Date started: 21/4/16 Date finished: 23/4/16 Date first published: 23/4/16
Lean/TPS Schemes. What are they??
Lean Principles' principal principle: "to maximize customer value while minimizing waste"
On the face of it, this can't be a bad idea. Who wants to be more wasteful? Who wants customers to receive lower value? But then, what is lower value? And what counts as waste? And most of all, what are the specifics of how this scheme would attempt to change either of these?
Like many ideologies, Lean escapes commonplace skepticism by being the kind of friendly pie-in-the-sky idealism that gets reviews starting with "On the face of it, this can't be a bad idea. Who wants to be more wasteful? Who wants customers to receive lower value?" But vacuous idealism is exactly that. It would be lovely if we could stop raping mother Earth, and live off sunlight, but if we all try it, starting tomorrow, the species will be extinct within a week.
Similarly, it's vacuous to think that writing the word 'natural' on food packets is going to make any difference to anything inside the packet. Everything is natural, however it tastes, and whatever nutritional content it has. But that doesn't stop people from thinking that something must be better because it has the word 'natural' written on it. Heck, people have even marketed 'gluten-free' shampoo, in the midst of glutophobia. Gluten doesn't matter unless you eat the stuff, and if you're eating shower gel, your problems don't start with gluten!
In order to know whether something is genuinely beneficial, there must be evidence to back it up, otherwise all the effort that's gone to, is spent chasing no gain. Effort's only worth going to, if there's going to be a reward at the end of it. As i've said before: all rational decisions involve cost-benefit analyses. Doing anything involves a cost; it's only worth doing it, if the benefit outweighs that cost.
Sometimes, ideologies can be harmful simply because they are vacuous, and nothing more. An ideology that is purported to increase capital efficiency, for example. Any effort spent complying with the scheme to increase efficiency, is actually wasted effort, which is actually decreasing efficiency. It's an unjustified cost.
Lean is one example of these schemes. It's supported by no substantial evidence base, but that hasn't stopped idealists from assuming that it must be a good thing. The only article cited on Wiki as evidence for Lean (under the name 'TPS' - Toyota Production Scheme) is a facetiously-titled 'Can lean save lives?' And the study was conducted on some unwitting NHS department, no less. This is a question to which no answer is provided - just more pie-in-the-sky wishful thinking.
It has a placebic 'motivational' quality, in that it makes people think of happy things, like rainbows, and unicorns, and infinite profits, but when it's requried to pay out, so far all of the cheques have bounced.
Through scouring job profiles, i happened to find out that the Ministry of Justice, in the UK, already employs this capitalist pseudoscience, to reduce 'waste' in its own departments, even though the only utility of the Lean/TPS 'value flow' rubbish is to distract competitors from the real thing that makes one company better than another - better business decisions.
All business is inevitably wasteful. We live in a lossy universe - from thermodynamics 'up' we can't live without waste. But that doesn't stop management-types from thinking that they can reduce costs and increase 'performance' by employing costs and reducing performance, as part of a drive to increase efficiency and the 'flow of value' to the 'end customer'.
Toyota didn't become a multinational automotive giant by permanently checking its flow of value (it might as well be tracking 'qi') it became a multinational automotive giant by making adroit business decisions, in an environment that was congenial to extensive business growth. No degree of adherence to TPS would make Toyota successful, if there were no demand for cars!
It's as embarrassing that government departments are subjugated to these 'value' ideologies, in countries like the UK, as it is that employees in France are commonly subjected to pseudoscientific 'graphology' tests, in which their ability to do the job is judged according to spurious aspects of their handwriting, by applicant-and-company-abusing charlatans.
And in Japan's closest neighbour - China - people suffer bad business decisions, because those decisions are misinformed by astrological superstition. Virgos, for example, are turned away from employment, through the superstitious belief that they are a disruptive influence in the workplace - picky, spoiled, and fussy to the point of being obsessive-compulsive - fundamentally incompatible with a harmonious workplace. Astrology, as well as Feng Shui, are officially condemned as 'feudal superstitions' by the Chinese State. The Railways Minister was dismissed in 2011, and charged with corruption and abuse of power, partly for employing Feng Shui charlatans as consultants, to provide 'auspicious dates' on which to start construction projects.
You might like to think that this weirdness is peculiar to the Chinese, but it is most certainly not. All around the world, Feng Shui 'consultants' are given vast sums of money to tell businesses of varying sizes, where they should put their toilets, to stop the yang from leaking away. This is nothing short of ridiculous, but the arid lack of evidence supporting the costs that have been gone to, is seen as irrelevant, by those who waste their time, money, and even health, on such schemes.
Far from increasing efficiency, and avoiding waste, these schemes impose waste, because they are waste, themselves! This means they are reducing the efficiency of the company, not enhancing it. Successive governments of supposedly 'developed' countries have pandered to these delusory ideologies, the way they have adhered to prohibitionism and isolationism. Because they have committed to them so whole-heartedly, any evidence of harm is met with bloody-minded denial.
