Interview with Elisabeth Swan on Her New Book ‘Picture Yourself a Leader’


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Joining us for Episode #473 of the Lean Blog Interviews Podcast is Elisabeth Swan, author of the new book Picture Yourself a Leader: Illustrated Micro-Lessons for Navigating Change. It's currently the #1 new release in the Amazon TQM category... and #1 best seller, in general, there!

Elisabeth has consulted in the business process performance industry for over 30 years. Her experience spans from helping local non-profits expand their reach to guiding Fortune 100 companies through Lean Transformations. She has trained and mentored thousands of people in improvement projects generating millions in savings. She has deep experience coaching problem solvers and facilitating leadership retreats, strategic planning sessions, process walks, and kaizen events.

Elisabeth is the Co-Designer and Lead Instructor for the Lean Six Sigma Leadership Course at University of California, San Diego (UCSD). She is a co-founder, with Tracy ORourke, of the Just-in-Time Café and co-host of the Just-in-Time Café podcast. She co-authored, also with Tracy, The Problem Solver's Toolkit: A Surprisingly Simple Guide to Your Lean Six Sigma Journey.

In today's episode, we discuss her new book and the process for getting there, including the role of feedback, editing, and an editorial board as inputs to iteration and improvement.

Questions, Notes, and Highlights:

  • Tell us the story behind the book? Why this book? Why this format?
  • Sketching and drawing during the pandemic?
  • Why illustrate each chapter?
  • Asking people — “What have you figured out?” (PDSA) vs. “what do you know?”
  • Who is the book written for? Lean leadership or just good “leadership” influenced by C.I.??
  • Do some people have trouble picturing themselves a leader?
  • “The word leader can mean many things” — tell us more about that – how can everybody be a leader?
  • Author talk: Writing and Editing process – PDSA cycles? (Plan, Do, Study, Adjust)
  • Iterating, asking for honest feedback?
  • “The curse of knowledge?”
  • Iterating on the cover design?
  • “Heading off the head scratchers” — acronyms
  • “Perfecting Rework” — you invited me to contribute a “wisdom of the crowd” story here… 
  • W. Edwards Deming's – American way of making toast… you burn it, I'll scrape it

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Automated Transcript (Not Guaranteed to be Defect Free)

Announcer (1s):
Welcome to the Lean Blog podcast. Visit our Now, here's your host, Mark Graban.

Mark Graban (12s):
Hi everybody. Mark Graban here. Welcome to episode 473 of the podcast. It's April 12th, 2023. My guest today is Elisabeth Swan. You'll learn more about her in a minute. We're talking about her new book. Picture Yourself A Leader. So for a link to that, her website and more, look in the show notes or go to Hi everybody, welcome to the podcast. I'm Mark Graban. Our guest today is Elisabeth Swan. She's a returning guest from episode 389. If you want to go and check that out, I'll link to it in the show notes. I'll, I'll tell you more about Elisabeth in a minute, but most recently, she's the author of a new book.

Mark Graban (52s):
It's Outstanding. It's titled, picture Yourself, A Leader Illustrated Micro Lessons for Navigating Change. And it was the other day I noticed, not just a blip, but it's been there for a while. Number one, new release in the Amazon TQM category, total quality management, that little bit old term there. But before I tell you more about Elisabeth, welcome to the podcast. Congratulations again on the launch of the book and being off to a good start.

Elisabeth Swan (1m 19s):
Awesome. Thank you, Mark. Great to be here.

Mark Graban (1m 22s):
I don't know why that became such a speed bump for me. Like it it does. Before we, we talk a little more about your bio in this book, like, it's curious to me that that category is still called Total Quality Management.

Elisabeth Swan (1m 33s):
It's a really ancient term when I give people like the history of, you know, process improvement, continuous improvement, I'll say, well, back in the day, there's this TQM acronym Total quality. You know, just like I, we don't hear it anymore.

Mark Graban (1m 47s):
Right? And it's funny, Amazon, when Amazon was founded and started selling books, I think TQM was already a little bit in the rear view mirror in terms of popularity compared to terms Lean and Six Sigma and what, what have you. But I mean, the, the, the, the methods work, the lineage is, is clearly visible, I think in, in both Lean and Six Sigma.

