Wednesday, December 17, 2014

What's in a name? Would that which we call "lean" by any other name smell as sweet?


Since the inception of the word almost 27 years ago, "lean" as it refers to "lean production" or "lean enterprise" has experienced quite an evolution of definition.  Who knew that a word spawned from John Krafcik's 1988 Sloan Management Review article "Triumph of the Lean Production System" would have spawned so many different interpretations?
A good portion of the evolution of the word lean has been within the lean community itself.  As a study predominately of the Toyota Production System or Toyota Way, lean evolved from a definition centered around one of the visible aspects:
  • Standardized Work, JIT, Kanban, Kaizen, QC Circles, etc

to a production system based on the "Toyota Temple" (Exact Origin Debated, but circa 1970s)

  • Foundation = Stability (Heijunka, SW, Kaizen)
  • 1st Pillar = JIT 
  • 2nd Pillar = Jidoka

to management principles (Liker's 4P Model)

  • People, Problem Solving, Process, Philosophy                  

to a system of values and behaviors: (Toyota Way 2001)

  • Respect for Humanity & Continuous Improvement
          •                             Respect, Teamwork, Kaizen, Genchi Genbutsu, Challenge

Within the lean community there has been a general acceptance and realization of this definition.  Understanding that lean is not just a bunch of tools to reduce inventory and that it must contain an element of respect and humanity to be successful.

However...there persists another definition of lean that seems to be locked in time at the point of its introduction.  Lean as it exists in the popular "Lean Six Sigma"

Lean Six Sigma as a concept was first published in a book titled "Lean Six Sigma: Combining Six Sigma with Lean Speed" by Michael George and Robert Lawrence Jr. in 2002.  Unfortunately George and Lawrence didn't see lean as the balanced and fully comprehensive system that it truly is.  To LSS practitioners, lean is simply a set of tools and methods to "tack onto" the Six Sigma methodology as developed by Motorola, Allied Signal, and GE (allowing for the evolution of MAIC to dMAIC)

In LSS circles we commonly hear things like:
  1. Lean can be viewed a sub discipline of six sigma methodologies
  2. The lean focus is on removing waste of all types
  3. lean is great for simple stuff, but six sigma is needed for complex issues
  4. Lean focuses on improving efficiency (speed, flow, and cost) and Six Sigma focuses on improving effectiveness (quality & accuracy)
  5. lean needs six sigma for stability or you'll just make defects faster 
In order to believe any of these statements, one would have to ignore what Toyota was telling people clear back to the early 1980's, but yet they persist.  Let's try and put some of them to bed shall we?

  1. Lean is not a subset of six sigma.  Lean was in development as a roughly coherent system since the 1950s or 1960s, solidifying into a dynamic and ever changing system build on a set of principles by the 70's.  Six Sigma came about in the mid 80's and evolved a bit into the mid 90's.  dMAIC is just another version of the scientific method, which had been introduced to Japan in the 1950's with the creation of the PDCA cycle (from Demming's presentation of the Shewert cycle, etc).
  2. Lean is not just about removing waste.  If that's what it is, then hire a bunch of consultants or train a bunch of waste removal experts and set them loose.  Identifying waste and problem solving it away are certainly a part of lean, but as one learns, lean does not work when it is "parted out".
  3. Lean is not just about simple problems. But lean is about keeping problems from getting complex if possible.  Lean promotes the idea of teaching everyone to solve problems (not just belts) and when problems are constantly being surfaced and solved at the lower levels of the organization, what you find is that most problems are simple if they're not allowed to fester.  But rest assured, all the fancy statistics and methods that exist in Six Sigma you will find with Engineers in Toyota and other lean companies as well.  They just use PDCA and apply what's needed.
  4. Lean considers flow and quality as equal pillars.  The fascination with Just In Time back in the 80's seemed to have never self corrected in some circles.  Some still think of lean only in this way.  But Toyota had 2 pillars to their production system, Just In Time & Jidoka.  While we commonly see Jidoka translated as "automation with the human touch", it's as much about building in quality to the process as it is anything else.  Not to mention that the entire foundation of TPS has always been stability, the antithesis of variation.
  5. Lean does not "pump out defects faster".  Who knows how any lean company ever had success creating so many defects so quickly before Six Sigma came along.  Stability, Flow, Build in Quality are all equal partners in lean, one allowing the other.  You need a little stability before you can start to flow, before you can flow you need a certain level of quality.  You want to increase flow, you'd better address your stability and quality.  Improving flow makes it easier to find defects and stability issues so they can be resolved and flow improved...It's always been that way, still is.  
I'm not ranting about Lean Six Sigma, but

Lean Six Sigma ¹ "lean" + Six Sigma.

