Sunday, June 30, 2013

Change is Easy when Someone Else is Doing the Changing

One of my favorite expressions has to be, "if you want results others don't get, you need to be willing to do things others won't do." I'm pretty sure I picked that baby up in my sports travels somewhere. I also like "everyone has the will to win, not everyone has the will to prepare to win." That, I know, was Bear Bryant, legendary Alabama football coach. 

Pretty inspiring, right? So how can we take some of that inspiration and use it to benefit our lean game plan? The assumption is, that to get the best results possible, we need to shake things up some, get out of our comfort zone. I've learned that the best results often start with an idea that most sane people laugh at, or attack. It makes sense. The same process will most likely give you the same results, and unfortunately the path of  least resistance is usually the path we're on already. The trick is to get everyone used to fearlessly experimenting with different paths. (if it doesn't work, we can always go back). The very definition of insanity is "doing the same things over and over and expecting different results." The processes that got you to today most likely won't get you to tomorrow. Great companies don't "do lean" for slightly better results. They do lean for extraordinary productivity results others don't get. This requires a change in thinking that is very uncomfortable for many.

We humans are creatures of habit. We are often most comfortable when our day is fairly similar to any other day. Think about your life. Just think about your morning routine. Get up, into the bathroom. Jump in the shower. I'd bet my house that you shower the same way every day. Shampoo first or soap first. Armpits first or face first. Same with shaving. Start at left side burn, left side of face, then chin, upper lip, neck, right side of face. I've never shaved my legs, but I bet there is a mentally scripted routine there too. Auto-pilot. Running your business can't be auto-pilot.

Our habits and routines are a source of comfort and well being. Now think about the concept of standardization when applied to lean thinking. Standardization is merely the best we have as of today, with the understanding that we will forever be improving. No end in sight. Just because we all agree that this is the best way today, we aim to improve it tomorrow, until we get to this place called flow (total absence of 8 wastes), which is like getting to the pot of the gold at the end of the rainbow. How can you get an entire company full of humans comfortable with constantly looking at changing their processes? Standardize then improve, standardize then improve, til death do us part. 

It all starts with the leader. One of my sensei told me many years ago that I shouldn't expect others to embrace change if they don't see YOU changing. He warned me that my days should be completely different than they are now. We cannot delegate change. The companies that do it best are ones where the leaders have changed the most. The leadership is extremely visible and are constantly demonstrating that continuous continuous  improvement is important. They change the way they communicate. All of a sudden, they don't feel they need to be the smartest person in the room. They ask a lot of questions. They show up at most of the A3 closings. they go thank people a lot. Are you willing to show them a whole new you?  "If you want results others don't get, you need to be willing to do things others won't do."       

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