A lean management concept is based upon the elimination of everything that does not bring added value to the respective product or service from the supply, production and sale process. And… please accept my deepest apologies for this simplification, Dear lean management experts, or whoever is reading this article…
Normally, as the best benchmark of a successful lean implementation, proponents of this idea point out the TPS or Toyota Production System. Lean processes are constantly excelled in the Toyota Corporation resulting in the well-known reliability of this company’s products. Of course, we can also mention other roots of a lean idea. These are the organisational improvements and inventions of Henry Ford, the father of the modern automotive industry and mass production in general.
I must confess here and now, that I am not an expert in lean management, but only in risk management. Thus, when a discussion titled „defects of lean management” appeared on my “radar screen” some time ago, my attention was drawn to the word „defects”. From „defects” (I thought) there is just one step to „risks”, and, after all, that’s what tigers do best!
Firstly, I dare say that at least some protagonists of a lean approach I have seen believe that this System (or solution, or idea, or managerial philosophy, whatever you call it) has a risk management component already included. Lean is so perfect and all-problem-solving super-duper, that no separate risk management is needed. Fact?
News about ideal risk-free circumstances is always good news because, for a risk manager, as Donald Rumsfeld, the once US former Secretary of Defence remarked in his ironic speech: “There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know.” And, we could also quote here another famous thinker: “…the more he looked inside, the more Piglet wasn’t there.
And here you are! Even before considering the known and unknown advantages of lean management, just some simple research of easily available sources such as The Financial Times or The WSJ shows that… The risk is still there and, what a surprise! The best example is indeed the Toyota Production System itself!
Sources indicate, for example, that the slimming of the supply chains of the world’s largest auto maker that embrace the elimination of an „excessive” number of suppliers results in a simultaneous increase of a “classic” supply chain risk. That relationship was dramatically demonstrated during the tragic tsunami in Japan in 2014.
Another manifestation of „lean” philosophy is a specific approach to product design, which allows automakers to use the same elements in different car models. By the way, this is indeed a global trend, because all cars lookalike, don’t they?
Of course, from the point of view of production and cost efficiency, lean is good and brings profits but assume that something dramatic happens with a “lean” supplier of a very small but very important part and in a moment, production of all Toyota models Yaris, Corolla, Lexus is affected. Well, maybe, not Lexus and Yaris together, apologies for simplifying (as a lean management and Lexus non-expert).
These long chains
Unfortunately, a nasty and hidden risks of lean management not only creates a threat of supply chain interruption (or even total business interruption) but also immediately sets off a reputational risk. Every journalist appreciates the good news of bad news coming from top business names, as Toyota is. And carmakers are undoubtedly on the top of their “Breaking news” agenda.
Of course, the competition, politicians and other risk “stakeholders” are not going to miss an opportunity. Just think about the scandal of alleged “self-accelerating” Toyotas. Incidentally, the case appeared to be faked and simply not true. It was finally explained in favour of Toyota but… who remembers it today, in a world of an electronic public opinion, mindless social media bringing a verdict of “guilty” in seconds?
Another “lean related” risk, that is common and important for business today, not only just manufacturing, is product recall. This is again a big headache for the automotive industry – see the “Das Auto” problem. Of course, product recall threat is well known everywhere, so we can repeatedly read about electrocuting hair dryers, contaminated infant food and lethal toys.
Last but not least, a risk related to lean management arises from a “human” factor. There are sociological studies pointing out that lean, as the most modern approach to work organisation, also brings de-humanisation of labour. Within global lean production chains employees can be perceived as another “brick in the wall” sacrificed for the sake of growing “value added” optimisation. Remember Charlie Chaplin in “Modern times”? Lean is king, so stay in line and produce, produce, produce…
Thus, even a quick review of the lean risk landscape shows that there are a number of not so “lean” risks related or even created by lean management itself. That is, on the other hand, no surprise because risk is everywhere and usually man-made. And for the protagonists and lovers of “clean” lean management, without a separate risk management process we can recommend Toyota’s corporate web page, where you can easily find a dedicated and separate risk management framework. As well as such typical ERM functions like CRO, Chief Risk Officer and Board Risk Committee. Because each new, even more sophisticated management solution in addition to new opportunities creates new risks of lean to manage.
risks of lean risks of lean risk of lean risks of lean risks of lean
Though this be madness, yet there’s method in’t.
There are two tools of Enterprise Risk Management that gain incredible popularity in business nowadays: the first one is a risk
map (heat map) and the second one is a risk register. Describing a risk register in simple words – it is a tabular statement of identified business risks, their causes and effects, risk dimensions (Probability multiplied by Effect of an event) plus description of risk controls. There are project, departmental, corporate risk registers; even attempts to put together governmental risk registers can be found.
often becomes destructive and turns into a classical show killer of enterprise risk management implementation. Are you lost already? Let me explain it to you then.
