Monday, April 16, 2012

Learning the Rule of Thirds

Picture this. You are one of the greatest Generals in the history of mankind. You have decided that you and your Army (100 strong) will need to storm a hill. The hill is so important to the overall success of the battle. You've shown Powerpoint presentations in the Army conference room. You've even done some Lego exercises to simulate storming the hill. Time to storm. At the top of your lungs, you yell CHARGE!!!!, and you lead your troops up this long, 2 mile hill. You race to the top. Turn around. You are astonished to discover that, counting you, there are 34 of you at the top. There are 33 still at the bottom. And the other 33 are somewhere between you and the bottom.  Surprised?

As an obviously superior leader, I assumed when we started our LEAN journey that the entire company would be so overwhelmingly inspired that they would charge past me up the hill. That's when I learned the Rule of Thirds. 

1/3 of the people were early adopters. First to volunteer. Asking questions. Staying after class. Telling me "we need to do this, what do you need?". 

The next 1/3 of the people took a different approach. I call them the "wait and see people". They said and thought things like "We've tried things like this before". "I'm not over-commiting". "let's see what happens". They grudgingly followed along. Shook their head YES alot, but didn't really act like they were "all in". These were the people that didn't practice lean thinking until they got to the weekly meeting.

The last third said hell no I won't go. Only they didn't ALL say it. A few did.  The truly scary ones shook their head yes, then played saboteur. In the lunch room. At the coffee truck.  They were master recruiters of the wait and see people.

Many of the early adopters became my "Lean Beret". They helped me begin to convince the middle group to jump on board before they were "done in" by the saboteurs.  Remember that LEAN or TPS is a huge leap of faith. (Eliminating inventory means customers get their orders faster, Doing more with the same number of people with no overburden, etc. etc.). I wonder what group I would have fallen into if I wasn't leading the entire transformation? I realized that to win over the wait and see people, I would have to practice what football coach Bill Parcells said: "I go by what I see, not by what I hear." Working with the Lean Beret, we taught people to see and eliminate waste in their processes. Wait and See people saw this and wanted in. 

In the book "Lean Thinking", it is suggested that the "I won't go" folks (anchor draggers) need to be eliminated. We decided against that. Some left the company on their own. Others came around when the bonuses got bigger. This was the group that wore me out. 

Expect it going in! Don't get discouraged. It is the law of the land. The Rule of Thirds.

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