Elisabeth Swan (2m 10s):
Yeah, it also, it's, it keeps changing. I know you, I know you know how the a the algorithms will bounce you around, but I, in the morning I'll see, oh, I'm number one in lean management. Oh, I'm number one in industrial relations with, with Katie Anderson next to me. You know what I mean? Like, sort of, it just keeps shifting. But yeah, the TQM was like, Hmm, interesting.

Mark Graban (2m 30s):
Yeah, and I didn't mean to imply that you and I are both ancient for knowing and having been around, they were still teaching around, they were still teaching TQM in the late nineties when I was in grad school, that academia sometimes lags behind the private sector and they've, they've shifted

Elisabeth Swan (2m 48s):
Since. Yeah. But no, I was in a consulting firm in the early nineties, and that was pre sort of lean being a buzzword in Pre Six Sigma. And it was was, you know, t q m was out there and set up reduction and, you know, these things, basically this firm was part of the rebuild of, of Japan after World War II. So anyway, yeah, I, I sort of put together all these terms over time. It's like they shift.

Mark Graban (3m 18s):
Yeah. And you know, again, if you wanna hear in the last episode with Elisabeth, she told a little bit more of her continuous improvement origin story. We won't go through all that again today, but episode 3 89, if you wanna check that out. So a little bit more about Elisabeth. She's consulted with business process performance for over 30 years. You, you said that before, before I did the 30, I'm almost at 30 years

Elisabeth Swan (3m 40s):
Just to drive home how long I've been working.

Mark Graban (3m 44s):
Her Elisabeth's experience spans from helping local nonprofits to guiding Fortune 100 companies through Lean Transformations among other things. She is the co-designer and lead instructor for the Lean Six Sigma leadership course at University of California, San Diego or U C S D. She's the co-founder of the Just In Time Cafe with Tracy ORourke. She's also the co-host of the Just In Time Cafe podcast with Tracy. And previously she co-wrote, again with Tracy partner in crime here, the Problem Solvers Toolkit, A surprisingly Simple Guide to Your Lean Six Sigma journey. And again, the new book Solo Endeavor here, picture Yourself a Leader. I hope people will check that out.

Mark Graban (4m 27s):
Elisabeth and Tracy have both been very involved. Let me give one other mention here in a group, very active during pandemic times, we still have a website we haven't met in a while. Lean is a website where you can find all of our podcasts and YouTube channels collected together. So, you know, thank you Elisabeth, for your participation and, you know, sharing and, and learning. That was probably, that was after we did the podcast last time. I let, let me just ask you about this. I mean, like, what were your thoughts about kind of, you know, collaborating and helping out and learning from other lean podcasters?

Elisabeth Swan (5m 2s):
That was incredibly enjoyable. I mean, the people were interesting people and I also felt like everybody brought something different and just a addressed, some of it was technical, like mics and audio and quality of, and choosing whether to do both audio and video. And also fun to bring people brought other information in like apps or I'm, I'm surrounded where I am with a public radio community and got a friend who's a voice coach to come in and just talk about what really helps when you're speaking, you know, sort of thinking about those things.

Elisabeth Swan (5m 46s):
So that was just really rich, I thought. And fun. I looked forward to it.

Mark Graban (5m 51s):
Yeah. And it was a great group. And there was a, a helpfulness, helpful spirit and collegiality. I mean, I I, I think even going back to 2005 when a couple of people were starting off with blogging, like, everybody, even though you're, you're competing for eyeballs, quote unquote, or with the podcast, okay, you're competing for time, attention, ears, eyes. But, you know, I think back to those days of blogging, I think people were trying to, you know, expand the size of the pie and, and, and help each other out. And I, I, I appreciate that spirit that we more mo most often, like, it's an outlier. If, if that doesn't seem the case. I think in the lean community, whether it's among authors, podcasters, consultants,

Elisabeth Swan (6m 33s):
It's a really good point. It is a generous community. There isn't a sense of, you know, it's, I mean, part of our ethos is a rising tide lifts all boats, right? Like, the more people know this and can benefit the, the better off we all are. So I feel that it, it feels strong in that community, which is nice. Yeah.

