I saw this quote on Twitter from the pastor Rick Warren (happens to fit in the 140 characters):
“Love isn’t letting people do whatever they want. That’s often cowardice or apathy. Love cares enough to tell the truth.”
I’m not equating Lean to religion here, but that same sentence would be equally true if you replaced the word “Love” with “Lean”:
“Lean isn’t letting people do whatever they want. That’s often cowardice or apathy. Lean cares enough to tell the truth.”
This sounds like a classic Lean leadership lesson to me. As John Shook often teaches, Lean isn’t classic top-down command and control, but yet it’s not a delegated hands off free-for-all either. Leaders have to care enough to hold people accountable, especially when following a standardized process impacts quality.
There’s always a middle ground with standardized work, in any setting. It’s not about a strict unthinking common practice… it’s a middle ground between “do it this way every time and don’t think” and “do it however you want.”
Look further at the Toyota principle of “respect for people.” RFP doesn’t mean being soft on people. Lean leaders push and challenge people to improve their thinking and to improve. Lean leaders tell the truth and want transparency. If things are bad and customers are complaining, you have to recognize that truth. If hospitals are hurting people because standardized practices aren’t being followed, a Lean leader has to be brave and make that reality apparent, bringing a team together to fix the problem instead of just looking the other way.
Having a standardized process doesn’t mean you are automatically “command and control.” Some people out there think any notion of standardized process is automatically bad because you’re telling people what to do. I don’t think that’s the case.
I’ve seen many leaders who are afraid to hold people accountable (because of cowardice or apathy, you could argue). This can be just as bad as being a command-and-control ogre who just barks orders at people.
There’s a middle ground. Leadership is as much art as it is science. Where’s that exact middle ground? That’s your job to figure out. How have you found that balance? In your Lean journey, have you erred too much to one side or the other? How did you adjust over time?
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