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Featured Lean Thinker: Mark Rosenthal

This week’s featured Lean thinker is Mark Rosenthal, who, for the last three years, has written his blog, appropriately named for this article, The Lean Thinker. Mark is also a former coworker of mine.

So, here’s how Mark answered my Lean questions…

What does Lean mean to you?

“Lean” is an unfortunate term that has “stuck” to mean many things to many people. When I talk about “lean” however, I am referring to the system of management as practiced by an ideal operation within the Toyota Motor Corporation..

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

Long before the word “lean” was even coined, I was involved in continuous improvement and kaizen teams. Formally that would have been in the late 1980’s, but even in the military we were working to avoid wasting soldier’s time getting things done. I was hooked as soon as I saw it was OK to think.

What is your Lean claim to fame?

I am hardly famous. But if I had a claim to fame it would be a desire to help anyone who is interested learn more.

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

The future is in the fundamentals, which our community is only now beginning to grasp. Lean is not about teaching people 5S, standard work, jidoka, takt time, standard work, SMED, kanban, leveling, line stop. It isn’t about kaizen events, or 3P. It is none of those things. 

We do not “implement” lean, we adopt specific mindsets and practices for managing, leading and making decisions about what to do (and not to do). Once those mindsets and practices are adopted, the laundry list of tools and techniques are adopted as needed as the organization solves the next problem in the way of the next level of performance… and the next… and the next.

Unfortunately this requires, demands, that the leaders embrace this mindset.

About Mark

Mark has 20 years of experience learning and trying to teach the Toyota Production System across a diverse field of application including military, aerospace, consumer products, health imaging, heavy equipment and administrative operations within all of the above. He currently works for a major Tier 1 aerospace supplier as an enterprise lean director. His web site is http://theleanthinker.com


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