Mark Graban (6m 52s):
So thank you to everybody who is sharing and, and learning and helping each other out. One other thing I wanna mention before we get into the book is a webinar that is coming up, if you're listening to it before April 18th, Elisabeth is presenting a webinar as part of the KaiNexus Continuous Improvement Webinar series. It's titled, Deepen Your Lean Leadership Skills with Brain Science. I'll put a link in the show notes for registration. If you're listening to this or watching it after April 18th, the recording will be available. So I hope people will go and check that out. And I'll also put a link in the show notes to kind of a quick preview that Elisabeth and I did as part of the KaiNexus podcast series.

Mark Graban (7m 37s):
But I don't know, maybe can I put you on the spot for an elevator pitch type Go for it. Description of, of the webinar.

Elisabeth Swan (7m 44s):
Yeah. So this is born of the work I did with the book. The, a lot of the topics, what I realized was there's kind of underlying human foibles, right? Sort of people-centric stumbles that often are the result of the way we're wired. And once you're aware of it, which I spent time trying to understand, well, why does that happen? And then it was like, oh, well then here's a great way to deal with that. So just knowing kind of what it is that we, why we fall into the things we do when we don't have the impact we want, right? We wanna have good influence.

Elisabeth Swan (8m 24s):
And when we don't, these are some tips on why and how to, how to experiment your way out of it.

Mark Graban (8m 31s):
So there's gonna be a lot to learn. Again, April 18th, look for a link in the show notes or the YouTube description, or you can also go to So let's, let's talk about picture yourself a leader. I, I'm, I'm, I'm gonna start off by reading the full blurb that I wrote. This may embarrass you or hopefully bring it

Elisabeth Swan (8m 52s):
On, bring

Mark Graban (8m 53s):
It on, bring

Elisabeth Swan (8m 54s):
It on.

Mark Graban (8m 56s):
So it was a bit long, but I'm just gonna read it. Picture Yourself A Leader is a creatively written guide full of bite-sized morsels that provide nourishments and support for newcomers to continuous improvement, change management, and problem solving. And for experienced leaders, individuals can read the book or jump around to the tidbit you need at the moment, but it's also well suited for teams and book club discussions. So Elisabeth shares her thoughts and experiences along with her own illustrations with humor and jargon-free clarity. Also, it definitely incorporates wisdom of the crowd nuggets from other people in her professional circles in these lean circles. And then I ended it with picture yourself, dot, dot, dot a reader of this book.

Mark Graban (9m 39s):

Elisabeth Swan (9m 41s):
I, I should hold up the book so they can see where that quote ended up. Mark,

Mark Graban (9m 46s):
I don't have a copy in hand yet. You've got one, you should, there you go. Okay. Yeah, on the back of the book

Elisabeth Swan (9m 51s):
There, there's Mark Graban. I pulled that last piece there, but actually that quote, you touch on every kind of salient aspect of the book that you, you are deft. That's good.

Mark Graban (10m 7s):
I didn't mean, I didn't mean to write a book report.

Elisabeth Swan (10m 10s):
No, it was, there's a lot there. It, no, it felt you and there's a lot there. Thank you. But you captured it so that, that is a great, that is a great one to read.

Mark Graban (10m 20s):
Okay, well, sure. So yeah, I mean there's a lot there meaning in, in the book, and I think it's cool that it can be used so many different ways. So, you know, I always look to ask an author, I'm gonna do this here. Tell us the story behind the book. Like, what was, what was the spark of all the different things that you could write? Why this book, why this format? I know I, I jammed a bunch of questions there together,

Elisabeth Swan (10m 43s):
But yeah, that's all right. I'm gonna feel them all. Mark, I got this. Sure. So you hit on twice, or maybe this was when we redoing thing, how long I've been at this, I dunno if we call it our, our, our work world. It's been over three decades. So I, and I have had, as you have probably a lot of different hats and then an arc of learning, an arc of getting good at what we do. And part of learning as I think there's a book of yours coming out soon involves making mistakes and then, and then taking what you can and will from those mistakes.

Elisabeth Swan (11m 23s):
So early on in Covid, like a lot of people, I had more time than I expected on my hands. And I started thinking, well, let me start writing up some of these things I've figured out the, and the other aspect that drove this was stories in themselves. I use stories all the time. I use them to teach. And I remember finding out over time that those are the things that stuck if I told a story people remembered. So I thought, well, let me pull those stories together. And these are stories where it made clear either something that we all do, you know, and don't realize it, or a story where some, you know, I just didn't, didn't quite understand something and then suddenly it was clear.

