A New, Enterprise Shingo Prize

A new branch of the Shingo Prize honoring a division or a whole company, not just a single plant, will be rolled out next year.

            That’s the word from Ross Robson, executive director of the Shingo Prize. He notes that the criteria for the prize (originally established in 1988) have always been heavily, though not exclusively, focused on manufacturing. The existing criteria will be maintained, but “we are in the process of developing enterprise-wide criteria,” Ross says, with more emphasis on lean in the office and administration, covering everything from research and development to marketing to customer service.

            I’m delighted to hear this news. I recently commented on the need for such a prize when I wrote about Best Plants, Lean Benchmarks and Role Models.

            The Shingo Prize organization is following the same path of many smart, growth-oriented companies, in that it is looking for ways to leverage its brand. Only last year, its board authorized a new public sector prize, with the first public sector conference just concluded. And plans set in motion three years ago have led to the first state-level prizes being awarded, with more likely to come.

            The Shingo Prizes are awarded based on implementation of lean principles, and Ross is an optimist about the spread of those principles.

            “My sense is that many companies still say they are doing quality or six sigma, but they are in fact really focusing on lean,” he says. “Lean has become the leading paradigm of companies and organizations in terms of doing manufacturing. That includes the front office as well as the shop floor.”

            And in the military services, “it is abundantly clear that the primary paradigm is lean,” he adds.

            However, he is quick to note that “there is still a lack of true, clear-cut focus on what really needs to be done to achieve the operational excellence that everybody theoretically desires. They think that if they do a few of the tools and a few of the mechanical things, that’s going to solve their problems and lead to success. It’s more clear today that lean is not a toolset. It is a combination of principles, techniques, and particularly a system, and it requires changing the culture. It’s a huge change in culture.”

            He also observes, “one of the key things we see is that almost every organization we talk to, they really have a fairly decent focus on value stream mapping. Once they do that, then they struggle mightily to truly implement the essence of what it takes to identify and eliminate all the waste, and to change the culture.”

            I believe this new Shingo Prize will be valuable in identifying the true lean leaders, but I suspect it may also generate some controversy. There may be debates over the criteria, and whether a company is truly lean – but that is the kind of healthy debate we need.

            Stay tuned.


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