Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A Shingo Prize Tunnel View

A recent post by Kevin Meyer on the role model lean blog, Evolving Excellence, took the Shingo prize organization to task for diluting their prize. It created quite a stir so I thought I would join in the fun with my own Shingo frustration. First, I must warn you that I may be accused of “sour grapes” for writing this post. Beware - there is whining ahead!
About three months after the December 2009 release of my book, Lean Safety – Transforming your Safety Culture with Lean Management, I applied for the Shingo Research and Professional Publication Award. I applied because I had read the new criteria and thought my book was a shoe in because of the following two statements. They made up two of the four sections of the written submission I had to complete.
1. Describe how the submitted work contributes to new knowledge of lean and operational excellence.
2. Describe how the submitted work extends existing knowledge of lean and operational excellence.

My book was the first to link lean thinking and lean tool usage to driving world class safety. Obviously anyone in the lean community who has practiced lean has been engaged in the pursuit of the holy grail of cycle time reduction and not safety improvement. One of the targeted audiences when I wrote the book was these lean professionals. I wanted to challenge them to help change the safety culture in their businesses by using their lean knowledge.
My second targeted audience was safety professionals and the programs they manage which are almost always solely focused on safety compliance. Lean Safety challenges them to explore lean thinking and tools to engage their workforce and bolster their compliance based programs with a companywide safety improvement initiative. The results – a new kind of safety culture focused on ongoing improvement in addition to compliance.
Finally I challenged these two groups of professionals to work together. I overviewed how together they could conduct injury risk reduction kaizen blitz events that would yield both cycle time and safety improvements. It all sounded so good when I read the criteria and then responded to the two statements above that I began to think about my acceptance speech.
As you may have already guessed Lean Safety did not win the Shingo prize. Why? Here are portions of examiner’s responses to the two sections mentioned above.
“However, examiners feel the book does not provide a deeper understanding or new knowledge and theory of operational excellence; it is more about using fairly common lean approaches and tools that focus on establishing a safety culture.”

“The author’s concept of safety as the reason for a lean transformation does expand existing knowledge, yet examiners feel the majority of the information shared in the book is basic lean knowledge and is not an expansion of existing work and current practices.”
I scratched my head after reading the feedback document and reflected on why my view of the potential impact of Lean Safety differed so from the examiners. All I could think of was the examiners were all leanies and were only thinking of the value of this book to other lean thinkers. This inbred aspect of many organizations, which are centered on a single common theme, is more often than not the norm. The Shingo examiners understand lean inside and out so my use of basic lean terminology and tools triggered their “tunnel view” response. But what would safety professionals have said? What if the Shingo examiners had been safety professionals who had little knowledge of lean? Would they have recognized the value of engaging individuals in safety improvement? Would they think this book was “new knowledge” and that it “extended lean knowledge” beyond the lean community and into the safety community? Or what if the Shingo prize organization had used a cross-functional team (in this case a mix of lean and safety professionals) to conduct the review? Would the results have been different? Here is a link to an unsolicited review of Lean Safety that appeared in the August 2010 issue of Professional Safety magazine. http://www.asse.org/professionalsafety/in-review.php Tell me what you think after reading the review. Shingo smingo - I didn’t want that prize anyway. Now pass the sour grapes to this poor loser - I have acquired a taste for them!