Elisabeth Swan (12m 12s):
So I wanted to pull those stories together. So that's, I started posting them on LinkedIn and then I would basically ask our community, this is what I did, this is what I figured out. What have you experienced or what have you figured out? And they responded. So, and sometimes as you've probably seen it, you hit a nerve, right? And suddenly this thing has gone into a massive conversation and it's back and forth and there's a lot of people chiming in and sometimes they, they gave me a different perspective or they challenged the way I presented something and said, actually, I see it this way. And so I took in a lot of, I, it was almost like learning again through posting this story and the question.

Elisabeth Swan (12m 59s):
So the wisdom of the crowd section was born of, well, how do I keep that? How do I, you know, include that in the book? Cuz to me that was a rich part of this experience of writing all of these blogs over, over a year or so. So I, I started to select, like, just curate, all right, I'm gonna try to get three that expand the conversation, bring a different example or a technique. So I've just started to pull that together so that I did that. And then that left me with, well then I don't wanna, I, I wanna tie up what changed, right? Yeah. So then just a reflection after that of like, well, taking it all in.

Elisabeth Swan (13m 41s):
So it's a lot of voices. You, you, I can't put in the book, I couldn't include them all. So this is where I got to with this. And then asking the reader, how about you? Like, you know, is this an issue for you? What would you, what would you like to experiment with? Right? And just asking a few key questions. Yeah.

Mark Graban (13m 58s):
Tell us more about, you know, sketching or drawing. I, I'm not sure if either of or both of those words the right word to use or tell us about sort of like that practice or that habit and how that became part of the book, the illustrations with each chapter.

Elisabeth Swan (14m 14s):
Another good question. And it's funny cuz I initially called them doodles. Doodles, and then I had a couple of colleagues reach out and go, those aren't doodles, those are drawings. I was like, okay, they're drawings. But I have my family, my father taught sculpture in art history at the Museum of Fine Arts School in Boston. My mother is a painter, she's in gallery. She's still selling paintings. My brother-in-law is in galleries and paintings. My sister is a ceramic. I could keep going. There's just siblings. And my stepfather wrote and illustrated his own two cookbooks. So all around me are to my mind real artists.

Elisabeth Swan (14m 54s):
So I kind of relegated myself to, you know, like, well, I'm the redheaded stepchild. I never had red hair by the way. That's just an expression. But the, you know, i, I do like to draw and I think it was Karen Ross, I was working with her on something and she said, well do a drawing. Do a drawing. So I started drawing more. And then I thought, well, what if I captured this issue in a, in an image? And it's kind of a combination of cartoon and a contour drawing. But mainly what,

Mark Graban (15m 30s):
What's a, what's a contour drawing? Sorry,

Elisabeth Swan (15m 32s):
A contour drawing. They would have you wa like if I was looking at you and I would have a piece of paper, I wouldn't look at it and I would just outline. I would just draw you and I wouldn't, you know, and I wouldn't look down. Of course, I, everyone looks down a little bit and those are, are just, they get nice detail, nice, interesting sort of elements of the, of the person. So I try to get a little more detail of people because what I find dissatisfying in a lot of graphics that we, that we see in the lean community or to illuminate the people in a process or what they're part of it, they're either faceless or the faces are just completely bland.

Elisabeth Swan (16m 18s):
And I thought, yeah, but it's the expressions, it's the emotion that tells the story, right? There's things that, you know, made you pissed, made you angry or curious or shocked, or I wanna see that. I feel like that's the thing we don't acknowledge in the workplace, which is emotion. And it's there.

Mark Graban (16m 38s):
Yeah. Yeah. And drawings capture that I think in a, yeah, a different, a different way. I, I would, I'm te I mean I, I'm, I'm not an artist. I'm, I'm, I don't, I could doodle I guess, but I wouldn't, I wouldn't put drawings of buying in a book. I would be real self-conscious about that. May maybe I need to get past that and just try, I mean, like, is there a continuous improvement cycle

Elisabeth Swan (17m 5s):
With, for for drawings?

