The Deming Legacy and Brian J Carroll

Increasingly, we in the globalization era are forced to confront and analyze management processes in this new, non-Kansas lean globe. The model that Deming foretold is on us. We are compelled to compare East vs. West management thinking, really

Eastern All of Us Thinking (Lean) vs. Western Us and Them Thinking (Mass). The leadership processes, principles, and practices of both have been endlessly written about and analyzed.

So, why bother with "lean ERP"? Why should anyone think Carroll isn't just another Western prognosticator, all vision and no application? Well, from my perspective, Carroll brings a decidedly "non-Western" vision to the problems of management, and a full system for applying it. He begins where Deming ended, and no other management thinker in the Western pantheon has begun: with principles, the cultural principles he observed in successful work environments, as well as the lean transformational principles from predecessors like Womack and Jones. He echoes and builds on Deming and applies the transformational principles of Womack and Jones, but like Dylan going electric, he adds technology to the mix.

Carroll exhorts us to follow the process to the customer, to enable it with the technology available (ERP), to train and educate and to lead the lean transformation, not simply to manage and supervise the workers. All that he writes about, all that he lays out methodically, step by step, to get there, like Deming, comes from what he has seen work, and like Dylan transforming folk into rock, what he loves forms the basis for his groundbreaking, yet achingly familiar, principles.

I do care that we have still come last in the world to adopt, let alone believe, those principles and practices, most invented here, utilized to win the global conflict that defined the latter half of the "American century." The same elementary students who resisted the global shift to metric, now gray-haired and in charge, are still resisting change at an elemental level, and at such great cost to the economy and to our children's legacy. But I have to briefly play historian and offer a bit of a timeline, picking out a few of the many important and, in my opinion, formative moments in Carroll's life.

In preparation for this task, as I reviewed many of the people who came to be leaders in management revolutions, it was apparent that all were influenced early on by firsthand encounters with other figures in the management pantheon. Carroll first learned them from his father, who coincidentally didn't just carry the influence of a father but was also involved in many of the important industrial and manufacturing events of the middle part of the 20th century. Carroll Sr. worked his way up from the production floor at Hughes Aircraft, tested planes with Howard Hughes himself, and then worked at the Ford Motor Company with Henry Ford and Charles Sorensen on the project that delivered the production system (a "lean flow," by all measure) utilized to build the aircraft that dominated the skies of World War II. Carroll Sr. then helped build Motorola from a small company in Chicago into a global powerhouse.

Brian Carroll, though he balks at the comparison, is the closest thing we have to a Deming in the 21st century. He certainly wouldn't put himself in that level of influence. He also has a Gump-like propensity to be at the right place at the right time when a paradigm shifts. He has been riding a wave of paradigm shift since the mid '70s, when, after working his way up from machine operator to production manager, he was lucky enough to be assigned to work with a customer who was an early adopter of "J-I-T," having been forced to adopt this early lean practice by a customer, Hewlett-Packard. At a critical stage of career development, his mentor, a Professor of Operations, introduced him to Oliver Wight, widely credited as the "father of MRP." At the meeting, Wight asked Carroll if he intended to pursue the MRP project management assignment that Carroll had been offered. Carroll was hesitant to abandon the safety of the shop floor, where things were actually made, for the uncertainty of the computer, where things didn't always work so well. Wight asked Carroll if he thought he would make it to the end of his career without learning the computer and MRP. Could one safely hide in the shop for the following 35 years until retirement (Carroll was then just 28 years old) and avoid progress? Carroll took Wight's advice and managed to be on the scene for early implementations of packaged MRP and then ERP software, eventually completing 25 successful implementations as a team member, project manager, or project director. Although given the benefit of many years of mentoring by the aforementioned Professor of Operations, Carroll somehow claims that one of his best advantages is that he lacks a formal American business school background. He does not possess an MBA, which he says is the degree in mass business administration and will be, according to Carroll, soon to be replaced by the LBA—the degree in lean business administration. Instead, he can lay claim to having had the benefit most especially of a "bottom to top" rise through the ranks—from machine operator to executive and then executive consultant, a tour of duty required of anyone desiring to rise to executive rank at Toyota, and a privilege given there to only a handful of incoming junior staff.

Carroll jumped from assignment to assignment, performing nearly 30 different line and staff assignments (in only four companies) before shifting to consulting, where he developed an international practice, and eventually his own methodology that realized Imai's prediction. He states that when he realized that he could not pretend to be an expert in a process that someone else "owned" or "operated" it was time to shift from consulting to teaching and facilitating. Carroll says he is an expert in his process—lean ERP—and that he can teach and facilitate in that arena. You will have to work out your own lean processes, but Carroll and this book can enlighten and facilitate that journey.

Project Management Made Easy

Project Management Made Easy

What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.

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