A new ‘ERA’ for South Africa and Lean
How do we balance these three things?
- Serving the customer, i.e. getting the job done according to requirements
- Respect for people, especially those performing the work, and
- Standard work
Francis Fukuyama, a third generation Japanese-American, probably knows about as much about lean as he does about Japanese, which is very little, I’m led to believe. Fukuyama is in fact an outspoken political scientist and prolific author often embroiled in controversy in the corridors of power in the USA.
I am currently reading his most recent (2014) book: ‘Political order and political decay: from the industrial revolution to the globalization of democracy.’ He traces political development across the world using these three vectors (I remember them by the acronym ERA.):
- Effective state bureaucracy, i.e. the ability of the state to implement policy
- Rule of Law
- Accountability, particularly democratic accountability
I wonder about their equivalence and implications for organisational life (and lean):
- Effective bureaucracy is surely about the ability to implement. In my work with organisations I am often challenged at how weak many are in this department. What often comes to mind is an instruction from Mr Furuhashi (my sensei of some twenty years) that we should begin the journey of transformation with ‘normalising’ the workplace. I understand this to be putting basic stability and disciplined work practices in place before worrying too much about ‘improvement.’ What I too often see is poor adherence to time-keeping and similar basic commitments, combined with fire-fighting.
- Rule of Law, defined in Wikipedia as ‘the legal principle that law should govern a nation, as opposed to being governed by arbitrary decisions of individual government officials’.
- Accountability, i.e. the obligation or willingness to accept responsibility for one’s actions (Merriam-Webster)Alarm bells went off for me when Fukuyama, using Greece and Italy as examples of modernised states, argued that when a state achieves democracy (democratic accountability) before an effective, merit-based bureaucracy is in place, patrimony (‘jobs for family and friends’) and clientelism (patrimony on a wider scale) come to characterise the political economy of the country. It is sobering to realise that South Africa is part of that modernising trajectory that Fukuyama draws so interestingly from the political developments across time and geography.
For me, these last two vectors touch on respect: people should be treated by a fair set of expectations, no matter if they are senior or junior, and should expect to be accountable for their actions, whether they are senior or junior.
Alarm bells went off for me when Fukuyama, using Greece and Italy as examples of modernised states, argued that when a state achieves democracy (democratic accountability) before an effective, merit-based bureaucracy is in place, patrimony (‘jobs for family and friends’) and clientelism (patrimony on a wider scale) come to characterise the political economy of the country. It is sobering to realise that South Africa is part of that modernising trajectory that Fukuyama draws so interestingly from the political developments across time and geography.
South Africa has human rights written into its constitution. Respect for each person in their own right lies at their core. Lean urges ‘respect your people’ for each organisation embracing the lean transformation. But what if we get the ‘rights’ into a strong position without a priority understanding of the need to deliver, of the need to have an effective execution of value to customers? What is the equivalent of patrimony and clientelism (being the means by which those elected to power in a democracy with a weak ability to implement keep themselves in favour with the electorate) in organisations? More pointedly, what is the equivalent within, particularly, the public sector organisations we have in South Africa today?
By the analysis based on Fukuyama, at both the level of the state and in swathes of public sector organisations, we have put people into leadership positions where the ability to implement is weak. And, as I read Fukuyama, this was inevitable given our history. However, it is my guess that Fukuyama would say that we are fortunate on the Rule of Law vector, particularly with respect to our judiciary.
Perhaps within our organisations, public and private, we should seek to balance ‘delivery’ with ‘rights and respect’ by clarifying why the organisation exists (its purpose) and agreeing the acceptable, respectful practices (standard work) to go about delivering that purpose? And let the purpose and practices be consistently and fairly applied, so that we achieve effective performance, rule of law and accountability? Let me know what you think, please. We are in a new ERA!
Lean Healthcare Summit
Join us on the 26th October for our Lean Healthcare Summit in Johannesburg. World-renowned lean healthcare leader Dr John Toussaint, CEO of Thedacare Centre for Healthcare Value, is the keynote speaker. He will be joined by local healthcare innovators, including
- MEC Qedani Mahlangu, Gauteng Health
- Dr Carol Marshall, CEO Office of Health Standards Compliance
- Dena van den Bergh, Director of Quality Leadership at Netcare Ltd
- Dr Lindi van Niekerk, Health Innovation Lead for the Bertha Centre for Social Innovation
- And myself – Norman Faull, Lean Institute Africa Chairman
- For more information about the programme, and to register online, please visit our website.
We have just a few remaining public workshops scheduled in 2015, and our last ever public workshops in Durban, so be sure to book now!
European Lean Educator Conference
Lastly, you may be interested in the European Lean Educator Conference – ELEC 2015 – in Sweden on the 16–18 September. Snapshot from the program: Action-research on training of Toyota dealers. Mike Rother on how to teach scientific thinking. Lean applied in education and research. How to teach Lean in university programs. Training cases from Audi, Scania and Siemens. Lean games and simulations to learn and use. For more information, please visit their website.