What it is is a very few lean tools added to the Six Sigma methodology.

Lean Six Sigma = "some lean tools" + Six Sigma

There is nothing wrong with Lean Six Sigma, but we shouldn't hold it up as something it is not.  Six Sigma is nothing more than another take on the scientific method merged with statistical / quality techniques, and a management process built around training and applying it.  (and a obsession about certifications)

It was lacking some of the types of countermeasures that had resulted from lean, so they were added in.  

In this case, I contend that the rose by another name is not as sweet as it isn't even the same thing.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Don't Let Your 5Why's Be Wasteful

A few days ago, I saw a tweet from someone I think very highly of 

(Mark Graban - thanks for the idea for today's post Mark) 

that got me thinking:

I agree with this statement 100% - but it occurred to me that there is an awful lot of confusion about the concept known as the 5 Why's.  It's not that performing one can be a harmful act, but it certainly can be wasteful or representing a missed opportunity to truly drive systemic change.

The way I personally visualize the process, is that there is a continuum of discovery points between the realization of a problem and the true systemic root cause of that problem.

The figure on the right shows a single tree example of this concept.  In real life, there could be multiple causes, making this look like a tree's roots. Regardless, a 5 Why started with the problem can be taken to the point of finding a potential cause (what I call the causal factor), or it can be taken all the way to the systemic root cause.
Some people look at the 5 Why as the way to understand the problem (like Mark has mentioned in his tweet), some people are focused on finding the most underlying causal factor or thing that they can take direct action on to countermeasure this particular problem, and others see it as the way to truly find the systemic root cause.  They are all of course correct. 

The more you can answer the "why" the deeper you go.  Here in lies the potential failure mode:

If you're answering the "why" with a hypothesis rather than a fact, then everything beyond that is also just a hypothesis.  This isn't a huge deal when we're dealing with one or two potential causes...but what about when a team goes into a process like a fishbone diagram, brainstorming lots of potential causes?
So now what?  5 Why every one of these?  What for?  The point of the scientific method, or PDCA requires that we actually validate or verify a cause before we go any further.  If you have taken the process to the point that you have found a layer of cause that is "testable" - then TEST.  There's no sense in making further hypothesis without learning if you were successful thus far.  

If you can confirm a cause at this point, then great - doing additional 5 why on it to find the systemic cause will actually be beneficial.

But I have been witness to teams taking a fishbone like the above and literally spending an entire day "5Why"-ing every single potential cause they could come up with....later on they verified maybe 2 or 3 that were important.

As leaders / coaches / mentors, or whatever role you're fulfilling - we're as responsible for eliminating waste from our own processes as well as those of others.  So pay attention to whether you're batching and queuing your problem solving process or whether you're flowing.  It'll get you to actionable points faster, and gain the confidence of those around you.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Lead With Respect: A Novel of Lean Practice (REVIEW)

OK, I'd better disclose my bias up front - "The Gold Mine" and "The Lean Manager" are two of my favorite and most recommended books to colleagues when they ask me about lean.  It's not because the concepts are so much better than other resources, or that I find the story lines riveting - it's because they're so spot on their portrayal of lean as it should be, rather than (as Mark Graban likes to say) L.AM.E. or lean as mistakenly explained.  I'm also a fan of the novel format, especially when I pick out a book to loan to others not familiar with lean.  If you're not, then the book may just not be your thing.

So I had some pretty high hopes for Michael and Freddy Balle's latest addition to the storyline: "Lead with Respect: A Novel of Lean Practice" and I must say I was not disappointed.

This latest addition takes us to a nice transition from the manufacturing floor - to the software development world.  As I also, have moved from manufacturing companies to the service industry (which includes software development as an internal competency) over the past couple of years I must say the book certainly struck home.  Reading about the stand up meetings, eagerness to jump to full system upgrades, missed milestones and re-releases, rework and scope creep due to poor user requirements...if you're in this environment now, this should all sound familiar.

