Lean Thinking vs. Fat Thinking (2016)


That is an extended-than-frequent e-newsletter, with a 75-point tweetstorm, because I want to tackle a reasonably complicated topic this present day: lean pondering versus fat pondering. You are going to need doubtlessly heard the term lean used within the context of each and each startups, as in “lean startups” and within the context of extinct-economic system extensive corporations, as in “lean six sigma”, or the Toyota Lean model. It’ll gather confusing because lean startup aficionados continually try and each and each distance themselves from the older manufacturing custom, however also ally themselves with the finest of the custom. Is it fresh, or is it extinct? Are the two the identical, or assorted?

In the event you zoom out reasonably even supposing, the confusion vanishes, and it becomes clear that lean startup pondering is phase of an unbroken 100-yr extinct custom, all of that can well even be labeled lean. The extra well-known distinction is between lean (whether in tiny/extensive or extinct/fresh economic system) and what it is possible you’ll well perchance perchance name fat pondering, which also exists as an unbroken 100-yr custom. The one distinction is that the custom of fat pondering is a mysteriously hidden one, indulge in a shadow, or indulge in the hidden 2d Foundation in Asimov’s Foundation novels. There’s a reason for this.

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The yin and yang of lean and fat

1/ Eli Goldratt’s influential 1984 new The Honest (one in all Time’s 25 most influential enterprise books in 2011), captures the essence of “lean” pondering in fictional construct

2/ It marks the maturation of a ~100 yr custom that can well even be called “lean”, beginning with Fredrick Taylor’s attention-grabbing-however-irascible pseudoscience model in 1919, the full arrive to contemporary DevOps

3/ It communicated, to a non-engineering viewers, the essence of solutions indulge in severe paths, bottlenecks, “work in development” (WIP) and the idea of constraints.

4/ From the main non-pseudoscience model (the Juran/Deming model that matured in Japan within the 60s) by Goldratt to this present day, “lean” has delivered HUGE returns to the global economic system.

5/ In the event you grew up round engineering, or discovering out engineering, within the closing century, this century-prolonged custom could well perchance no longer enjoy didn’t shape your existence. It absolutely fashioned mine.

6/ I grew up in a steel/bus/truck manufacturing town surrounded by the TQM (full glorious administration) and ISO 9000 craze of the unhurried 80s.

7/ Since my father modified into closely intriguing with these efforts, I grew up surrounded by, and discovering out, his books in highschool. Such efforts helped the Tata crew grow into what it is miles this present day.

8/ Look after many future engineers who grew up at some stage within the 80s Eastern ascendancy, the then-fresh idea that glorious, innovation, and productivity had been linked, modified into hammered home for me as a teen.

9/ I’d heard of kaizen and been immersed within the koan indulge in sayings of Shigeo Shingo sooner than discovering out operations study and manufacturing engineering in college.

10/ While I modified into engaged on a PhD 1997-2003, a bunch of my friends joined i2 after their MS degrees, a supply-chain company steeped in Goldratt’s pondering. That’s when I read The Honest.

11/ At Xerox between 2006-11, I encountered agile, lean and 6 sigma, all natural extensions of the custom, to boot to the lean startup model, which too fit neatly.

12/ Even supposing some believe in every other case, the lean startup model also fits neatly into this custom, as does its extra technical cousin, DevOps.

13/ Gene Kim’s perfect e book on DevOps, The Phoenix Mission, is a straight-up (and acknowledged) port of The Honest.

14/ In a technique even supposing, after nearly 30 years immersion in engineering environments fashioned by “lean” pondering, I started to feel something deep modified into lacking within the custom.

15/ The first clue modified into Ben Horowitz’ contrarian 2011 put up, The Case for the Fleshy Startup, which argued that for startups no lower than, fat modified into equally severe.

16/ Besides Ben’s put up and some followups, in conjunction with my fresh one, Fleshy Thinking and Economies of Fluctuate, there’s nearly no writing on “fat”, when put next to complete libraries on “lean.”

17/ Lean is a yin that lacks an obtrusive yang. One reason for here is that “fat” is in point of truth instinctive behavior, and resembles inventive play that does no longer need to be taught.

18/ To assemble to the center of why, maintain in solutions a key feature part in The Honest: the company buys an costly excessive-tech manufacturing robot.

19/ The managers instinctively delivery to converse work in direction of it, since they paid plenty for the robot, and feel they  ought to “exhaust” it to gather a “return” on their investment.

20/ The total new is essentially based mostly totally on the hero discovering out to fight this instinct, and proving to himself and others that the manufacturing unit needs to be understood and optimized at a “programs stage” in direction of, properly, a “Honest.”

21/ One symbolically well-known arrive he does here is to exhaust an extinct, low-tech machine tool to rebalance the movement within the manufacturing unit, lower WIP inventory, and delivery saving the company financially.

22/ It makes for a huge legend, and a huge arrive to be taught nearly everything non-technical that you just must search out out about lean pondering as a manager. For system, _The Phoenix Mission _does the identical.

