Stan and Margaret stand by the copy machine. Carmen and Iris wait for a meeting to start. Peter, Raymond, and Mary wait in the hall for another meeting to end. The executive committee discusses a problem in the boardroom. Twenty employees sit in a training class. Donna writes an email. Olivia welcomes her newest team member.

People interacting—chatting, discussing, meeting, gossiping, suggesting, problem-solving, supporting, commiserating, complaining, and everything else under the sun—is the mainstay of every organization. We all know people are the most complex element of any company. And we all know people interactions can mislead, distract, hurt, anger, bore, and confuse as well as cause mistakes, delays, and even damage.

Lean Thinking is an approach to reducing or eliminating waste in production processes. Why not use Lean tools and concepts to reduce waste in people interactions? What is a small step for Lean is a giant leap for all organizations.

The flaw in this idea is that people are not machines. What works in assembling an SUV may not be good for human beings. Machines modified to fit the demands of Lean manufacturing don’t care they were modified. Processes deemed wasteful don’t give a hoot that they’re labeled waste and altered from front to back. But employees do. People are not perfect. People are inefficient. People are emotional. People have bad days and great days.
Management science has tried for years to figure out ways to improve how we work and how we interact with each other. Kenneth Blanchard’s One Minute Manager comes to mind, and there must be a thousand and one other management books offering suggestions to make people less scattered and more organized.

Enabling people to work together requires a delicate balance between strong leadership, engaging goals, suppression of individuality for the common good, support for creativity and innovation, adequate rewards, clear consequences, enough training, measurable progress, effective communication, the right culture, and the development and sharing of knowledge. Plus, we must include forgetting, assuming, misperceiving, and over-reacting. And everything must be done with minimal interference and maximum support for each unique individual who walks through the door.
Every human interaction is driven by personal human needs. Discussions involve egos. Decisions include risk. Alliances require trust. If we want to use Lean Thinking to improve people interactions, we better be sure we are also supporting the people involved and not manhandling them into some preconceived efficiency scheme.

This book is about people. The focus is on people interactions which include what people feel, think, do, and don’t do. We will explore the rich and ever-changing world of people at work. We will provide tools and concepts to make those interactions better, more enjoyable, and more rewarding without lessening anyone’s individuality.

Although the importance and complexity of the world of people at work is acknowledged, leaders tend to underrate its value, and some methods and models used to enhance the people side of work do more harm than good. This includes the pseudo-science of many popular surveys and questionnaires, simplistic approaches to complex problems, the cottage industry of evaluating and improving a hundred and one leadership competencies and the overreach of authoritarian rule, clumsy attempts at consensus building, and communication that doesn’t come close to conducting the needed information exchange.

Our theme includes the business arena of organizational development, change management, employee engagement, Lean Thinking, and continuous improvement. We will also investigate, clarify, and eliminate misunderstood issues concerning how people interact in the workplace that are magnified when organizations make changes.

This book is for people who:
• Want their organization to get the work done easier, faster, and with better quality
• Want employees to end the day satisfied
• Seek better ways to enhance employee impact

Just as you hope the surgeon removing your gallbladder is following accepted procedures, your airplane pilot is following checklists, and even your car mechanic is doing what the repair manual directs, wouldn’t it be great to solve problems with a colleague if both of you knew exactly how to discover the ideal solution?

I designed this book to be read in an hour or two. Understanding the material is the easy part and can be done quickly. Applying the information is more difficult. Near the end of the book are practical steps for implementing the ideas.

This is not intended to be an exhaustive exploration of change management or Lean Thinking. Instead, I hope you will gain a new respect for the power of employees, perhaps a sense of dismay at how negligent we have been with them, and renewed enthusiasm to unleash what has been accidentally held back for so long.

This book arose out of my frustration with managers who seek silver bullets, who don’t want to change, who unthinkingly follow trends expecting others to do the same, and who are unable to connect to fellow human beings. It also arose from my sympathy for the front-line worker who holds up her hand hoping to share a good idea but is ignored. And from my concern for the millions of workers who want to do the best job they can while those around them text, gossip, and do shoddy work.
This book is as concise and practical as I could make it given my obsessive need to present the big picture even to those who prefer bullet points. My intent is to create a way for any interested manager to mobilize and inspire his or her troops and for executive leadership to lead in ways that truly work. It is also for the worker who wants to contribute.

How Lean Thinking 4.0 is Organized

There are six numbered sections. Section One, Why Lean Thinking 4.0? presents the fundamental information and concepts necessary to appreciate how Lean 4.0 can improve people interactions. It explores how Lean affects people in the workplace, the interface of machine and human, and the sad reality that our human brains are about 12,000 years out of date. Human physical evolution has fallen behind the rapidly changing human environment. It is unlikely any organization has taken that into account.

Section Two, A Brief History of Lean Thinking gives background information on the development of Lean Thinking that will be useful for those unfamiliar with the subject. Lean has not traveled well from the lessons of Toyota manufacturing in Japan to the manufacturing processes in the United States. And as it has expanded from manufacturing to nonmanufacturing industries, even more has been left on the shop floor.

Section Three, A Brief History of Industrial Science outlines the psychology of the workplace and its value. Despite new fields of study being developed over the past hundred years to understand workers, business still misses the mark. Flawed concepts and flawed implementation create a repressive workplace, not the nirvana that could be enjoyed by employees.

Section Four, Lean Thinking 4.0 maps out Lean Thinking 4.0. Here you will learn how Lean Thinking concepts, tools, and philosophy can be applied to people interactions with startlingly good results. It also includes the seven people assets that balance Lean Thinking’s seven production wastes.

Section Five, Implementing Lean Thinking 4.0 shows you how to implement Lean Thinking 4.0 where you work.

Section Six, Additional Considerations includes a few extra thoughts, expands on ideas, and leads into a description of the ideal future state.

Some material in this book is from my The Dark Matter and Dark Energy of Lean Thinking, which is no longer in print. A similar book on Lean and emphasizing people, my The People Side of Lean Thinking, focuses on change management and supporting the development of both people and processes.