Mark Graban (17m 7s):
Drawings or, you know, compared to the first ones that you put on LinkedIn or I,

Elisabeth Swan (17m 11s):
You know, interesting question. No one's asked that. So I definitely went back and even folks on my editorial board gave me feedback and said, you know, this image doesn't quite capture what you said here. I would've thought you would've done blah, blah, blah. Or, and sometimes they said that, sometimes they said, I just don't get it, or I'm, I'm not seeing that. So I redrew some of the images because there was an arc, right? Initially it was like, I just felt like, oh, I'll just slap that out and put it in. And after a while I was like, no, I think I wanna have a a certain shape to this. I wanna have, you know, the people be more a part of it.

Elisabeth Swan (17m 53s):
So there was an arc to that. And there was also some of them I just threw photos in, which people love, but I was like, I want this all to be illustrated. So yeah. So I did actually go through two, two things. One, upgrading it as I went through the editing process, but also I think there was an arc throughout where I got a little more curious about, well, how would you draw a horse? Yeah. How would you draw a book? Like, that was interesting. It was fun. I sort of looked at different, different sources.

Mark Graban (18m 29s):
Yeah. Yeah. And I, I was gonna ask also, you know, thinking of continuous improvement cycles, one, one thing you said a couple of minutes ago stood out to me and I jotted it down when you were engaging with people in LinkedIn. That question is, you asked it, what have you figured out? Like I think that's, that's powerful. Like to me that is about experiments and, and learning by doing and P D S A cycles or however you want to describe it. What have you figured out versus what do you know? Like, tell, tell, tell me more like your thoughts of like the difference between those questions, figuring it out versus knowing

Elisabeth Swan (19m 5s):
That's great too. So what do you know and you might respond with this is what you do and what have you figured out? What happened was, I heard stories, like some of those quotes in the book are really miniature stories. Like, this happened to me and I learned this and I'll never do this again. Or I'll, I'll always respect the, you know what I mean? It was, I actually got very, I started to really appreciate people responding with that because it was Wow, you encapsulated a fairly big kind of learning cycle in that, in that little quote.

Mark Graban (19m 50s):
Yeah. Yeah. So I would encourage people to keep, keep figuring it out.

Elisabeth Swan (19m 55s):
Yeah. Yeah. Have that attitude.

Mark Graban (19m 59s):
And I think your book is gonna prompt a lot of reflection and, and discussion for, for individuals or, or teams to keep doing that. So let's, let's talk a little bit about, you know, who the book is written for. Like, I noticed the title is, of course Picture Yourself a Leader. I don't know, like if you had thought of, is it, is it picture yourself a Lean Leader? Like is it in, in, in your mind a lean leadership book? Or is it really just about good leadership, maybe influenced by lean?

Elisabeth Swan (20m 28s):
Good question again. So I think initially it's coming from my world, our world, which is continuous improvement. And the stories, especially like the first chapter are really the foibles that we get into, you know, like getting really good at rework. But that's also goes beyond the lean world. I think anyone can recognize, oh yeah, I've seen that, or we do that. And so the more I went through the editing process, I felt like it kept expanding so that the final people I had look at it were not in the lean world.

Elisabeth Swan (21m 19s):
And I said, you know, just you tell me does this resonate? And it did. And they said, oh God, yeah, this made me think about, you know, what did I do, raising my son and I wrote him a, you know, an email right away. It's like, did I do this? And they're, no, no, no, you were fine. And so there was it, and, and in that edit, like you said, jargon free, I worked really hard at just pulling those last pieces out that I didn't even see, right? I mean, I'm very much, you know, don't gimme acronyms, don't give me jargon, you know, give me, spell it out.

Elisabeth Swan (21m 59s):
And that helped me with that last round. So I came back and thought, yeah, probably the person who, you know, somebody who might get every single story out of this would be someone who's becoming a lean leader. But the, the vast majority of the book is just about helping people see that they do have impact, whether they know it or not. And getting a handle on that influence and being a good leader. Whether that you're, you're a leading a leader in your family, you know, a leader at work, a leader in a a, a club, you're in a, a sports team, whatever it is, it's, these things are about the impact you have on other people, which is everybody.