(including identification, analysis and evaluation) – risk treatment. That’s enough about theory. In practice companies begin their risk management adventure by taking first crack at an exploratory, promising, but labour-intensive task of risk
identification and description. This is done in accordance with the art of risk management and best practice, but… how often such art turns into art for art’s sake!
planned (if there was any plan) and as a result risks that had been identified at the beginning of the process simply become history, unimportant rubbish in today’s fast changing business environment. Thousands of office hours were spent, hundreds of donuts (or, if you prefer, precels) consumed and litres of coffee drunk. Was it all worth it? On the other hand, such big records, even if their creators are eventually very proud of them, bring
horror to management and co-workers. “How will we be able to manage five hundred risks?”, they think desperately.
registers. This is the way risk registers live their own life and boards live their own and only among those who were involved in risk identification frustration is growing. “What was the purpose of our efforts?”, they ask themselves.
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An alien invasion is undoubtedly a risk of a black Swan event, though with a rather lower likelihood but considerably higher consequences.
Apparently this is not a completely ridiculous threat because it was raised by the World Economic Forum (WEF), a very serious organisation from Switzerland, supported by a host of the most prominent players in the insurance industry. And no one else, but the WEF in its wellknown annual survey “Global Risk” 2013, the only one, but still an important chapter dedicated to so called “X factors”.
In the “X” chapter we can find several paragraphs on risks with a very, very low probability, among them an “Extra-terrestrial life discovery”. It should be immediately noted that all of these “E.T” considerations are basically optimistic and suggest a number of quite positive consequences of such a seminal discovery. (By the way, honestly speaking, if anyone had someone to discover, that would be “us”, and not vice versa.)
The positive effects of the forementioned discovery would indeed bring us to, even spotting of a very tiny piece of life, not to mention the Aliens and even if only at a distance, through a telescope. Among the benefits of such an event the World Economic Forum lists a cosmic increase in spending on space exploration, with an emphasis on the creation of artificial intelligence (that we will send warily as date bait) an emergence of many new branches of science and industry. The WEF report also considers the social effects of a Contact event and even suggests serious problems for the Vatican.
With all these optimistic assumptions the whole range of threats associated with such a meaningful event is not mentioned in the Global Risk “X factors” at all. Among them we can, on the spot, even without asking 1000 experts from around the world (as does the report) bandying around other E.T. – threats or related ideas, for example, malicious incineration of the population with the use of light rays; immobilizing of cars, not included in insurance terms and conditions; kidnapping for the „Newcomers’” breakfasts (or any other meal they use to celebrate while invading), more or less sophisticated abductions (conceivably for sex), the locking away of captives in cages as their guinea pigs or just for fun etc.
Otherwise, the catalogue of risks associated with an arrival of Aliens is widely discussed and shown in easilyaccessible literature and video materials. Speaking about material losses caused by the extra-terrestrial force, it can be seen at once that there is a wide scope of activity for insurance companies, both locally and globally. But is the risk of an attack from the space insurable at all?
This is probably the moment when Lloyds’ syndicates smile indulgently, thinking about much more sophisticated risk than they insured in the past. A classic example is an insurance payment of a prize in a competition organized some time ago by the producer of Cutty Sark whisky. According to the rules of the contest, the winner of 1.5 million pounds was ( merely) supposed to find the famous Loch Ness Monster. Another similar example can be the insurance of triathlon participants in Scotland (100 Ironmen, 1.5 million per capita) in the event of an attack by that same monster (not found so far, as we know). Here wealso have a journalistic obligation to mention that in response to this insurance activity a violent, official protest was issued by the official Monster Fan Club, arguing that The Loch Ness Monster had never been aggressive and its loss ratio was undoubtedly nil.
Furthermore, those willing to provide coverage of the E.T. risks will not be very many, but there is no shortage. Let’s take an example from the US, where a “UFO Abduction Insurance Company” offers an attractive coverage of $20 million for just a $10 premium. Here, however, as is usually the case, it is important to carefully read the Terms & Conditions, because a desired compensation for the victims of UFO’s will be only possible upon proper completion of an attached form certifying the fact of being subject to examinations by the Aliens. And this may be difficult, because no one knows, for example, whether to go to a family doctor or the Healthcare Department. The good news is that the indemnity will be automatically doubled if the Aliens insisted on conjugal visits or if the intention of the kidnapping took was food. Reportedly, up to now they have only sold two policies, so…
Readers may fall down laughing, thinking that no business like an insurer underwrites such a policy but there are other examples of insurance against Aliens . We were even able to find web pages belonging to a Berkshire Hathaway subsidiary, which otherwise sold, for example about 12 million car insurance policies a year. Elsewhere we can find that another insurer, this time from the UK has already sold ca. 30 thousand (sic) similar policies. So we can conclude there is a market, so the risk must exist.
By the way, if we have already touched on the subject of insurance innovation we should also mention a wide range of insurance coverage for space risks, such as a meteorite impact, which we tangibly experienced two years ago in Chelyabinsk, Russia. The other supernatural and exotic risks to be covered include such phenomena as werewolf attacks, poltergeists or immaculate conceptions. However, let me address this another time…