In a cord familiar with the concepts of A3 management or the Toyota KATA, there is absolute emphasis on the need to PRACTICE. (no sorry, reading the book isn't enough)

Which is probably why I appreciate this book, especially for introducing others to lean.  No endless discussions about kanban or poke-yoke or standardized work - nope this gets to the real heart of lean - respect, the scientific method, and humility.  Everything else is just a countermeasure.  Learn and teach the behaviors - it's something your competitors can't steal.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

OpEx Fastrack = Not So Fast

I'm constantly amazed at how easily senior managers and executives in companies large and small succumb to the marketing ploys and promises of consulting companies.  
Usually a company will desire to start an "Operational Excellence" program, and search out and hire consultants from one of the big consulting companies to "kick-start" their journey.

The company sends in comes a team of consultants - complete with some cookie cutter 6 step program to Operational Excellence.  Looks like a typical project timeline...we'll be awesome in no time. 
[insert sarcasm here]

Instead what often happens is a lot of activity and mass PowerPoint training with very little actual coaching on problem solving.  A pile of process maps, standard work, or fmeas that no one understands or uses and ultimately a dependency on the consultant for further progress.

Soon after, the company is asking "so when do we see the productivity gains?"  [smile] well that's an excellent question, too bad it's still the wrong one.

Anyone reading this that is considering departing on a "Lean", "Lean Six Sigma", "OpEx", "Process Excellence", or "Continuous Improvement" journey - please, oh please for the love of god, TAKE NOTE:


I'm going to do you a huge favor and save you hundreds of thousands or maybe millions of dollars by scaring you off (feel free to send me a consulting fee) by giving you one solid fact regarding such a journey:

THERE IS NO EASY OR SHORT TERM WAY - Period, End of Discussion

The truth is that you're not even in the realm of reality unless you'll willing to invest time measured in YEARS to such a thing...think DECADES.  Because you'll always need a coach, and your coach has their own coach.  Anything less is a joke, and any consultant that says otherwise is either dishonest, or incompetent.  Which, doesn't really matter, you still get screwed coming and going.

If you want to truly, truly do this and have a lasting, massive change in your organization...if you want to leave your competitors in the dust and make people want to benchmark you only to realize it's futile as you're too dynamic to benchmark - then suck it up and get ready for the long haul.

Not scared off yet?  OK, well let's talk about what you do need then 

(yes I know, there are no absolutes, and that includes my list.  But these sure help if you're serious)

1. Time (in case I didn't make that obvious yet)
2. CEO / Owner willing to have an coach, and be involved all the way
3. Pilot Area 
(unless you have an army of like minded sensei's to spread across your company, start focused and tight - grow the talent from a seeded area)
4. A Capable Sensei 
(Yes there are some good one's out there that are consultants, but they don't grow on trees - do your research, be wary of those that come from the "Lean Six Sigma" crowd unless they've seen the light)
5. An Environment  /Culture Where It's Safe to Fail.
If you do this, you're doing to severely hamper your efforts.  Focus on learning, developing your people in problem solving, and you WILL grow and become more profitable.  If you want to use some financial metric - I'd suggest CASH FLOW and CAPEX.

So...if you're willing to do a gut check, research and find a sensei willing to guide you, and can resist the temptation for a fast and quick solution...

I'm happy to tell you you're in the right frame of mind and your organization is lucky to have such forwarding thinking leadership.  I wish you the very best in taking such a leap forward.

Good Day :-)


Monday, June 11, 2012

Lean Healthcare - Where was it this past week?

At some later point I may question whether writing this post right now was the right thing to see I just had what is called "ACL Reconstruction Using Double-Looped Hamstring Graft" this past Friday June 8th.  So I'm sitting at home with my leg up, stitched holes in my knee and a 3.5" long incision in my upper shin....thank goodness for Percocet....which yes I'm still on, but I've cut it back far enough I haven't fallen asleep yet trying to write this.

My total experience though has really hammered in the need for improvements and a sense of learning organizations in health frankly to my industrial manufacturing mindset, this whole process was a complete and total mess.

I'm not here to name any names, but I will step through my experience and highlight what I saw as serious deficiencies in the diagnosis, scheduling, treatment, and followup steps of the overall process...I will also be submitting such a report in the "survey" back to the center at which I had the procedure completed, in the hopes they will address such issues or search out help in learning how to begin to address them.

About a month ago, the actual event occurred outside my home where I wasn't wearing footwear that offered any support, had my hands full and tried to dramatically change directions on uneven ground...I felt a pop and was dropped to the ground...

