The Role of Purpose and Your Role
What is your role at work? Your purpose? Those questions might make you really stop and think.
I sat in yesterday on a class, taught by an ex-Toyota leader, that raised a number of thought-provoking questions about Lean and the development of people.
David Verble, a former Toyota North America H.R. and O.D. manager, teaches a number of Lean Enterprise Institute workshops including one called “Developing People with Capability for Lean.” David facilitated the workshop at a hospital and I was fortunate to sit in.
Drawing on his Toyota experience, Verble emphasized how the primary role of a manager is to develop people, to really coach and develop them – not just tell them what to do.
One of the key points was the focus on purpose, not tools. As I have said before, the main objective is not to “implement Lean,” the point is to improve your organization, develop people, and meet customer needs. He asked:
“Do you want employees just performing to task or performing to purpose?”
Are you just laying bricks or are you building a cathedral? You want people to understand their purpose, not just their job description or the tasks that are assigned to them. This is very similar to Jim Womack's “Purpose, Process, People” model. Your “role” (what you are responsible for) is more than your task assignments:
Managers play a critical role in making sure people understand this sense of purpose.
Part of that is to help people understand their roles — emphasizing that sense of purpose so people are motivated to do the right things. You can control people – command and control is not a workable model. You have to create systems and processes and encourage kaizen. And these systems (or standardized work) don't mean that we stop thinking, as Verble said:
“Standardization doesn't mean routinizing everything.”
This is true in manufacturing and in healthcare.
Think about your own job – the fact that you have a job is not an “end,” it's a means for your organization to accomplish a goal. How connected do you feel to that goal? One person at the hospital said she really had trouble articulating her purpose — and that meant she needed to have a talk with her manager SOON.
I'm lucky that my job at the Lean Enterprise Institute fits into a strong sense of purpose. Our purpose is try help make the world lean. My role, specifically, is to further the purpose of spreading lean in healthcare and helping our network members and the broader healthcare community move down the Lean path. I can only do so much as one individual, but if the things I'm doing aren't aligned with that purpose than I (and the LEI) would have a problem.
Can you articulate your purpose? Is that important to you? Do you suspect it's important to others in your organization?