I had the privilege of speaking to a class of 4th year Engineering Students at Queen’s University. The topic was Lean and ‘How Could it Help’. Over the years I have spoken to many audiences and the reaction to Lean from those interactions has been varied. But there is something refreshing about discussing Lean with the new generation. Their situation is different. These graduates are just heading out into the adult world of employment and opportunity and are attempting to figure out where they can have an impact with their formal education and their own experiences. They recognize that we have left them with a huge challenge of trying to clean up the ‘mess’ we have created in this country and globally.
We discussed many topics – origins of Lean, Canada’s competitiveness or lack thereof, the importance of understanding the thinking behind Lean and the critical, structured method for effective application and of course, how Lean could possibly help successfully turn this country around. Many of them talked to me after the session and were wondering, which are the best companies/organizations to apply to? Which of them could provide a chance to combine their formal education in engineering with the Lean methodology? Being part of the older generation I had not really looked at the employment scene from the eyes of a graduating student. They are not only struggling with an economic downturn where jobs are scarce but they are trying to apply to companies that are not only focused on bottom line profits, but also on the future. You would think that answering their basic question would be quite easy.
Over the past two decades, I have been involved with hundreds of organizations throughout North America, so in my mind it would be a matter of identifying the ‘good’ ones who have long term visions and are focused on true, sustainable success. And the reality is that there was only a handful of companies that could meet those parameters.
Through asking “which are the ‘good’ companies?”, they had just pointed out the major problem with Canada and its inability to be competitive in both the manufacturing and non-manufacturing sectors. Our leadership, public and private, are interested in short-term gains even though we talk about leaving this world a better place for our kids. And until we change this short-term focus, we will never be a successful and proud country. Maybe it is time for the older generation to recognize that we failed and step aside to let those who want to build a future take over, before it’s too late.