The Dangers of Too Much Lean?

stamp.phpDangers of being too lean?
There is a lot of talk about Lean Engineering, and a lot of thought has gone into its application to Systems Engineering (see the Lean Enablers for Systems Engineering international working group). I am very aware and supportive of need for (appropriate) lean – focus on doing what is value adding, and being effective and efficient. I have heard some use lean as an argument against eliciting or managing requirements because its isn’t directly contributing to solution generation – so you can go far.

Anyway, I was having a general think about this. On a journey to Derby recently. Driving up A42, getting close to Derby I missed my normal turn. So I was not being lean – there was now waste (although I had made good time earlier). So I took the next turn, and drove a road I hadn’t been on before. The scenery wand new and I found inspiring – there was a very dominant piece of landscape (Breeton on the Hill). This lifted my mood, and I arrived in Derby in an Uplifted, positive (high on “mood elevator”) state. The point I thought about when recognising this was the danger of over lean. If we cut everything back then there is not opportunity for (accidental or deliberate) exploration and so discovery of new / better ways. So is “lean” the enemy of curiosity? (discuss) I see curiosity as “go look see – you might find something useful”. And there is the variation between the deliberate search for new (planned curiosity) and the happy / fortuitous discovery of something new that expands / changes your world or your worldview. For example a “lean” / clear laboratory policy would have meant Alexander Fleming wouldn’t have discovered Penicillin


About richard.beasley

I am an active INCOSE member - and currnetly chapter president of the INCOSE UK chapter. My specific interests in Systems Engineering are : implentning SE into an organisation, applicaton of Systems thinking, Requirements elication and management, and competency I am employed by Rolls-Royce, who I joined as a graduate trainee in 1986. For RR I am Global Chief of Systems Engineering, and Associate Fellow in Systems Engineering

One thought on “The Dangers of Too Much Lean?

  1. Very interesting point Richard! I agree with your sentiments – sometimes the winding road gives the most interesting outcomes.

    I guess my view is that we spend so long going through the motions of “this is the way it’s always been done” that we have lost that creativity in the first place. In order for us to ensure that we aren’t doing unnecessary tasks, we need to continuously improve. The act of improving what we do on an ongoing basis means that we learn to become more imaginative about what we do and we have more time to figure out if we are doing the right things in the first place. When we need to do the same tasks over and over, in a repeatable and consistent fashion, it is important that we remove the waste from these so that we can reduce the cost, thus allowing us to spend more time/money on the creative side of engineering, creating innovative products and services that a customer would want to buy in the future. There is a definite balancing act though!

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