Sunday, October 5, 2014

Lean Leadership Tip: Get Yourself Out of the Way (Warning: Graphic Video)

It is not too often when you are lucky enough to get one of your aha moments on tape! The attached video is not easy to watch, parental guidance is advised. You'll see me (the Back Judge) all the way to the left of the screen in the first view, and at the top in the replay. (For one shining moment, I must have thought I was playing for the white team).

My lean journey started out a decade or so ago very strong. Plenty of energy, plenty of lever. I was personally involved with just about every step. Everything from improvement events (kaizan) to structured company-wide learning (reading books, doing quizzes, visiting other lean companies, etc.). If something lean was happening, you would find my homely mug right in the middle of it. It went on like this for over a year for sure. 

The problem was I was the gas and the brake. If I was out, nothing happened. If I needed to travel, nothing happened. 

Then some 22 year old college football player ran into me. And that was yet another aha moment. I need to get myself out of the way!!! Sometimes a good collision is all you need to start to think clearly.

Stop giving answers. Give questions. Open ended questions. It took awhile to get used to, but I began to practice a skill called "humble inquiry". (Check out the book "Humble Inquiry: The Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling" by Edgar Schien). Now keep in mind I didn't do it well at first. It takes some time to break the habit of being the boss for many years. I would slip up and come out with some brilliant answers. People were a bit frustrated at first, because they were so used to me letting them off the hook by telling them what to do next. But, the more I tried asking open ended questions instead of giving answers, the more people felt comfortable enough to "take over". Remember that the true experts of any work are the people who do t every day. They are the experts, and trust me, they know the best ways to improve it. The reason being a consultant is so fun is because at have to ask open ended questions because I really and truly don't know all that much about the processes my customers are improving by A3.

Lean results are marginal at best when they are done "top down", and truly extraordinary when you apply heijunka (load leveling) to the brainpower in your business. Start by thinking about how you can get yourself out of their way!

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