The following day I was in the office of a specific Orthopedic center...hoping to find out what damage I'd done to my knee.  Of course the surgeon with the most experience wasn't available but I did have an orthopedic surgeon examine me....this gentlemen quickly decided that I had a torn meniscus and need to have a quick arthroscopic procedure to clean up the tear.  Great I thought, not as major as I'd worried it might be - and they scheduled surgery with another surgeon for me within the week. (Later I'd realize what a mistake it was on my end to not insist on having the experienced surgeon examine me as well, and what a mistake it is for Ortho Centers like that to schedule surgery with a surgeon that hasn't examined his / her patient before surgery as well)

So about a week later I show up for my basic knee arthroscopic procedure to repair my torn meniscus.  Now besides the fact that they couldn't give me the specific time of my surgery until a day prior to the surgery (kind hard to plan for a driver and for someone to watch the kids when you don't know when you'll need them) and the 2+ hour wait to even get prepped for surgery once I got in....I thought things were at least going OK, albeit nothing outside of normal complaints for doctors and health care service. 

I'm finally prepped for surgery, my knee is shaved and disinfected, I'm in a hospital gown and hairnet, IV is in, blood pressure is good, etc...waiting while that nice warm air is being blown up my gown (possibly the highpoint of the visit).  The surgeon that is actually performing the surgery (whom I'd never met before up till now) walks in starts asking me a few questions and doing some basic checks on my knee...within 20 seconds he looks at me and says "well I'm pretty certain you have a torn ACL which we're not ready to fix today".  WHAT?  I'm shocked, stunned and taken aback...wondering if I've wasted my time coming in....the surgeon gives me a quick 5 minute discussion on the process of ACL reconstruction, the different options, including the option of "Some people opt not to have it fixed and seem to do OK" he finally gave me 3 options:

1. Cancel today's surgery and come back in 3 weeks or so and have the ACL Reconstruction and meniscus repair done all at once (he said yes that my meniscus was likely damaged if I tore my ACL)
2. Continue with the meniscus repair today and then try out my knee for a while and see if I had stability problems and whether or not I wanted to go through ACL reconstruction
3. Continue with the meniscus repair and go ahead and schedule the ACL Reconstruction.

Well the biggest problem (besides the mis-diagnosis that this surgeon was able to pick up on within seconds of touching my leg) was that I was finally given all this information with little to no time to make a decision as I hadn't researched any ACL surgeries possibilities up till then since that wasn't my I made what was probably a bad decision, I told him to go ahead with the meniscus repair and I'd see how I did without an ACL and revisit that scenario then.

Well I was under for maybe 20 minutes....when I came to, there was my wife with the pictures of my pristine undamaged meniscus that the surgeon had left with her.  So I got scoped for no good reason whatsoever...oh I guess they confirmed that my ACL was indeed torn, but that seems like an expensive, painful way to get a final diagnosis....

I'm more than a little disgusted at this point, but I figure OK I'll see how I do...well over the next couple of weeks I talk to others that have had the surgery, that haven't have the surgery, I read article after article and even as my knee gets to the point of having a nearly normal walking gait back, I can tell it's just not right....that I'm too young (I'm 33, so yeah I consider that still young) to risk further knee damage, arthritis, and worse case a full knee replacement later in I decide I'm going to have the ACL reconstruction surgery done.

I have a followup visit scheduled where I hpe that I'll get to have this exact discussion with my surgeon (that I've decided to do, what type I'm leaning towards, and what's a good date)....instead I get into the room and a physicians assistant that I've never met comes in and starts talking to me about when to schedule my DLHG (Double Loop Hamstring Graft - a type of ACL reconstruction)....what the hell?  First, this PA wasn't familiar with the fiasco that was my first surgery, and just came in assuming and ready to sign me up for another surgery!  I finally expressed a little of my discontent and WHOA THERE....first of all I never told anyone yet that I wanted surgery (even if I had already decided on exactly what she was describing) and I felt like I was owed a little honest conversation about my thoughts to make sure I was on board....

Long story short, I still didn't get to talk to my surgeon again till Friday when the surgery was's a good thing I read online about the surgery and the recovery process as none of that has yet to be explained to me....I have a followup in a couple weeks, but they've never talked Physical Therapy with me or given me any timeline on what I should be be doing and not doing during recovery.

