Sunday, August 20, 2017

Weedin' with a Hoe & Leader Standard Work

Bill's Garden
For those of you who have read (put up with) my drivel for the past 5 years, you know I like to compare a lean journey to a community garden. 

Interestingly enough, gardening this time of  year in New England is probably the most labor intensive.....IF you don't apply the concept of heijunka (load levelling). This is the one time of the year where the garden needs to be fertilized, watered, weeded & harvested. Some plants need to be nurtured and coddled, while others need to be relieved of their offerings. Once picked, it seems vegetables don't like to sit in buckets all that long, which means you know who needs to also be canning, making pickles, tomato juice, pesto, stuffed peppers, etc. And all the while, weeds of every variety, shape and size are just waiting for me to fall asleep at the wheel so they can take over the entire plot. 

Gardening heijunka, to me, means doing the same amount of work every day. Not neglecting the garden for a bunch of days and then spending hours catching up. This means I will maintain 1 row per day. Today was string bean day. My string beans are young plants, so all they need is to be kept weed free, well fertilized and a comfy bed of loose soil. Once the string beans look happy, then I will go through the entire garden looking for things that want to be picked. Tomorrow is eggplant day, the next day is peppers, the next tomatoes, etc. If this load levelling is kept up, weeding is very, very easy. In fact, as long as I am religious with this "leader standard work", I can weed an entire row, standing up, with the blade of my hoe, in about 20 minutes. If I shirk my leader standard work, or if it rains for a few days, the same weeding job is a couple of hours, playing catchup, hands and knees, pulling by hand into a bucket. 

Which brings me to your lean journey (trip from hell/Green Mile). If every manager, foreman, supervisor, CEO, COO, Vice President, Director can commit to spending 20 minutes daily (if you can't do 20, do 10!) in the lean "garden", your harvest will come quickly. Remember that people want to KNOW what is important to their boss, and they want to get caught doing it! If managers can't be bothered to spend time in the garden, be prepared for a very slow trip with lots of stops and starts (weeding on your hands and knees).  One of my Senseis told me 20 years ago that if my workday doesn't change completely (get "un-busy"), don't expect much for all the lean effort.

If most managers are willing and engaged, it's like weedin' with a hoe standing up.

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