I had an amazing conversation on Saturday with Paul Akers (pictured at left), the founder and president of FastCap, a company in Washington, a former Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate seat, and the host of “The American Innovator” radio program and podcast. His latest initiative is LeanAmerica.org.
After last week, which had so much negative energy, Paul is such a breath of fresh air about Lean, employee empowerment, and kaizen.
I’m ready to run through a wall after talking to Paul, given his energy and enthusiasm for Lean at his company AND for Lean as a positive societal movement.
Paul and I share the view that people shouldn’t be miserable at work. Better yet, they should LOVE coming to work. Paul is helping spread that spirit through their heavy focus on employee kaizen efforts. Paul describes how visitors come into FastCap and they’re blown away by how HAPPY everyone is. As Paul says, “kaizen is FUN!”
Paul is similar to Karl Wadensten and other manufacturing leaders who fully embrace Lean’s core concepts of “respect for people” and the idea that everyone should be involved in kaizen. As Paul said, “people are geniuses!” The Lean movement is full of people like Paul and Karl.
I agree with Paul in his assessment that the entire country would be better off if these positive Lean mindsets and principles were deeply embedded in our culture. Instead, our culture is embedded with Taylorist thinking (working is separated from thinking) and traditional “leadership” mindsets that lead to disengagement and workplace misery.
Paul and FastCap have an amazing and prolific FastCapTV YouTube channel with video documentation of their kaizen efforts, including this one:
Is that a million-dollar cost saver? No, but that misses the point. Lots of little ideas lead to a better workplace culture and a huge impact on the company. Ownership of ideas is a good thing. Being forced to implement Lean tools in a top-down way, bad.
The YouTube channel features kaizen success stories, but Paul realizes that employees need a safe environment where it’s OK to “fail” in your kaizen efforts, or this doesn’t work.
As Norman Bodek always emphasizes – one of the main purposes of kaizen is to make YOUR own job easier. Of course, we have to focus on the customer, but making your work easier frees up time to focus on customers (or for nurses to focus on patients!).
We can implement larger system-level kaizen efforts (including kaizen events), but this employee-driven front-line “just do it” kaizen is such a critical piece for building enthusiasm for Lean and for building a Lean culture.
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