SO....guess what, there's many many ortho centers in this area...if I or anyone else in my family or close friends needs to consult or requires the services of such a specialist, guess where we will not be returning for any business?  This place has lost a customer at the expense of trying to "get them in and get them out"....and I will be asking a lot more questions before allowing any procedures to take place that me or my insurance company will be paying for.  The waste and lack of customer service in my experience was to a point where I may very well have gone without the surgery rather than pay them for the service again...I may have to reach out to some of my peers in "Lean Healthcare" to find out what centers are actually worth giving business to in the future.

Ok time for another ice pack and percocet....which generally leads to a nap.  Night everyone.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

You Gotta Have the "Right Stuff" to be "Lean"

Recently, I had someone give a very basic response that Lean was basically "all that foundational stuff" (5S, Leveling, SW, Kaizen), plus JIT and Jidoka.  When I dug further, asking about their understanding of the concepts just rattled off before me, I got mostly succinct answers until we hit Jidoka.

"What is Jidoka", I asked.  "Why is it important" 

The response I got was that Jidoka was "And On Cords" and "Poke-Yokes"...oh and "Autonomation".  The gentlemen then paused for a moment and added "We have all those things." "

Yes, we do", I replied.  "But how are we USING them?"

The point I was trying to get across is that just about everyone under the sun by now has a decent textbook understanding of the concepts of JIT and at least partially of Jidoka.  But very, very few have the personnel structure in place to properly carry out Jidoka...without it all the other efforts stall, fizz, and fade backwards....and along with it any hopes of forward momentum in exposing new problems.

What you'll see in most businesses is an awful lot of first level employees doing "work" on the product or service the company exchanges for monetary value.  Companies spent a lot of time and energy training employee's on "how to do their jobs"....but for the vast majority, that really only includes the functional and administrative portions of their jobs.  When this happens, do this....when making this part, follow these steps...when a defect occurs, place it here.   What about teaching them how to improve their jobs?  How to solve their own problems?  Or is that a specialty expertise, reserved for the enlightened CI Specialist or Six Sigma Black Belt?

Let's back up for a moment and explore some organizations that assume right from the get go, that things will not go as planned....the military.

Ever heard the expression, "No battle plan survives first contact with the enemy" ? 

Both historically and in modern times, the most effective military organizations have been those with decentralized decision and problem solving quote Wikipedia's article on John Boyd (one of the most amazing strategists and problem solvers of the century) effective organizations use "objective-driven orders, or directive control, rather than method-driven orders in order to harness the mental capacity and creative abilities of individual commanders at each level." 

That all sounds wonderful, but how does an organization accomplish this?  If you look at the historical make up of military units, you find an interesting parallel between their personnel structure and that of highly effective organizations from other backgrounds.  They work in small hierarchical teams.  For instance, common military unit makeup goes something like this:

Fireteam         4 people led by a lance corporal or sergeant
Squad          2-4 fireteams led by corporal or staff sergeant
Platoon       2-4 squads led by a first or second lieutenant
Company    2-8 platoons led by a captain or major
Battalion     2–6 companies led by a lieutenant colonel
etc., etc.

This trend holds pretty true regardless of military unit, division, or nationality to the point that there is rarely more than 10 soldiers to a leader in any situation.  There is a leader, and yes they follow orders, but good orders are directional in nature, not specific as to method. 

John Boyd hypothesized that all intelligent organisms and organizations undergo a continuous cycle of interaction with their environment. Boyd breaks this cycle down to four interrelated and overlapping processes through which one cycles continuously which he coined the OODA loop.
  • Observation: the collection of data by means of the senses
  • Orientation: the analysis and synthesis of data to form one's current mental perspective
  • Decision: the determination of a course of action based on one's current mental perspective
  • Action: the physical playing-out of decisions
Of course, while this is taking place, the situation is often changing. Sometimes it's necessary to cancel a planned action in order to meet the new situation one observes.

The teams are responsible for using their training and situational awareness to PROBLEM SOLVE

Good organizations use the mental capacity of their members in this way.  Just as centralized planning is disastrous to national economies, so to is it hurtful to companies.

So what does this have to do with Lean?  If you take a good look at a truly "Lean" Toyota, HON, Danahar, etc, you'll find they share this type of structure.