Elisabeth Swan (22m 54s):

Mark Graban (22m 55s):
So, so back to that, you know, this, this idea of everybody and the impact that we have on, on others, you know, the word leader, people could say that's a title, that's a role, that's a personality. I don't know, maybe there's other words you could use, but 1, 1, 1 thing you say, and with the book is the word leader can mean many things. Like tell, tell, tell us more of, you know, your, your thoughts on, on that. How, how does, how, how can everybody be a leader in some way?

Elisabeth Swan (23m 24s):
I think that it's kind of key that people open their eyes to that because you don't, without doing that, you don't realize that you are. And I think some people are surprised when someone says to them, well, I took your advice, or you know, you did this so I thought she did that. I'll do this. And you think, wow, someone's watching what I do, someone's watching. And it's just, I think some people don't realize, and how can we all realize all the impacts that we have, but just that sense of you don't know that you're leading in these moments.

Elisabeth Swan (24m 7s):
Like, you know, how you treat one sibling informs your other siblings, like you're, you're in that moment a leader. So taking stock of that, I feel like is something we don't always do. We just don't always see those moments.

Mark Graban (24m 28s):
Hmm. So what I hear you're saying is that leadership extends beyond workplace, whoever's providing your paycheck, leadership extends to family, neighborhood, community, other settings. Yeah,

Elisabeth Swan (24m 40s):
Leadership is happening everywhere. And if you, what?

Mark Graban (24m 44s):
So we hope,

Elisabeth Swan (24m 45s):
Well, I didn't say good leadership. Okay.

Mark Graban (24m 48s):
Sometimes there's an absence of leadership,

Elisabeth Swan (24m 50s):
But sometimes there's an absence of leadership, actually. Yes. And I think we don't always see we could fill that gap, right? Whatever that is. And that the things that we're doing are influencing people to maybe step up or not. And yeah, you could have a title, maybe you don't want a title. Maybe you're happy with informal leadership. I remember when I, we did that whole segment on improv, but for a long time there I was really happy playing side characters. You know, I love the feeling of like, maybe even stealing, stealing a scene. I wasn't the protagonist, I was just a character. But, you know, so people not realizing that even as they are not playing this true leadership role, they might be a side character, but they are having an impact.

Elisabeth Swan (25m 40s):
And to own that and think about, you know, what do you want out of that? What, what do you want people to do? What do you want to happen around you? I think we don't always own our own power. We, we sometimes think, oh, I wish that wouldn't happen. I wish people wouldn't do that. It's like, yeah, well what are you gonna do about it? Yeah. Right. And this is asking those questions like, what if, you know, what if you could do something about that, what, what would it be? You know, what would that look like? Yeah,

Mark Graban (26m 11s):
Yeah. To picture yourself a leader as a certain thank you title gets

Elisabeth Swan (26m 18s):

Mark Graban (26m 20s):
Do do you think some people have trouble picturing themselves as a leader kind of thing? Just directly from the book's title?

Elisabeth Swan (26m 26s):
I do. I think some people would react. I think few people would react and go, I don't have to picture myself a leader, I am a leader, you know? Sure. Right. But I think some people it's foreign. It's this, well, I could never be or who would see me as a leader. And it's like, well I think you would have to see it first or maybe open your ears and eyes to someone else seeing it. Cuz we often don't realize that someone else is seeing that and asking you to step up. So yeah, I think there's, there's that an invitation.

Mark Graban (27m 5s):
Yeah. You're, you're making me think of a story real quick of, you know, somebody I was working with in a hospital laboratory 15 years ago and I've, I've told his story in the book Lean Hospitals where there, there was a guy, John, who was a top individual contributor. And as organizations tend to do, they had many, many times offered him a supervisor role and he had always turned it down. And as I was working with John on, on this lean project and they were starting to explore lean leadership, lean problem solving, if you will. I mean, you know, you explained that, you know, to, to him being the supervisor was always sort of like being the workplace police.

Mark Graban (27m 48s):
And he didn't want to be doing that. He wanted to be helpful of not just like catching people doing something wrong. And, and so then the, the, the opportunity was there as the lab director and as they were starting to embrace and try to build the lean culture, he ended up taking a supervisor role where I think it was even a manager role because they had redefined expectations of, of leaders. And now suddenly that I think he was always a leader, but like he finally now found a situation where it was compatible with how he wanted to be.

