Not invented here


I’m a lucky so and so when I think about it.  I’ve travelled to many countries with my job and experienced so many different cultures and industries.  But this blog is not an attempt to knock Michael Palin off his well earned travel-log perch, he’s an icon for the iconoclasts and this article is more to do with best practice.

I was in South Africa a while back working with a team new to Lean.  Standardised Work in the format we promote was the subject of the day and we were looking at a particularly tricky process in the plant.  As we moved from training to implementation, walking the process and capturing the steps, I could sense a change in the team’s energy. When we got back to the room, the two specialists started mapping out on a whiteboard the different plants and how this one process could be shared across to maximise benefits.  Now, I’ve been here before.  It all sounds good until some smartypants (lets call him Mr. Smug-face) throws a spanner in the works and points out the twenty odd reasons why it can’t be done. It’s inevitable.  I’m just waiting for it to happen.  But it didn’t!  They shared it across two plants and are now modifying plant number three to make it work.  I’m a little lost at sea.  My cultural change compass is spinning somewhat.

The reason its spinning is because in the Britain I love I seem to hit this all the time.  Like everyone, no doubt, I want British jobs to flourish.  I want us to be great.  I want more manufacturing in the north, south, east and west.  But we suffer from the ‘not invented here’ malaise more so than anywhere else I have travelled. I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to witness good practice being straight jacketed in order not to damage someones pride.  On average I would reckon twenty ideas on a Future State Map won’t make it off the Boston Matrix into implementation and it will not be technicalities that get in the way it will be Mr Smugface and his ‘not invented here’ mindset.

Standardised Work, as we all know, is the foundation for improvement.  I hear the words now: ‘without Standards there can be no kaizen.’ Ohno I believe.  Without standards there can be no sharing of good practice either.  I’m not sure what we are scared of in embracing another’s  idea or standard but we definitely invest significant effort into making sure it stays in its box and doesn’t contaminate our other sites.

David Willets, in his Innovation Report for 2014 (yes, I know, it was a long flight and I’d seen the movies on the outbound flight) said there was a productivity puzzle in the UK and quoted a need for:

a ‘new industrial revolution’ to spur future growth, historically low UK business investment and low recognition of and investment in broader ‘intangible’ assets. Indeed the Bank of England has highlighted the importance of these intangible investments to ensure the UK economic recovery is sustained.

In my view, clearly, those ‘intangible assets’ he refers to are about British people sharing the same love and enthusiasm that was on display for all to see during the olympics of 2012 with Standardised Work and Best Practice.  We would all be in a better place with our manufacturing were we to do so.  I need to somehow get hold of that Canadian in the Bank of England and tell him I’ve identified the intangible.

Now who else can I quote out of context?

Back to top