Shigeo Shingo Was Not a “Nice Guy”

The Shingo Prize will be awarded in Jacksonville, Florida in a few weeks, with a keynote from Dr. Sam Bahri, the world's first "Lean Dentist" (a phrase that conjures up some rather frightening images). We're working on a cover story on Baxter, the first drug manufacturer to win a Shingo Prize twice.  We've interviewed team leadership at Cuernavaca and North Cove, but also got some perspective from the Shingo Prize director, Ross Robson and examiner Gwendolyn Galsworth, author of last year's  Shingo Prize winning book, Visual Workplace, and director of the Lean-Visual Institute. The application process is rigorous:  each facility must complete a 100-page application, for which data collection can take three months.  If selected, they must then agree to a two-day site visit (Baldrige prize site audits take 5 days, but "we're Lean," jokes Robson), during which examiners (each of whom signs a strict nondisclosure agreements) can take "deep dives," and demand to see HR and other records, if they notice any disconnect between what they're seeing on the shop floor and what's in the application.  The judges  (there is a pool of 300, with active group of less than 100) must review the applications or report on the site visits, a commitment of time, but also a learning experience for those who want to benchmark what their own companies are doing with Lean. From his photos, I had imagined Dr. Shingo to be a very mild-mannered, quiet man.  I'm sure that he was a lovely person to family and friends,  but apparently he could be a bit of a firebrand, and didn't hesitate to call a question "stupid" or a spade a spade.  At one U.S. facility he visited, the staff had reportedly hung a poster designed to inspire them and honor Shingo's principles.  "Eliminate Waste," the text on the poster read, which only provoked a tirade from the Doctor.  "It should say IDENTIFY waste," he is reported to have replied, because you can't eliminate what you can't identify. Apparently Dr. Deming suffered from the same "spade is a spade" syndrome.  Perhaps it's because they were both engineers. So much for quality guru hagiography....these were flesh and blood people, after all, and didn't tolerate fools, or waste, gladly.  For more, stay tuned for April's report.  Perhaps pharma will get more involved in this worthwhile program, and there'll be another drug manufacturing winner to talk about next year?