Elisabeth Swan (28m 23s):
That is a great story. And it highlights one of the chapters, which was about being thrust into a supervisory or a management role without really having all of the skills needed for that. And the story I told was me at, you know, I was 25 and it was a Apple II developer out in California. This was before, you know, there was the whole tech bubble, this is in the eighties. And I did everything I would, I was a tech, I was a tech writer, you know, not a tech writer. I was a tech support, right? I was writing cuz people were trying to put our software together with all different printers and devices and we had to troubleshoot.

Elisabeth Swan (29m 9s):
And then I was in charge of all the, of tech support. And then since I was writing all the templates and the letters, they were like, oh, she can write. Why don't you be a tech writer? Cuz this is back when we made actual manuals. And they were right, they were nice. They were like, we had a great graphic designer, man, these things were slick and pretty. So I did that. And then they were like, oh, you're great now you be head of production and you work with the beta testers and you work with the tech writers. So the guy that hired me, who was older than me came from Gloucester Mass, and now I'm in charge of him and I'm in charge of all the, the tech support that I kind of came up through the ranks with.

Elisabeth Swan (29m 49s):
I in charge of all the tech writers that I had been working with and some, you know, hired desk tech writers before me and saw themselves as, you know, that's my role anyway, the, the, I was not prepared for these guys not wanting to report, first of all to a woman. Hmm. And also, kind of what you described, the, the gentleman in the story you just told, like having to be the police and not having any skills around, well how do you deal with performance issues and not be the poli, you know, how do you navigate that? And I reached, and Hugh Ali, who wrote becoming a supervisor, chimed in on that post.

Elisabeth Swan (30m 31s):
And he was so helpful in that realm. And obviously that's his, that's his wheelhouse. So he said, here's the five things you need, you know, and you didn't have that. And I was like, oh, like that was such a great, you know, crystal line. And it made, helped me make sense of that past, you know, that still felt kind of bad. Like, oh that was so bad. I just, that helped my decision to leave California. Not the only thing. I was like, I think I'm going back east now. I think I'm done with this. But yeah, that, that is a hard thing that, that official title and what goes with it. And when you move from being good at what you do to managing other people and that's a, then you got a whole other realm of influence you gotta manage.

Elisabeth Swan (31m 18s):

Mark Graban (31m 18s):
Yeah. So again, we're joined by Elisabeth Swan, picture yourself a leader is the book. Let, let's do, let's do a little author talk of, you know, think back to the Hamilton line, how the sausage gets made. We were in the room where I don't sing either, but so much I'd love music if we were in the room where it happened as, as so to speak. Tell, tell us more. You mentioned editing, like, I'd be curious to, to hear what your process was in terms of writing, editing, refining PDSA cycles in terms of, of the book. Can you tell us a little bit about like the, the process? What, what, what type of iteration was happening?

Elisabeth Swan (31m 59s):
I would say, first off, I loved it. I loved the process of going back and forth with people and you're one of the people I've gone back and forth with, you know, just like, what does this sound like? What do you think of this? But on a, on a broader level, it, it's been p d s A from the start. Like it's been so interesting. First off I had naively thought, oh, blog to book. You put all your blogs together, you publish 'em. Like, whoa, that's so easy. So, okay, that was wrong. And then it was, well what is it? What is the book? I'm gonna pull them together, but what does that look like? So at that same time, the Kata Geek Girls were starting a kata practice cohort.

Elisabeth Swan (32m 49s):
So I dove in and Maria Graca was my coach and my book challenge was, what is it? Right? What does this thing look like? Who's it for? You know, just trying to work that. So we did literally PDSA cycles on, you know, what's the purpose, what's the why of this book, what does it look like? I played with layouts, you know, I played with what's included in each chapter cuz it was gonna be different, right. It's not just apparently blog to book.

Mark Graban (33m 19s):
Well, but don't, don't be too hard on, on yourself. Cause I guess I can do that. We're, we're an author to author section. I can, I'm, I'm gonna bring up my book, forgive me. Yeah, do it my book and all I have is a printout of a, a cover design.

Elisabeth Swan (33m 33s):
But it's awesome

Mark Graban (33m 34s):
The mistakes that make us Thank you. But wait, you were saying okay, the, the original concept was blog to book. My original concept was podcast to book my favorite mistake. Yes. