When asked how to define lean management, Jeffrey K. Liker, one of the world’s leading experts in lean management, doesn’t stumble one bit: “The permanent struggle to flow value to each customer.”
Liker, a Professor of Industrial and Operations Engineering at the University of Michigan, became interested in Japanese manufacturing in 1982 when American auto companies saw a huge gap in their ability to profit from small cars. The increases in gas prices had been big, and the demand for small cars had grown substantially.
“The U.S. auto companies were not prepared to compete. They were making big trucks and big things. The Japanese were making profits on the small vehicles. The Americans were also discovering that the quality of the Japanese cars was much better,” Liker explains.
“The term “lean” was not introduced for several years,” he continues.
The differences found between the Japanese and American ways of management thinking on quality were huge. That led to new approaches in quality management that later led to the development of what is now called the lean movement.
To hear what Jeff Liker considers to be the bad sides of lean management and many other great thoughts regarding the topic, see our video interview with Mr. Liker above and read the article Lean Management: Positive Paradoxes That Help Organizations Succeed.