I enjoy “gemba visits” (of sorts) to wineries and vacations often focus on this walking, tasting, and learning.
I usually read the wine column that's in the Wall St. Journal each Saturday, and this one stood out to me:
I am friends with a couple of formally trained sommeliers who work in the field in the Dallas / Fort Worth area. They are, to me, experts in wine, but they are at the second level (out of four) in the official sommelier certification system.
I learn a lot from them and, like any good coach, they don't make you feel bad for knowing less than they do.
There are, perhaps, some parallels between the process for passing through the various levels of sommelier training and certification:
- Level I – Introductory
- Level II – Certified Sommelier
- Level III – Advanced Sommelier
- Level IV – Master Sommelier
There is a process of life-long learning and professional advancement along the way, just as you'd have in a Six Sigma (or Lean Six Sigma) “belt” system:
- White Belt
- Green Belt
- Black Belt
- Master Black Belt
There are sometimes additional colors of “belts” (which gets silly at times), but there's a progression, as there also would be in the industry-standard “Lean Certification“:
Certification can be a controversial topic in the Lean community — see the 91 comments on this post of mine from 2009:
Toyota doesn't offer belts… but they certainly focus on developing employees and leaders. I've heard of them certifying people in certain problem solving or improvement processes, but it's not a “belt” system.
Lifelong learning doesn't necessarily mean labels or certifications. Tracey and Ernie Richardson write about this focus on development in their new book (which I love): The Toyota Engagement Equation.
The Level I somm process involves passing a test. We'd often see the same thing at lower levels of Six Sigma or Lean certification, although there's ideally some practical improvement work that's demonstrated and required for those belts to be granted.
The higher levels of the somm process require the demonstration of deeper expertise as shown through blind tastings, demonstrating and simulating proper wine service in a restaurant setting, etc.
The “Master Sommelier” level is extremely difficult to reach. Per wikipedia:
This exam has a pass rate of less than 1% and it is common for many Sommeliers to make five or more attempts before finally achieving success.
There are currently only 149 people in the WORLD with the Master Sommelier designation.
Both the wine world and the Lean community have people who are new to Lean.
It's pretty common for people to demonstrate the “Dunning-Kruger” effect, where we overestimate our knowledge of something at the beginning of our learning journey:
How often do we hear things like this from somebody who is new to Lean?
- Lean seems so simple
- Lean seems just like a bunch of common sense
- We've been doing Lean for years, we just don't call it that
There's also the temptation to learn something new and then we want to tell everybody about it. I've perhaps been guilty of that in my learning about “Motivational Interviewing” (so much so that I created a web page with some resources and links to what I've been writing as I learn).
But here's the part of the WSJ article that prompted this post:
Aldo Sohm, wine director of Le Bernardin and co-owner of Aldo Sohm Wine Bar in New York, has seen plenty of newly minted somms, whom he considered “almost un-hirable” in their nascent stage. They're often so giddy with knowledge they tend to lecture, not listen to customers. And yet “the true artistry” of the job lies in “being able to listen,” said Mr. Sohm.
Are people sometimes so “giddy” about something new, including Lean, Six Sigma, and Motivational Interviewing that we are guilty of pushing an idea or telling people about new tools whether they are interested or not?
It's a bit ironic, since Motivational Interviewing (MI) emphasizing “evoking” motivations for change instead of “telling” people why they should change. MI also focuses on being careful about giving advice, since it tends to provoke a negative and opposite response.
I think this happens a lot with Lean tools… somebody learns about 5S and they want to go push 5S on others (sometimes with disastrous – or at least annoying – results):
At what point in our practice of Lean do we get better at being able to listen to the needs of the organization? When do we get better at listening to the people we are helping?
“True artistry” seems to be a good term for somebody who is good at this in the context of Lean. MI also emphasizes that coaches should listen more than they speak.
Here's a story from the WSJ about pushing something a somm was perhaps giddy about:
He related the story of a young sommelier who loved a particular red wine from the Jura so much that she persuaded a table of women who liked California wine to try it. The women weren't happy. Mr. Sohm intervened with a big, rich California Pinot Noir from Kosta Browne that the women all loved.
A good somm listens to what the customer likes or desires and finds something that's likely to be a good fit rather than pushing what they like.
The same is true with a good “Lean facilitator” or “change agent?”
The risk of being giddy is that our excitement gets in the way of progress… which is the exact opposite of what we should be trying to do if our primary goal is helping somebody change.
If the goal is to feel good about being an expert, then being giddy might well serve that purpose.
Let's think of a scenario where a manager comes to a Lean facilitator looking for help:
Manager: Hi, we have really been struggling with ED patient flow… our length of stay is too long, patients are leaving without being seen… I'm under a lot of pressure to improve, but I don't know if we can do it.
Facilitator: Great, let's do a SIPOC!
Manager: I don't know what that is, but I have a problem to solve.
Facilitator: Don't rush to solutions, we have to do a SPIOC first! That's always the first thing we have to do. Have you downloaded the new A3 template?? We need to start with the first boxes of the A3. And then we'll do 5S. My instructor said 5S is always a very important first step… I mean after the SIPOC. We have to go slow to go fast as they say!!
Manager: Wait, what now?? I don't think I have time for this… I just have a problem to solve.
It's easy to see where that got off track. Would the facilitator then perhaps blame the manager for not being interested in Lean? Blame them for not being committed to change? Label them as a bad manager who maybe needs to “get off the bus?”
I'd suggest that giddiness is a natural state of progression in the practice of Lean or the learning of anything new. I guess this speaks to the need for good coaches and mentors for those who are “practicing Lean?“