Oct 21 2011

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Lean Manufacturing and the World of Warcraft

Any seasoned Lean Manufacturing expert will tell you that implementing Lean is not just about JIT, Heijunka or any sort of tools. It is about implementing a Lean culture of continuous process improvement. Toyota considers their ultimate competitive advantage to be the “intoxication of improvement” by every employee, from the shopfloor to the top floor. Thousands of improvement ideas are created every day, even for the smallest, mundane tasks. This strategy is in stark contrast to the “don’t fix what isn’t broken” mindset that prevails in many other organizations.

What Toyota believes is one thing. But, can this approach be scientifically validated? Can we simulate this kind of organizational behavior and measure its output? And if we can, what can we learn about managing thousands of new ideas, and then distilling them into action every day?

In this video, Dr. John Seely Brown, one of my favorite business writers, talks about idea innovation dynamics that are taken to a whole new level within the game of World of Warcraft (WoW), which happens to be my favorite on-line video game. At the end, Brown states “This may be the first time that we are able to prove exponential learning … and figure out how to radically accelerate what you’re learning.” Indeed, I have found this game could interestingly cast a new light on the social dynamics of Lean culture and how it might evolve in the future.

Guild Structure and Quality Circles
The WoW now has about 12 million players worldwide. It is not unusual to find 12,000 new ideas that were generated in a single night … a good night might yield 20,000 or more. As Brown explains, “The only way to get anything done seriously is to join a Guild … there is so much knowledge being produced every single day that without the Guild structure to help process this kind of knowledge, you would simply be overwhelmed.” A Guild in the WoW is a group of 20-200 people that work together to help process ideas. This structure greatly resembles the Quality Circle (QC) movement where employees form small groups that constantly seek ways to self-improve.

Everything is Measured; Everyone is Critiqued
In the WoW, it is easy to record every action and measure performance. There are after-action reviews on every high-end raid where everyone is critiqued by their peers. This resembles the typical PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act) process used in QC. The challenge, however, is that in the manufacturing world there is still too much information recorded on paper. Or, if recorded electronically, on multiple, segregated systems. This has inhibited the sharing, retrieval and analysis of prior activities. In the same way, in the WoW you need to craft your own dashboard to measure your own performance. Within such a highly dynamic environment, static KPIs that were identified as once being important quickly become obsolete. The future of performance measurement technology appears to be going in the direction of more detail, delivered in real-time and with a high degree of personalization.

Exponential learning
In order to proceed to new levels in WoW, learning speed must increase exponentially, which includes the sharing of best practices from one Guild to another. One might argue that manufacturers are no different – best-practices need to be shared across and within the organization. Effective Continuous Improvement could lead to a state of exponential learning that constitutes the ultimate competitive advantage. In a sense, the computer world of WoW is able to simulate the social dynamics of how to accelerate learning and Continuous Improvement. The future evolution of Lean culture might learn from what innovations are regularly occurring within the present World of Warcraft.

What do you think? Are there any other WoW gamers that feel the same way, also working in the world of manufacturing?

The Knowledge Economy of World of Warcraft

Permanent link to this article: http://www.apriso.com/blog/2011/10/lean-manufacturing-and-the-world-of-warcraft/


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  1. Lean

    Lean management and manufacturing are the New Concept in India. Lean concept gives engineers a genuine description and process for continuous improvement in their respective business Business.

  2. Lean Manufacturing

    In order to frame problems, and to formulate and test solutions for them, whether we talk about manufacturing or management,”Lean” is the way to go. It indeed helps implementing a Lean culture of continuous process improvement. Toyota and other renowned organisations have proved it time and again.

    By using Lean concepts, we can efficiently establish a direction for the company’s improvement efforts blueprints for the lean transformation. It will also help visualize improvements to the overall production flow, instead of spot improvements to single processes.

    By using Lean management and manufacturing, one can create the basis for an effective implementation plan by designing how a facility’s door-to-door material and information flow could operate. Lean concept gives operators, engineers, and managers a common language and process for continuous improvement.

  3. translations

    It’s really a cool and useful piece of info. I am glad that you shared this useful information with us. Please keep us up to date like this. Thanks for sharing.

  4. GLobal Logistics

    I’m one of WoW player and I agree with you in the idea innovation social dynamics of Lean culture in WoW. Especially, in a term of “Everything is Measured; Everyone is Critiqued” you explain so clear! +1 like for your good article and your great website… Thank you.

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