As a result of the imposition of Lean/TPS ideologies, who is it who takes the blame for the lack of 'value flow'? Well, of course, it's the employees. Who else can it be? It can't be the managers who impose these dotty schemes on their staff - it has to be staff failing to comply with it sufficiently. And while the staff are toiling away, trying to comply with it, their skeptical/cynical resistance can only fade away to unthinking compliance. Or they resign. Or get fired for lack of 'work ethic'. This is not good business practice - unthinking compliance to unsubstantiated dogma is the methodology of a cult.
Rejection of these schemes is treated as a pathology, exhibited by a defective employee. The UK's DWP (Department for Work and Pensions) has exhibited this attitude to its own employees, by which i mean the Unemployed folks who have to work for their JSA (dole) money.
"In the UK and other rich nations such as Australia and the US, welfare claimants are increasingly required to comply with interventions intended to modify their emotions, beliefs and personality."
Many people suffer with poor mental health, as a direct result of unemployment. But the DWP sees unemployment as a medical problem of its own. One that can be cured by 'motivational speaking', akin to the bollocks that gets spouted at them, when the numbers start to look unflattering, despite their faultlessly beautiful minds. It can't be that they're wrong about some things - the blame must lie elsewhere. It's just easier for them to treat the unemployed - the power-less - as pathologically so, than it is to treat each other that way.
"[Welfare] claimants are already coerced into “confidence building” programmes,
made to take part in humiliating psychological group activities (like
building paperclip towers to demonstrate team work), and obliged to take
meaningless and unethical psychological tests to determine their “strengths”. Unsolicited “motivational messages” are emailed to some job seekers daily."
For some, it's just frivolous (vacuous) fun. For others, it's both frustrating, and insulting. I can't count how many people i've seen put on 'employability' courses, but have 40 years of employment behind them. They are being blamed for lack of vacancies, and for the changing world around them. These schemes can only help to make people in executive positions feel like they've done something. When they're unimpressed by some numbers, they get a consultant in to give them a vacuous team-building course; so they intuitively think that such vacuity will mend other people's woes, too.
"Bogus constructs like “psychological resistance to work” and “cultures of worklessness” are used to legitimise coercive regimes that stigmatise and punish."
Because of these schemes, blame is shifted from the real guilty parties - those who make bad executive decisions, such as Management and Ministers of Parliament - onto the victims of those bad decisions. "Don't agree with what i say? Then there must be something wrong with you, mustn't there" is the attitude that is adopted. And so no matter how amusingly vacuous the ideology might be (and how easily disagreed with) there is always an underlying insidiousness to its imposition.
This is not peculiar to Lean. Not at all. But it should not be gullibly accepted, just because it's been dressed up as 'progressive' capitalism.
As an aside, Leanist pseudoscience reminds me of the book 'Who Moved My Cheese?' The story is a very simple one, of mice that eat their cheese, and either do or don't realise that they have to go somewhere else when the cheese they used to have, runs out. It's a simple analogy for people's attitudes to wealth, and changing times.
But the story's been serially abused by corporats, who've bought the book in large numbers, and distributed it to their staff, thinking that the moral of the story was "Things are changing around here. Get used to it!" and therefore reading the book would instill compliance in their juniors.
When Jon Ronson met a certain businessman, while scouring the world for psychopaths, as part of writing a book called 'The Psychopath Test', Ronson found that "he turned the Hare psychopath checklist
into 'Who Moved My Cheese?'" The way that businessman got rich, was by taking over ailing companies, and firing a large portion of their employees, often in highly callous ways. His attitude was typical of the "I'm not sharing the cheese with you, so go away!" misunderstanding.
I think this is because there's a cultural sociopathy in the world of telling-other-people-what-to-do that creates the illusion of there being more biological sociopaths than in actual fact.
To the population that imposes these schemes, they're an opportunity to feel that they're all right, Jack. It excuses them. They're OK. They're not to blame. They don't have to care.
If they were unabateably sociopathic, then they wouldn't need these schemes, because they wouldn't need anything to make them feel better; but because they're not unabateably sociopathic, an ideology that simulates sociopathy can achieve the same result. And at the same time, it appeases the very people who should be most annoyed about it!
Lean, and any other similar pseudosciences, provide both perpetrators and victims with an opportunity to blame the subjects, for lack of compliance with the scheme; and to simultaneously deflect criticism from the only thing that the instigators exist for - making business decisions.
Any good businessperson would want to avoid such poppycock, if they were aware of what it were costing them. They'd want to avoid astrology, Feng Shui, graphology, qi, and even chemical supplementation. I've heard of businesspeople giving their employees supplements, through the belief that it would improve their performance, in the workplace. Online, i found this: a quack magazine's review of companies that waste money on 'organics' and 'wellness' etc etc etc, in a bid to make their employees more pepped for the job.
Any good businessperson would want to avoid all of this. Unless, of course, they were selling it! In which case, i can only appeal to their moral instinct, or continue the campaign to get their shit recognised as fraud, and to get funding for agencies to put them out of business, against their will.
So whether as an employer or an employee, it's important that we stay skeptical of schemes that do not warrant respect, due to lack of evidence of efficacy. It's not good business to squander money on them, and it's not social to subject other people to facile obligations.
Stay skeptical, people. Stay skeptical.