As loyal readers are aware, the ever "popular" subjects of Pacesetter and Lean raise their heads on this site from time to time.
I am therefore indebted to a loyal reader who flagged up the Lean Government Conference held at the Barbican on 20th September:
"A capacity crowd descended upon the Barbican for the opening of Public Service Events' 4th annual Lean Government conference. Featuring a keynote address from Francis Maude, Minister of State for the Cabinet office, the conference boasted a programme of high profile speakers, discussing how lean thinking can transform public sector performance. If an organisation is to improve, it must be constantly searching for ways to do better, said Maude; this is the fundamental ethos of lean. The event, sponsored by Lean Consulting, also featured a range of interactive masterclass sessions and great networking opportunities in the packed exhibition areas."
The speakers at the event are all evangelists for Lean and, I assume, earn "a few pennies" from their Lean evangelism (some have connections with HMT and HMRC). Hence they are, I suspect, rather motivated to push the government/taxpayer to "buy into" Lean.
All very well, if Lean actually works.
The question is does it?
Let us consider where it came from; namely the private sector.
To my humble view (and this may surprise some of you) not every "management/consultancy fetish" that comes from the private sector, even if it works in the private sector (and often it doesn't), is applicable/suitable for the public sector. After all, the techniques and processes used to manufacture widgets are not necessarily the same as the processes/competencies used to collect taxes.
Now, let us consider where in the private sector Lean actually first came from.
Yes, that's right, Toyota.
Toyota, you may be aware, has had to recently recall "some" of its cars because of a production fault over a number of years.
How many cars?
Over 7.4M (manufactured between September 2006 and December 2008), it is in fact the largest recall in the company's history!
Mind you, it has had other recalls in earlier years; again because of failures in production.
What does this tell us about Lean?
At the very least it tells us that Lean is not a panacea for the ills of the public (or indeed the private) sector. The evangelists and zealots who spoke at last month's conference (after they have counted their earnings from the conference and Lean consultancies) may care to reflect on that!
Tax does have to be taxing.
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