Sunday, March 10, 2013

Lean Hint of the Day: You Need to Be as Persistent as Hell

Lately, at least here in New England, I see a revival in persistence. Not sure if you have noticed, but often, when I am filling my car with gas, someone comes up to me and asks me if I'm interested in a demonstration of a revolutionary tire cleaner/trim protect-ant. The guy offers to clean a small area of my car with this product, hoping I'll fork over $20 or so for my very own bottle. While pumping my gas, he approached every car that pulled in, both gas pumpers and convenience store patrons, bottle of miracle goop and rag in hand. 

Being a process freak, I determined he approaches 2.5 people per minute. Smiling, joking, talking about the weather and the Mets. Some folks tell him to scram. Then he got to me. I asked him how long he stays. He said usually 5 hours. I asked him how long he's been at it. He says steady for 7 months. That rings up to ~600 people a day that he approaches. I ask him how many he sells in one day. He says usually 2 or 3. If my math is right, that's 597 "get losts".   I ask him how he doesn't just throw the bottle at some people. He says he likes people. I tell him if he can do this, he can sell anything. He tells me his name his Hector, I tell him my name is Bill. I give him the money and he gives me the goop. (sounds like a good grab bag gift next Christmas, eh?)

As I'm driving away, I can't help but be inspired by this twenty something, down on his luck, incredibly persistent entrepreneur. And I also can't help but think of the lean champions I work with as part of my P4 business, plus my own "lean journey". The job of lean champion is very similar to Hector's. Hector KNOWS when he shows up at various gas stations that people aren't going to hug him and say, "Finally!! Where have you been all my life?"  Same with LEAN. Building a culture of self-sustaining continuous continuous improvement takes Hector's persistent mindset. People don't "buy in" until you can convince them how it can improve their lives. And you can't convince them easily with words. And it's even harder if you use a lot of Japanese words. Help people identify overburden in their own processes, and teach them how to eliminate it. Then they begin to be convinced. People will come along when they feel a sense of ownership in what they do.

I wish I knew when I started the lean journey at Duraflex exactly how much Hector I would need. "Throwing the bottle" does nothing but sabotage progress. Let's just say I may have tossed it a time or two in frustration!

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