Friday, March 23, 2012

Going from Resident EXPERT to Dumbbell - A Good #Lean Leader

In a LEArNing organization, there is a large population of people with a spirit of experimentation and an eye for small, continuous improvements. This results in people hacking away at process TIMES by using the tools to SEE and remove waste in their own processes. This distribution of brainpower is not conventional wisdom. Conventional wisdom is that bosses get the air conditioned office and good parking for a reason-they're the really smart ones. Many times, when crises arrive, people go right to these experts to get answers, I confess that in my company, I was one of those "experts". A line of people were at my door waiting to get my answers. It took me quite awhile on our lean journey to realize that I was an anchor! In the way, a roadblock. When I spoke, people's brains clicked off.  A room full of people would stop arguing and debating (both good things) when I decided it was the right time to put in my "two cents". The room would go quiet, all eyes came my way, and I would offer what I thought. Naturally, I was the smartest guy in the room. I was there the longest, had the biggest office, and parked the closest to the door. 

Somehow, one day I finally noticed that all thinking stopped when the expert spoke. I made up my mind to stop talking. Or, better yet, not show up. When people came to my office for wisdom, I answered by asking questions.  It worked! Then, when I decided to show up at the meetings again, I shut up and once in a while asked a question. Problems got solved in new, unique, innovative ways based on the consensus of all the brains in the room. Remember, managers manage the current condition, leaders motivate others to get to the target condition.

As an ordained lean consultant,  I've been given the opportunity to work with many smart companies that do hard things very well. I am a polymer chemist by trade. I am no longer PLAYING dumb. I am dumb. So I HAVE to ask questions. As a result, I can truly be an outsider looking in, people have been patient with me, and my tools are probably at their sharpest. 

So, the lesson for the day.....Can you become the dumbest guy in the room (will your ego allow it)? Or do you have to have all of the answers?

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