I was reviewing a very legit text on Operations Strategy last week. When I got to the section on lean, the author made a startling statement. He said "Lean is NOT a strategy". "Lean is a tool to accomplish your strategy". His fundamental argument was an Operations strategy has to be a set of decisions that reconcile market requirements with operational capabilities in the areas of Capacity, Supply Chain, Process Technology, Improvement, and Product and Service Development. They are decisions that give you a distinct competency over your competitors and Lean cannot. He says a distinctive competency is that combination of decisions that is unique to you and makes you stand out from competitors. Lean is just a set of techniques to get you there and therefore is NOT a strategy.
It makes me ponder this. I am 100% for using Lean, 6 sigma, etc. But if Lean is truly NOT a strategy, then we have a bunch of Operations Leaders out there who have no strategy and direction and we're wasting a lot of our lean efforts because they are not in support of a strategy
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Chuck Nemer is a trainer/consultant with 40 years of experience in Supply Chain Management, Lean, Leadership, and APICS. He currently works with approximately 50 universities and 3000 students annually in supporting the use and play of the simulations in the classroom. Within those 40 years, he has taught, and continues to teach, professional certification classes for APICS, professional development seminars and programs on his own, and on behalf of colleges in their outreach programs to local and regional manufacturing firms.
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