By Mike Lopez
I’ve written about the four rules of Lean before. Earlier tonight, I was thinking about how they apply to marriage. To refresh those of you who have not read the Harvard Business Review article by Steve Spear and H. Kent Bowen, I will restate the rules here and share how I see them apply to relationships. This is the first in a four part series to apply each of the four rules.
Other posts in the Series:
- Lean Love Advice: Part 1 – This Post
- Lean Love Advice: Part 2
- Lean Love Advice: Part 3
- Lean Love Advice: Part 4
Welcome now to Lean Love Advice: Part 1
Rule 1: All work shall be highly specified as to content, sequence, timing, and outcome.
Rule 1 illustrates the importance of roles in a relationship. As men and women, we need to know how to behave in specific situations. Couples that establish specific roles within marriage are better able to deal with the challenges. In some cultures, men take the role of handling the family’s external matters. They arrange for the children to marry. They typically bring in the food for the household. Women take care of the internal matters. They prepare the meals and raise the children. They direct the household. Together, the man and woman run a family that operates smoothly inside and outside the front door.
Men and women in our culture have evolved a different model through cultural enlightenment. The stereotypical gender roles have been changed to produce a model that shares internal and external duties between the male and female. This is an excellent and flexible model that allows for men and women to serve the family in the most effective ways. The only flaw is that men and women become confused with their family roles and responsibilities. With the added complexity of our flexible system, we have lost the ease of standard work.
Thankfully, getting back on track is easy. We don’t need the traditional gender roles to move forward from where we are. We just need to work with our partner to establish standard work in the relationship. I don’t think this means that only one person works or one person does the dishes. To me, establishing standard work means that one person takes the lead on every internal and external household issue. One person takes the lead so that if help is needed from both parties, the leader is responsible for obtaining the help. In our house, I take the lead on teaching the kids how to read. I take the lead on keeping the cars serviced. My wife takes the lead on making doctors appointments. She takes the lead on buying birthday presents. That doesn’t mean I don’t make a doctors appointment. Two days ago, I made a dentist appointment for us. As lead, she was the one who reminded me to make the appointment.
As followers of Rule 1, a couple will establish which person in the relationship will take the lead on each internal and external matter of the household. This is the most important step.
Additionally, couples need to establish standard operating procedures for how they will perform day to day activities. This includes activities like spending money, saving money, gift buying during birthdays and holidays. Every man knows that he is expected to perform a certain way on the wedding anniversary. That expectation is not confined to one day of the year though. Standard work should be defined for all expected behaviors. If the standard is that nothing is done, that is fine. As long as both parties agree to it up front, it is standard work.
Next: Rule 2 – Communication
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