23/ But it absolutely is only half the legend. Fleshy pondering begins with a sacrilegious request within the course of the lean custom: what if the excessive-tech robot patrons in The Honest had been factual the main time?

24/ The important thing perception here is that under sure stipulations, the instinctive action is also the factual one. The “sure stipulations” are folks that count on launch-ended discovering out and retreat from laborious-edged dreams.

25/ In case your company is working in low ambiguity, excessive uncertainty stipulations, you realize what’s the factual ingredient to assign. You loyal enjoy to assign the ingredient factual. That’s a ride-lean deliver.

26/ If on the assorted hand, your company is working under excessive ambiguity, that you just must sacrifice no matter easy job it is possible you’ll well perchance perchance enjoy, to force up readability round what’s worth doing.

27/ In the robot instance, if there’s a macrotrend in direction of automation, the existential risk is failing to gather sufficiently factual at robotics, sufficiently speedy, to enjoy a future.

28/ How does your extinct-fashioned machine shop with low-tech tools fit within the rising robotic manufacturing panorama? You cannot loyal intellectualize your arrive to an acknowledge.

29/ You are going to want to make a selection a robot and fabricate discovering out suggestions to exhaust it priority #1. Even though productivity and profitability all ride to hell even as you are discovering out the fresh technology.

30/ At the present, prioritizing “lean” dreams can continually be the worst ingredient to assign.Your priority ought to be to commit all accessible sources to the be taught-or-die robotics effort, investing loyal barely ample to verify non permanent survival in assorted areas.

31/ That is “fat” because no longer only are you going to forget trace efficiency and ROI, you’ll actively force operations from common/ambiance dedicated to uncommon/inefficient to be taught.

32/ Of us steeped in “lean” pondering request charges to head down as you be taught extra, indulge in elite athletes practicing for an event. Of us instinctively contented with “fat” request charges to upward thrust while they be taught, indulge in infants stumbling about.

33/ That is why the main and most well-known a part of “going fat” is what Invoice Janeway called “money and retain an eye on” in his e book, Doing Capitalism within the Innovation Economy

34/ The most viewed signal of a fat company is that it is miles money rich, and that the leader has highly efficient and unquestioned operational retain an eye on, as a replace of being beholden to the board.

35/ You are going to want to enjoy money to survive the bleeding, and retain an eye on to force by your imaginative and prescient of suggestions to manufacture the discontinuous soar into the fresh enterprise model.

36/ With out a doubt, money and retain an eye on are a recipe for excess and corruption, however let’s table that agonize for a moment, and gather a frontrunner with integrity who is aiming for a thriving, rising enterprise.

37/ But money (doubtlessly the most liquid construct of fat) and retain an eye on (within the top possible leverage construct of retain an eye on of the board) are only the tip of the iceberg. It’s essential to “fat” within the scheme the full arrive all the plot in which down to the smallest experiment underway.

38/ That is a HARD situation to gather. In a extensive company, it could perchance even be tried by setting aside the “fat” and “lean” lines of enterprise and explicitly using the lean to subsidize the fat.

39/ In smaller corporations, fat is frequently incorporated by the usage of the premise of a “pivot,” that can well even be anything from a real sense of actual north to be taught in direction of, to meaningless thrashing.

40/ However the premise of in conjunction with a pivoting behavior onto a essentially lean vehicle is a susceptible compromise between fat and lean. This could (and does) fail in two suggestions.

41/ The first failure mode is to handle the pivot as an uncreative 2nd-stage market recommendations loop. Your minimal viable product bombed, so you assign a market double-obtain and fabricate up a brand fresh “records-driven” direction.

42/ The 2nd failure mode is for the founders to enjoy some holy sense of “actual north” essentially based mostly totally on something indulge in a values-essentially based mostly mostly “mission” as a replace of an determining of context.

43/ The first is a pretense that 2nd-direct reactivity is map. The 2nd is the pretense that faith is map. Every flip the promising idea of a pivot into rubbish.

44/ To “pivot” meaningfully, the crew has to recalibrate the direction of maximal interestingness, the establish disambiguation will possible be quickest. That is a role requiring creativeness and creativity, no longer loyal records.

45/ That is the essence of what, in Boydian strategic pondering, is known as the “Schwerpunkt” (literally, the “point of the spear”). The finest present direction for development.

46/ The reason of launch-ended discovering out is to retain the direction of maximal interestingness, the “spear”, in point of truth pointing within the direction of maximal ambiguity.

47/ This yields a undoubtedly particular conception of map. Technique is no longer a train direction of action, it is a sample of interpretation of all your actions. A sense of how they fit into a legend.

48/ The true embodied construct of the “point of the spear” could well perchance appear superficial and swap every quarter: touchdown a particular extensive customer, or winning a court battle.

49/ The essence of getting a map is sparkling which of a dozen tactical fire-fights is also the strategic fight on which the arrive forward for the enterprise is using. Technique is no longer a separate meta-stage thread of job.

