Let us see what we think we know for sure but just ain’t so

Let us see what we think we know for sure but just ain’t so

“Let us see that we what we think we know and just ain’t so.”

This is the question i got today from a high tech company. We are stepping down from bottleneck to bottleneck until the expense to find a new improvement is so high and the profit is so low. Every year it becomes more and more difficult to get 10% improvement. Help us to see something new!

An intriguing question.

How? We seldom doubt what is commonly used. We don’t doubt the patterns that we think are there!

‘Caminante, no hay camino. Se hace camino al andar’ (Antonio Machado) (There is no path. The path is made by walking)

So many management theories tend to show the path, the recipe to solve all problems, but there is no path. Managers are sometimes desperate for a recipe, a structured way solution to solve company problems, but every company is different so no general concept will help! In the new normal the old can even not be used to cope with the future.

A new normal is needed if everybody is using the same thing.

The key issue here is to find the constraints of the underlying theory. If everybody is doing Lean, is it OK to do it yourself! Lean strives for eliminating waste but the conditions to start using lean are dependent of the market. If your market is very fluctuating Lean will not be the answer! If a consultant tells you that the new installed management ISO system is exactly what you need, but if it doesn’t work it is due to the people in the company that don’t follow the defined rules, he’ll be too much focused on his own beliefs.

You can not sell the process of the “birth & nourishment of an egg” to a pregnant monkey.

A consultant was driving his new BMW along a county road and came upon a shepherd herding his flock. He thought he’d have some fun with the old shepherd so he roared up in a cloud of dust. He stepped out of his car wearing an Armani suit, then he said to the shepherd: “I’ve got a proposition for you. If I tell you exactly how many sheep you have in your flock, will you give me one?” The sheep herder though for a moment, and calmly said: “Sure, why not?” So the guy parked his car, whips out his I-Phone, surfs the Internet and finds the NASA Web site. Using the site, he calls up a GPS satellite navigation system and scans the area. Next he opens a database and an AI software and after a few minutes, he prints out a report on his portable printer. He then turned to the shepherd and said, “You have exactly 1,586 sheep.” Impressed and a little stunned the shepherd said; “That’s right, guess you’ll have to take one of my sheep with you.” He watched as the young man selects one of his animals and bundles it into his car. Then the shepherd got an idea; “Hold on a minute young man. If I can tell you exactly what your line of business is, how about you give me back my animal?” “That sounds fair, why not?” “You’re a consultant.” “That’s right! But how did you guess that?” “There was no guessing required. You turned up here with all sorts of fancy stuff nobody needs, you expected compensation for an answer I already knew, to a question I never asked, and you know absolutely nothing about my business. Now, give me back my dog.”

How to escape the known paths!

I call these guys the “Thesis” consultants as in Hegel’s triad: thesis -antithesis -synthesis.

  1. a beginning proposition called a thesis (eg. Lean solves everything),
  2. a negation of that thesis called the antithesis, (Lean doesn’t solve apply AI, digital twin,.. to solve low volume high variation) and
  3. a synthesis whereby the two conflicting ideas are reconciled to form a new proposition. (something new called Industry uses concepts of Lean but expands them to a new level of solution)

The acceptance of the antitheses will bring us into a syntheses, a new paradigm shift, the New Normal! The synthesis will combine what is thought as “wrong” to complete the thesis. I think Lean evolves towards New Normal manifested by the Industry 4.0 steps.


In the JIT era it was believed that 0 mistakes, 0 lead time, 0 inventory and 0 delay was possible but was given up as non-reachable. I want it now, free and perfect.

Today a digital system will have no mistakes, no inventory AND zero lead time is thé critical factor of any Industry 4.0 company. Think about bol.com delivering a product the next day or a more industrial example 247 tailor steel.


Finally we have reached the point where there is enough data, the data is available to analyse it on a bigger scale. Finally new business models have been created to differentiate us from other companies, new cooperation models such as Holocracy, Teal, Sociocracy 3.0 (and many others) are presented although these “solutions” have been in the freezer for a long time and we seem to awaken from the old thesis views. Non Violent Communication, an approach to nonviolent living developed by Marshall Rosenberg beginning in the 1960s is finally reaching people. Finally the market is not the town square but the world! Solutions such as Arkite’s Human Interface Mate, Cobots and Iiot are making new solutions possible.

If you measure don’t use paper (it is not ecological sane anymore). If you analyse data, go beyond SPC. If you want to know something, many sensors exist today that are available and cheap. Connect the product end-of-line analysis to improve the production that came before it. Don’t use Added Value and Non-Added Value internally but for your customer journey. Utilize the communication channels such as WhatsApp to improve the social fibre. Disturb the functional organizations to match the VUCA world. Plan projects using JIRA. Cut out the middle layer of techniques & methods such as FMEA, time study, rebalancing, 5S, but use its spirit to go to i4.0.

Don’t accept what you know for sure, that just ain’t so!

Leave a comment

3 × 5 =