Monday, May 14, 2012

Another sworn enemy of LEAN: People Afraid to Try New Ways

In past blogs, we've discussed how e-mails, your mrp system, and sign-offs can sabotage your journey toward flow. Flow, remember is that nirvana where a customer places an order, and the order moves non-stop, without bunching up, through all of your processes, and you get paid. Never probably happen, but it's still the goal.

Today, I will cover another sworn arch nemesis of lean, people's perception that they need to continuously cover their butts. I did discuss FEAR a few weeks ago, but today I will dig deeper.

A wise man once told me you cannot understand the culture of a company in MOST cases by talking to the leadership team. (Remember the emperor with no clothes?). To truly get a sense of culture, go find out how free the people doing the value added work are to change (improve) their jobs.     

My goal has always been to create a population of people who are not afraid to do experiments using plan-do-check-act. What is the worst thing that can happen? You can always go back to the old way. I like to think of mistakes made by trying new ways as TUITION you need to pay to get closer to flow. The trick is to not pay tuition for the same learning twice. The best way to prevent paying twice is by doing A3. Even in cases where the new way proves costly, make sure people are not fearful to experiment again. And again. And again.

People who are overly concerned about covering their dupas are not likely to have the mindset needed for continuous improvement. Weeks ago, we talked about the language of "employee-ism". One of the favorite phrases of employee-ism is "I just work here." That's another way of saying that things are screwy, and I'm not sticking my neck out to improve things, because I'm afraid of the ramifications. In fact, one of the 8 wastes is underutilized people. Often, the reason they are underutilized is because they are afraid to try.

No one can be allowed to come to work and leave their brains in their car in the parking lot. To be the fastest (and therefore the most profitable) company in your marketplace, you need to use EVERY brain EVERY day. 


  1. To stop Chicken Little sickness (aka "covering your dupa" syndrome), management needs strip employee’s hearts of the notion that the sky is falling otherwise they don’t get to capitalize on the brains they pay for every day. This is a subject that is often misunderstood by management teams, as you mentioned in your post with the reference to the Emperor with no clothes. The financial drag on companies in the form of implicit taxes - trust taxes, employee engagement taxes, and restricted information flow would be staggering for most any organization if it was quantified into $$. To capitalize on every brain a pervasive culture of trust must be established and nourished from the top down, employees must be inspired with a sense of purpose, and management must model heart and brain engagement. Once implemented, the “cover the dupa” syndrome can begin to heal.

    On another note, your picture selections are great. I look forward to seeing your selections each time you post.

  2. Paulina,
    Again. thank you so much for your insight and perspective. And again, I couldn't have put it better myself. With trust comes security, and with that, the creativity of every person spreads like wild fire. Scary thought to compete with a company like that, isn't it??
    Thanks again Polli, I will work hard not to disappoint you with the pictures.