Mark's Note: Here's part 4 of a series by our guest blogger, Andy Wagner. Start reading with Part 1 here.
“What lies behind us and what lies in front of us pales in comparison to what lies within us.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
Jamie Flinchbaugh recently hosted an interesting discussion on who is responsible for lean successes, and perhaps more tellingly, lean failures. The last several days, I've shared my personal lean journey of the past six months. I hope to continue to do so as I make progress, both personally and professionally. For some eight years, I've read books, articles, blogs, and training packages on this thing called “lean”. Like most of us, I've seen and applied lean tools. I've cheered the successes and jeered the the LAME imitations.
I started out blaming the system and ended up using the system as an excuse not to make improvements.
Suddenly, I feel like I've had an awakening. I've found the way.
I started this series quoting Gandhi. “You must be the change you want to see in the world.” I chose that overused quote because it so closely represents the experience of my six month kaizen adventure. I wasn't satisfied with my ability to change or influence the system around me, so I focused instead on being that change. In doing so, I experienced the lean ideal in a way I couldn't through shallow application of the tools to other people's work.
I standardized my work. I eliminated backlogs and firefighting. I level loaded my daily tasks. I quit blaming myself and my management for problems, and focused on finding solutions–true respect for people. I did a focused hoshin review on my personal life and tied that review back to my daily standard work. Quite accidentally, I started dragging my wife and my co-workers along for the ride. I'm leveraging my standard work in asking others to do their critical tasks every day– it's on my checklist.
There has been a lot of discussion lately in the lean blogosphere about the differences between lean tools and lean management. Having gone through this process in my own life, I don't know how a continuous improvement leader who hasn't embraced lean for himself or herself can claim to know much about lean. They might know the shallow tools, perhaps better than I, but I don't think they can understand how this philosophy of improvement can help people to learn and grow and gradually improve themselves and their work, one small change at a time. Lean management, then, is the personal application of lean thinking to the manager's world. Doing so truly opens ones eyes to all the possibilities.
As Michelangelo would say: “ancora imparo…I am still learning.”
I hope you will continue to join me.
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