A Lean Guy Reads Inc. Magazine, July/August 2011


The articles from the July/August 2011 issue of Inc. Magazine aren't online yet, but there are two things I wanted to go ahead and blog about.

One article had a very “Like Lean” attitude about employee motivation and the other highlighted a company that honored its big mistakes.

The first article was by Jason Fried of 37signals fame, called “Ride the Lightning.”

In a column about creativity, there was an expected turn, as Fried wrote about:

“When I detect that an ordinarily creative employee, hasn't been in the flow for a while, I will ask him or her about it, try to get the issue out in the open.”

What I like about Fried's approach is that he's not blaming the person for being unproductive. This probably takes a good culture of trust to talk about this, but he's “asking why” as we'd want to do in the Lean management style. Fried is open to the idea that employee just isn't interested in their current project and Fried thinks first to reassign the person to something they can have intrinsic motivation for. I'm sure that works much better than the usual management tricks of incentives or threats of punishment.

Fried also leaves open the possibility that the employee is having “external issues – such as a personal crisis” and it sounds like he would be understanding about that.

We have to treat employees as unique, individual, and complex human beings – not robots who are expected to perform the same every day.

The second standout was the article “And the award goes to… Rethinking annual honors.”

SurePayroll, a company based in Glenview Illinois, has an annual awards ceremony. You might think of Dunder Mifflin and “The Dundies,” but SurePayroll has a noteworthy award, the “Best New Mistake” award.

“We underline the new part,” says SurePayroll's president, Michael Alter. “There's no award for making the same mistake twice.”

The award is intended to show that “failure is always an option” in a “culture of innovation.”

“If you don't encourage people to take risks, then you end up with incrementalism forever,” says Alter. “Mistakes are the tuition you pay for success.”

Wouldn't it be nice if more organizations had that attitude, instead of expecting people to be perfect and wanting everything to be a success? If you demand that everything has to be a success, you end up with very cautious people…

p.s. If you live in the DFW area, come meet me tonight as I present at the local DFWLean event for the Lean Startups crowd.





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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


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