Team Leader leads a team of 5-7 associates
Group Leader leads 4-5 Team Leaders
Value Stream Manager leads 2-5 Group Leads
Facility Manager leads 2-7 Value Stream Managers
Each leader leads by establishing "True North" and a set of goals or objectives that drive towards that ideal state, cascaded and aligned from the highest level so that all are working towards the same objectives.  But each is also a teacher and mentor, promoting and developing their subordinates abilities to see and solve problems.

Jidoka, you see, is not about poka-yokes and and on cords, or even multi machine handling.  It's about developing and using people that embody the OODA or PDCA mindset. (Toyota uses the PDCA, or Deming Cycle, but there's more similarities between that and Boyd's cycle then there are differences).  In order to do that however, you can't assign 30-40 people to a single leader...people need coaching and mentoring; someone not to provide the answers...but to ask the right questions.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Lean Certification

How many of you have either been approached by a recruiter, or gone job shopping yourself and low and behold there in the job description is something like:

"Requires a Lean Certification from a nationally recognized academy"

Really if Hajime Ohba, Tom Harada, or some other well known Toyota Sensei applied, they wouldn't be eligible?  What about the thousands of their lesser known students that learned Lean through years of direct mentoring and coaching, and their students and so on?

What's it mean to have a certification in Lean anyhow?  It could mean several different things, though none of them are quite as valuable as employers seem to think.  According to a post I saw on Linkedin last week, you can get a online Lean Certification in 30 days for free!  Wow...that's some super fast cheap learning right there.  Or you can go the more "elitist" route and get the ultra cool SME / ASQ / Shingo Certificate which is tiered into Bronze, Silver, and Gold Levels.  Of course that will set you back $700 for the Bronze, $2000 for the Silver, and nearly $4,000 for the Gold, not counting exam surcharges.  Now in all fairness, the BOK (Body of Knowledge - ASQ speak for what you got to know to pass our exam) for that certification is pretty extensive, and certainly far better than any others I've seen....but I still have some issues with it.

Besides the exam, "Gold" Level Certifcates require: (Copied straight from SME website)

  • Completion of (200 hours 80 from Bronze, 80 from Silver + 40 additional hours) minimum education/training requirements.
  • One (1) tactical project, Two (2) Integrative (Value Stream) projects and Two(2) Strategic (Enterprise) Projects: events, projects and/or activities to which specific lean principles and tools were applied*
  • Mentoring/Coaching
  • Integrative Portfolio reflection: results of the events, projects and/or activities.
 So basically, spend enough money with them (your training hrs), pass a 150 question 3 hr exam, complete 5 projects and then the last step, an interview.  Wow...exhausting huh?  Why are you doing all this again?  Oh yeah that's right, your employer (or perspective employer) requires it.

Matter of fact, when my last employer brought me on, I got called down to my managers office about a week or so into the job and was asked, "Do you have a copy of your Lean Certification for HR?  I want to grandfather you as "Lean Certified" so you don't have to complete our Lean Leader training".  Well yes, actually I did.

I know, I know... here I am talking certificates down and low and behold I have one.  Well as it turns out, before my first employer seemed to know any better, they went through great pains to get us "certified" through a customized program at the University of Michigan.  It wasn't a "bad" way to spend a week, per se...the class at that time was taught by the likes of Jeff Liker, Mike Rother, Bill Constantino, etc all well established guys in their own right.  But besides a week of classroom sessions and exercises, all we had to do was complete a current and future Value Stream Map when back at our regular jobs and identify the gaps and show progress to get our certificate.  Was I really all "certified" to go out and practice and teach Lean?  Hell would be many, many more years before I even realized what the heck I didn't know at that point (I thought I was pretty good back sad huh?)

But you want to know the worse part?  I've actually now become conditioned to avoid companies that list requirements like this...because I know it's not a place I want to work.  Lean is not a program to be measured, (please God stop sending out Lean Assessments!) nor is it a "proficiency" that you can measure at some static point in time.  Lean is something you practice, every day,  it is literally the process of learning and progressing through the body of knowledge of your own world.  It's not whether you can calculate takt time, or know some stupid formula to calculate the proper number of kanban (which is ridiculous btw, that too should never be static).  Therefore, at any point in our lives, we are all both Sensei (Teacher) and Deshi (Student or disciple)...both Bronze and Gold - do I need to spend $4K, or can you just look at my work history and talk to my mentors and students to see that I do my best to spend every day being both teacher and student?