The purpose of this paper is to address the organizational implications of transformative Lean Deployment initiatives, leveraging the Viable System Model to understand what is needed organizationally so these initiatives can succeed and take root.
The paper starts by pointing out how Lean practices presuppose and demand empowered, autonomous organizational units at all levels. It then highlights how Lean manages the resulting Recursive Organization of “autonomous units within autonomous units” through powerful cohesion mechanisms addressing the negotiation of goals and resources, unit-to-unit coordination and process monitoring – with tools such as Pull, Kanban, Hoshin Kanri, A3 and the Toyota Kata, supported by operational practices such as Visual Controls, Standard Work, etc.
The Viable System Model was found to provide a valuable guide for articulating the organizational underpinnings of Lean deployments, including the effective, recursive distribution of deployment responsibility and authority at all levels, the identification of the right composition and reporting structure of implementation teams, and the role to be attributed to support organizations.
The approach provides a framework for understanding the organizational implications and possible resistance to comprehensive Lean deployments, and for appropriately including the all-important organizational dimension in order to promote the success of these deployments. It is also hoped that the paper can contribute to a more holistic, integrative understanding of what it means for an organization to embark on its Lean journey.
The author wishes to thank Dr Raul Espejo for his support and willingness to share his deep understanding of the Viable System Model, and for his encouragement for putting into writing these reflections on the integration of Lean and Organizational Cybernetics.
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