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Featured Lean Thinker: Jay Watson

This week’s featured Lean thinker has been a guest in a few podcasts now. He is Jay Watson of FreeLeanSite.com. Jay is one of those seasoned veterans of Lean from before it was mainstream.

Yet with all those years of experience, he still has passion in his voice when we speak about Lean. In fact, when Jay and I talk, we both get so fired up about Lean, we have a hard time giving each other a chance to speak. Take a few minutes and check out his site and see all he has to offer.

And now, on to his answers…

What does Lean mean to you?

In a nutshell, doing more with less. Lean is an infectious attitude that drives efficiencies, strives for improvement, and respects people in the process.  Lean thinkers are smart, savvy, and usually not satisfied with status quo.  Lean leaders promote lean thinking.  

What was your first experience with Lean, and how did you know you were hooked?

Over twenty five years ago and by sheer chance, I had lunch with Bob Galvin, then the Chairman and CEO of Motorola. We were both visiting a California plant separately and ended up together san his handlers in the cafeteria. After we sat down I thought to myself, “How many times do you get to chat with a CEO? I should ask an intelligent question…” so, after some introductions and polite talk, I asked him if he truly believed in this “Six Sigma” thing (it was in its infancy). 

I think we both realized what an awkwardly dumb question came out of my mouth but, he politely answered. Oh, he wholeheartedly believed in six sigma and was, of course its’ #1 champion – heart, mind, and soul! He said he wouldn’t be doing it, if it wasn’t right – but what he said next surprised me.  He said, “Jay, (he called everyone by their first name) I wish we had started on the total cycle time reduction initiative at the same time we rolled out six sigma. That’s where the waste is”.

Oh, I knew of ‘Ken-X, the 10X Guy’, Motorola’s mascot for cycle time reduction (it wasn’t called Lean back then…). The goal was to attack waste so as to reduce cycle time ten-fold. If a new product introduction process took 10 months, drive it to 1 month; if a procurement process took 10 days; drive it to 1 day….  Lofty goal which I thought was “Mission Impossible” indeed. But, after talking with Bob Galvin the good part of an hour, I started to believe in the power of improvement. He exalted the benefits of positive thinking and idea of ideas (the name of his book). He talked of the vision of Motorola and its’ commitment to Total Customer Satisfaction (TCS). (We had cards with these beliefs printed on them to carry in our wallet or purse…and I still have mine today). He led with the belief that ‘better was better’ and that the company his Dad passed to him was not perfect, but was improving.  As a result of the Six Sigma program, Motorola received the first Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award in 1989. Customer was King!  TCS process improvement team competition became a world-wide phenomenon, and years later, I was honored to be a judge at one such event in Scottsdale, AZ.

It was during that time with Mr. Galvin – that’s when the Lean thing hit me: if Management, in this case the owner of one of the top companies in the world, believes that there is that much waste in business processes that a 10-fold improvement is possible, well I was indeed hooked!

Now, decades later, we see that this “speed of execution” thing, along with safety and quality are driving forces, perhaps prime directives, still in play within every business and industry today.

What is your Lean claim to fame?

Free!  I offer foundational Lean training, interviews, articles, power-point slides, videos, newsletters, web sources, case studies, and project report-outs on www.freeleansite.com for the Lean thinker without cost.

Where do you see Lean going in the future? What is on the horizon?

More free content as the world is hungry for improvement initiatives. I believe these concepts will be taught in High Schools and Elementary schools within the next ten years.

Jay’s autobiography…

Jay Watson is a Lean advocate, Management Coach, and editor of free lean and six sigma sites.


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