50/ The purpose of a “pivot” is now to no longer loyal fabricate up one extra ingredient to envision out, however to reorient round a brand fresh mental model essentially based mostly totally on a brand fresh determining of the center of ambiguity. The end could well perchance even be to advertise an existing subplot to predominant feature.

51/ A pivot is no longer necessarily about stopping one dwelling of actions and beginning one more. Or no longer it is essentially about discovering out a brand fresh which implies (and therefore a brand fresh sample of priorities) into all actions.

52/ Right here’s the unfriendly news. Inevitably, even as you pivot, you’ll enjoy to sacrifice some laborious-won gains on the extinct entrance. That is why there’s a first-rate battle with “lean”

53/ “Pivots” essentially work better with “fat” operations because lean operations enjoy a long way extra momentum and inertia. They’re extra tough to lead.

54/ As we mentioned closing week in “untimely synchronization is the foundation of all contaminated”, tight coordination — the tip results of “factual” lean practice — is momentum.

55/ There’s no longer such a thing as some extent organising maximal momentum in a direction you are undecided is factual. Lean efficiency in what turns out to be the irascible direction becomes a liability even as you pivot.

56/ So the common precept is that this: only lean out operations in share to how properly you enjoy disambiguated your market ambiance. More is illusory gains that can flip into liabilities overnight.

57/ Working fat is a lot messier, extra reliant on intuition, and free-construct experimentation than running lean. My fat pondering put up, gets into a couple of of the messy solutions, messily.

58/ Working fat could well perchance even be about seriously placing folks over direction of. This suggests investing in organising the finger-tip feeling tacit abilities of folk.

59/ In the event you are running fat and optimizing for staying oriented round maximal ambiguity reduction, most of what you will possible be discovering out will possible be tacit, finger-recommendations stuff.

60/ In our counterfactual model of the The Honest, the folk experimenting with the aptitude of the fresh robot could well perchance be collecting “finger-tip feeling” potential.

61/ In case it is miles no longer undoubtedly obtrusive, THIS IS THE ROI! You flip it into a Schwerpunkt by the usage of the rough consensus and running code model.

62/ The leader need to believe his/her folks to be taught speedy ample to force the rising readability that sparks leaps of strategic intuition round reorientation.

63/ At a focus on at ALM Chicago a couple of years within the past, I illustrious that even supposing “lean” folks continually enlighten “folks over direction of” they continually exhaust 99% of their time talking about direction of.

64/ This proved to be a undoubtedly inviting ingredient to converse and it got retweeted rather reasonably. But I wasn’t being contrarian. I modified into loyal declaring an obtrusive point that most “lean” practitioners acknowledge.

65/ The tricky lesson for these linked to the procedural scaffolding of lean  is that while intuitive intelligence is collecting in finger-recommendations, processes could well perchance no longer be sacred.

66/ Startups continually need to be born fat (indulge in infants), struggle by a lean phase, after which grow fat again. They have a tendency to be lean or fat in monocultural suggestions. Immense corporations on the total is a combine.

67/ This cycling by lean and fat is, on the stage of operations, the an identical of cycling between eras of diversification and focusing on core competency on the stage of map

68/ Learning to feature in fat mode is no longer so worthy as a _doer _skill (because it is miles the natural arrive folks feature) as a recognition potential: an potential to “read” the full reviews that are playing out, and picking a excellent one because the default.

69/ There are constantly complications in operations. The trick to switching from lean to fat is discovering out to direct when the complications are a signal to change to fat as a replace of a trigger to resolve particular points using lean abilities.

70/ In David Allen’s 2×2 of standpoint versus retain an eye on, here is the excessive standpoint/excessive retain an eye on ‘master-and-commander’ quadrant: discovering out to lead with a mild-weight touch

71/ To return to our opening counterfactual regarding the robot in _The Honest, _the key request to search records from when switching from lean to fat is to search records from, “what is going irascible… and what if that is a factual ingredient?”

72/ An worthy extra indispensable model is to search records from, “what is going factual… and what if that is a BAD ingredient?” That is extra tough thanks to loss aversion: we’re reluctant to cease doing what appears to be like to be to be going properly.

73/ The intent within the again of each and each diagnostic questions is to severely explore no longer your factual assumptions, however your assumptions about values underlying culture and the company’s _raison d’etre. _

74/ Lean to fat/fat to lean shifts are about turning the sacred into the profane, and the profane into the sacred. And spiritual transformations are laborious. They require indispensable reviews to force by.

75/ That is why fat/lean yin-yang pondering is a myth potential. Studying a excellent legend into a enterprise is indulge in rewriting fiction from the purpose of ogle of a villain.

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Take a look at out the 20 Breaking Clear Season 1 essays for the deeper context within the again of this e-newsletter. In the event you are drawn to bringing the Season 1 workshop to your organization, gather in contact. You should well perchance apply me on Twitter @vgr

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