Friday, April 13, 2012
The Christmas With No Clapping
If your ambition in life is to be "Most Popular", Lean Champion is probably not the job you want. One of my defining moments was at our company Christmas party after the first nine months of our "lean journey". Every employee gets called up by the company president, he says a few words, and hands each person their portion of the profit sharing bonus. Usually, it is a fun time, as the person's turn comes, 70 people clap, cheer, yell out things like "good job Cheryl!". Just a festive environment. My turn came. No clapping, no catcalls. It became the "Green Mile". Silence. Crickets.
Looking back at that day many years later, I realize it was probably one of the MOST important days in my growth as "Lean Leader". You see, our lean journey began out of necessity. The ship hit a big rock. We KNEW our processes were not producing the right result. Having been crowned Lean Champion, I was more than willing and happy to change YOUR process. Even processes that hadn't changed in 30 years. Couple this eagerness to fix YOUR process with a growing "healthy disrespect for the current condition" (code for I was beginning to think how we did everything sucked), and the result was my teammates weren't all that pumped up when they saw me coming. To add fuel to the fire, I didn't fully understand the dynamics of change and how it impacts others. We were also expecting that people would read, study, and do quizzes. Not a great recipe to be crowned Homecoming King. I know now that change can't be an avalanche, but a slow, steady, continuous, every day thing. The tortoise, not the hare. Plus, it is disrespectful for ME to fix YOUR process. Plus, I learned that if you are resistant to change, as a leader I haven't convinced you the benefits are worth it. (if the student hasn't learned, the teacher hasn't taught)
In subsequent years, the cheering at the Christmas party got bigger. Especially when the financial impact of people seeing and eliminating the 8 wastes to move toward FLOW really caught fire. Imagine being able to hand out profit sharing bonuses equal to 15% of every employee's annual pay? Silence turned into hugs and tears!!
Looking back, I realize the "Christmas with No Clapping" was one of the greatest days of MY Lean transformation.