Mark and Lee Talk About Mistakes and Lean


My latest episode of “My Favorite Mistake” is one with a heavy Lean focus, so I'm sharing it here with you today.

My guest is Lee Houghton, a consultant based in the UK who has done a lot of Lean work. He's also host of a podcast called “Business Problems Solved” and I'm his guest today also on his podcast. This was a coincidence that both episodes were released within the same day… it was a mistake to not plan it this way!

Here is Lee interviewing me:

Here is Lee's episode of My Favorite Mistake:

Forcing Change on Others in the Workplace: Lee Houghton

For a full transcript, see the episode page.

In part, what's his “favorite mistake”?

“I absolutely love this question because it's made me really reflect on how many mistakes I have made. And I think it's fair to say I've made a lot of mistakes. So to pick my favorite one has been a challenge. I think back to like 16 years ago, when I fell into improvement, my manager said to me that I'd be ideal for it, or I didn't choose improvements, improvement chose me. And I went to the pub. It was a Wednesday. And I went to the pub that night. And after, after I've got the acknowledgement letter to say, I'm now going to be a lean coach in a, in a government organization.

And I told my friends that this is what I was going to be and my best mate looked at me. And he said, “Oh, one of them.” So talk to me. “One of them,” he went, “one of them who come into where people work and tell him how to do their job better. If you come into where I work and tell me how to do my job better, I would tell you to go away” or words to that effect. And so I never, I never listened to that. I just, I laughed that off. And then I think to like three, four weeks later, as I was learning about lean and about improvements, and I attended a, a visual management training and it was about performance boards, whiteboards.

And I left that training and I was all engaged. I knew the team I was going to be working with because I was supporting some of the more established team members. I knew the team I was working with. And I went over to the white board on a different team and I wheeled it over to a team that was working with and I was there. She's going to change your life. This is going to be amazing. I can't believe that we've not seen this before.

And I started to talk them through it. You're gonna, you're gonna have your performance here. Your people stuff or quality or problem solving here. It's gonna, it's going to be amazing. And then what stared back at me was blank faces, some angry faces. And then I think back to what my best mates said to me, and I thought you fool, you've done exactly.

You're, you're just exactly as he thought, the perception of the change people were. So my favorite mistake is thinking that I, after a little bit of training knew what was better for people in a team to improve. That's what my favorite mistake is because I really believe that over the last 15 years, I have been trying to unlearn that I've been unlearning that mistake because that's not the way that it needs to be done it's as a different way. And it's all down to knowledge.”

"So my favorite mistake is thinking that I, after a little bit of training, knew what was better for people in a team to improve."

I hope you'll listen to or watch the whole episode.


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Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker who has worked in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. His latest book is Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. He also published the anthology Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.

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