentors who see the strong benefits for either the people engaged in the program as well as for society.

For the 15th anniversary Peter Senge has given a video speech.

Looks like this concept has some inherent beauty and I wonder which other programs are around on the globe fostering the entrepreneurship.

Cheers,

Ralf

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Incentive paid for moving into old city housing - any good?

Just this morning the following grabbed my interest in the recent edition of the Dresdner Neueste Nachrichten (one of the two public newspapers based in Dresden, Germany):

"For moving into housing built before 1949 people will get a -one time based on the flat- bonus of 1.500 €. This is meant to encourage people from the outskirts of the cities into the closer city center areas." (article to be found here (in German))

In recent years just after the wall came down in 1989 there had been going on big discussions on how to renew the housing that had been sparsly renovated or kept intact during the GDR era. As there had been great need for housing in the early 90's most of the old housings in the city centers in Eastern Germany had been left alone in favor to renovate fairly newly built "Plattenbauten" (modern GDR-like flats) in the further out suburbs. As flat owner could earn money pretty fast in these renovated houses virtually nobody tended to move in the hold un-renovated houses in the traditional suburbs or the city centers. 

To foster the building of new housing in the traditional suburbs there had been established a special program in the last couple of years that allowed the owners of old buildings (often in the ownership of large exGDR building societies) to tear down these unrenovated buildings. For tearing down -sometimes even complete perimeter block developments quite intact despite ugly looking facades- these building societies could get tear-down bonuses as well as cancellation of the debts on these old housing.

Especially in the cities of the Eastern part of Germany that still have quite intact and dense old housing areas this practice had become quite common over the last 5-6 years.

The result was that people had to move into newer housing (even though just renovated housing from the 60's to 80's) way outside the city with the effect that they needed connection to public transport, supermarkets, etc.

Now the "fathers" of the former regulations have realized that it would be much wiser to make old housing areas to be more attractive for new movers and "make" owners willing to renovate their property in order to foster the "dying" city centers (and keep cost for transportation, shopping also lower as time needed for that as you live just around the supermarket or your workplace is saved a lot - doesn't that sound sustainable?).

I wonder whether this 1.500€ bonus paid to movers into old housing is enough to make these areas attractive to people behind the time of spending the 1.500€?

Richard Florida, a professor for business and creativity at the University of Toronto, favors strongly to keep the heritage (=old housings, company buildings) as this is the history of our present day and from where the future emerges.

Anyway, it is a first step to rething the planning of how a grown city can be fostered in the present and future.

What are your findings?

Monday, June 16, 2008

Starting point ......

Hello everybody,

after some earlier blog startups this is the newest and most general one focusing on how we can create a better future through good decisions today.

Not an easy task as we all know and experience day by day.

Often a small and almost unnoticable change has massive impact on the system in question (or other ones, such as foreign economies, countries) after some time has gone by. Do we see that kind of change valuable?

More often we act with a "big bang" in order to change things (or systems, people, countries) and somehow nothing really changes. Right after the "big bang" something changes as we see and then -somehow not understandable- everythings goes back to "normal" (as it was before).

After almost 10 years in the business world, mostly not in managerial positions, I sense that organizations try to change everything just to be in motion instead of creating lasting value and wealth for their clients, customers and themselves. Perhaps they don't see what is truely happening - pretty much as I only know what I know.

It needs reflection and dialogue with oneself and with the help of others.

Because of this and the rising need to get in dialogue with people who are likeminded trying to do things in a sustainable way I started a special interest discussion group about "Lean Thinking" at XING about two years ago.

The response was and constantly is quite overwhelming and it is good to see that the topic is on the radar of certain people around the whole world (from Saudi Arabia, Israel, Sri Lanka, Australia, USA, Great Britain, Spain, France, Brazil, Germany, you name it).

Nevertheless the focus with Lean Thinking all too often narrows down to just the manufacturing side (processes and organizations). Is that really everything that drives people all over the world?

The world is driven by a greater need of humans to create an enjoyable life.

After dealing with recurring production process problems in my last job for quite some time I was introduced by John Sterman to the field of System Dynamics which lead to further insight why the above happens all the time all over the place.

And as one piece leads to another I ended up finding myself in Muscat, Oman, for the 3rd SoL Global Forum which has been organized by Peter Senge and SoL and from there learned about Frauke Godat and the HUB.