Entropy and the death of peaceful order

Had dinner last night with Richard Zuber, Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt at Honeywell.  He was a student of mine some years ago at AlliedSignal before the Honeywell merger.  Richard posed a question as to why so many organizations that have mastered demand smoothing and flow eventually revert back to month end madness, chaos and noise.  He’s seen good applications of heijunka and demand segmentation fail.  Why?







  1. How long did we pay attention to ‘doing it the new way’?  Was it 2 weeks, 2 months, 2 years, or 2 management regime changes?
  2. The forcing function turned his back, got reassigned, promoted, fired.  Cultural change and the new way of life that Lean presents have not been embraced by the organization.  Real Change/Transformation has not occurred.
  3. How much did we like ‘peaceful order’?  Many organizations are addicted to chaos, and find it difficult to stay calm.
  4. Did Leadership incent peaceful order, and dis-incent chaos?  If not…
  5. When the pressure came (e.g., end of month, quality issues, mix shift, demand spike, etc.) how did the local management respond?  Did they stay the course (peace, my brothers and sisters), or fold like a cheap suit?   “Ship it … got to make the month, quarter, year, bonus …”
  6. Did we leave system, process or responsibility ‘loopholes’ that allow relapse? Irreversible structural changes wouldn’t allow excess labor to service the month end crunch.  Little or no stock storage racks would make it harder to accommodate large batch receipts from vendors.  Compensation tied to linearity.
  7. Just like when a single one-piece flow cell fails in a factory of functional and batch – organizational foreign tissue transplant rejection, except a ‘lean’ site is only a slightly bigger island (than the cell) in an enterprise or industry of old ways.

In the end, old habits die hard… or not at all.


Thanks for thoughts from John Connor and Ken Branco.




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