Lean Implementation Problems: Different Cultures, Same Mistakes?

I was recently perusing an article that appeared in the March 2010 issue of Asian Social Science titled Why Most Chinese Enterprises Fail in Deploying Lean Production authored by Lixia Chen and Bo Meng . In the section that details the problems encountered when deploying lean production, the four main mistakes that Chinese enterprises commit are:

  1. Solely paying attention to lean tools.
  2. Hoping to achieve quick results.
  3. Indiscriminately imitating and copying the practices of others.
  4. Mastering the superficial knowledge without understanding the essence of lean production.

I couldn't help but smile just a bit when I read those four obstacles -- Are any of these mistakes really specific to Chinese or any Asian culture? I'd bet that if I asked you to explain the four main causes of lean implementation failures in the USA, you'd construct a list almost exactly like this one. Is it not just basic human nature to try to simplify a complex transformation and merely focus on the immediate results?

Have any readers worked for or consulted with manufacturing organizations located in China? Please share your thoughts.


Mike LaChapelle said...

From my experience, Chinese companies are plagued with high turnover and are often looking for quick fixes to problems. They don't have the cultural underpinnings to sustain a long-term Lean effort.

The best Lean practitioners that I saw in China was a Japanese owned factory that had 5 Japanese engineers living on-site. They kept a close eye on things.

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