Jan 242013

Cutter IT Journal Call for Papers with Guest Editor Jim Sutton.

The heart of a modern enterprise is the knowledge work it does. How to run a factory effectively is fairly well understood these days. But strategy, market positioning, effective services and the like are what make for an effective business. These are all knowledge work activities. Enterprises and knowledge work leaders are moving away from the mass production paradigm and into a systems view using the Lean paradigm. Lean knowledge work emphasizes getting the most from people through appropriate decisionmaking, from executives through workers.

This trend is reversing the short-term, every-division-for-itself fractionalization that many organizations adopted during the financial pressure years spanning 2008 – 2010. This whole-system approach is being achieved through the use of the Lean paradigm as it percolates into the business-system level.

2013 is the year in which Lean concepts such as strategic value, operational kanban and others will begin to transform entire enterprises in several industries. This will further unleash the power of the systems thinking that gained a foothold in 2012. Lean will amplify both the effects of the systems thinking already at work, and the competitive advantages of those enterprises that choose to move further down this path.

One of the best indicators of this shift to a whole-system view is the rapid acceleration of “reverse offshoring” or “inshoring” — the return of business from lower labor-cost nations where it had been transferred in previous years. A systems perspective acknowledges the hidden and critical holistic costs and risks. It increases velocity and agility. Reverse offshoring and other signs show that more and more businesses are understanding the “extra factors” they must consider to become a more effective business system.

This is not the “pseudo-Lean” that many businesses adopted a decade ago — the endless kaizen programs and ossifying Six Sigma initiatives that no major player in the evolution nor front lines of Lean today accepts as consistent with the foundations of Lean.

This is the revolution that inexorably comes when you apply the root principles of Lean to enable running an enterprise as a system. It is the force that, in just a few decades, transformed Toyota from a tiny manufacturer in a devastated country that had no resources nor infrastructure, to the world’s largest auto manufacturer. Much of that change happened in knowledge work. We will see growing pockets of such change as other enterprises start down the same path in earnest in 2013.

The major risk in undertaking this transition is that you may see major resistance from existing workers. In some cases, people have been exposed to pseudo-Lean programs that called layoffs and major disruptive role changes “Lean” (they are not). A skilled transition lowers people’s defenses by starting where people are, moving them gradually toward system improvement, and involves them in transformation decisions.

So is Lean the key to enterprise success? The upcoming Cutter IT Journal, with Guest Editor Jim Sutton, will tackle this debate. It welcomes insight on whether or not Lean is the path to achieving competitive advantage with its whole system approach.

Topics of interest may include (but are not limited to the following):

* How can a Lean strategy provide the means for organizations to achieve competitive advantage?
* What kind of leadership is necessary to make a Lean transformation?
* Is a Lean transition realistic?
* What are the benefits and challenges of implementing a Lean strategy?
* How can Lean be adapted to a large-scale software or mixed-element (e.g., adding hardware, structures) operation?
* What is critical to transforming a knowledge-based organization into a Lean enterprise?
* Will certain industries be more successful than others at putting a Lean strategy in place?
* What case studies have demonstrated successes or failures with Lean implementations?

SEND US YOUR ARTICLE IDEA by 8 February 2013

Please respond to Jim Sutton, jsutton[at]cutter[dot]com, with a copy to itjournal[at]cutter[dot]com, no later than 8 February 2013 and include an extended abstract and a short article outline showing major discussion points.

Accepted articles are due by 15 March 2013.

Editorial Guidelines


  2 Responses to “Call for Papers: Is Lean the Path to Effective Knowledge Work?”

  1. You wrote that “reverse offshoring” or “inshoring” is an increasing trend. I would add that that really depends on the industry. The lower labor-cost nations are realizing more and more that they don’t actually need the support from the First World nations to make it. Furthermore, there are making important decisions to make it on their own in First World Nations. The perfect example are Chinese companies. I think that your call to papers should include this trend as well, what do you think?

    • avatar

      Hi, Damian

      Yes; I totally agree, and a nice addition to the points in the call. Indeed, the move of outsourcing-provider countries towards developing their own infrastructure is an example of the trend towards the whole-system view of the enterprise. These countries are doing what I’ve mentioned seeing the US and other first-world countries beginning to do, but they are doing it even before developing a significant offshoring phase of their own. Perhaps they will skip that step altogether, as it seems they are learning quickly from our experiences.

      There are many such points that can and I hope will be made through articles in the Journal issue. Rather than trying to incorporate each them into the call as they are brought up, I would be delighted if you and others who raise such points would write an article and expand the dialogue on the Lean-systems evolution of IT and industry in general! That will allow the elaboration that these points deserve.

      Thanks for commenting.


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