Lean Love Advice: Part 2 of 4


By Mike Lopez

I've written about the four rules of Lean before. I have been 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 second in a four part series to apply each of the four rules.

Other posts in the Series:

  1. Lean Love Advice: Part 1
  2. Lean Love Advice: Part 2 – This Post
  3. Lean Love Advice: Part 3
  4. Lean Love Advice: Part 4

Welcome now to Lean Love Advice: Part 2

Rule 2: Every customer-supplier connection must be direct, and there must be an unambiguous yes-or-no way to send request and receive responses.

To me, this is the most important rule of all. Communication has to be the biggest problem in a relationship. Isn't it the premise of several marriage books that communication is the cause of most major marital problems? I believe it. Rule 2 tells me that relationships have a better chance of success when both parties create unambiguous communication paths. Rule 2 applies to Rule 1 in a very important way. If I have taken the lead on finances, there must be a way for me to ask for help when needed. Rule 2 gives us the insight to create an effective communication plan. If I need help, I need to specifically request for help preferably using SMART requests:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Acceptable
  • Realistic
  • Time-bound

What is a good SMART request? “Honey, after you throw that raw meat into the trash, would you take the bag of trash out and throw it into the garbage can right away? I don't want it to smell up the house.” This is specific (throw trash out), measurable (it is done or not), acceptable (she is not asking me to eat the raw meat), realistic (taking trash out is easy), and time-bound (right after I throw away the raw meat.) A malformed request would be, “The trash needs to go out.”

This may seem excessively formal, but I love this type of request because it makes it so easy to please my wife. I know exactly what she wants and can give it to her exactly how she wants it.

Next: Rule 3 – Flow

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  1. I’ve always found SMART goals to be somewhat lacking. There’s definitely some value to the approach, but it seems to lead to a “you got what you asked for” mentality, rather than a “deliver what the customer wants” mentality. I find that conveying the intent of the request is far more important than the specifics of the individual request.

    You stated the intent this in your example–the intent was to avoid stinking up the house–but the actual SMART request does not need to include it. I find that most miscommunication, both at work and in my marriage, happens not because requests are not SMART, but because they are lacking in intent.


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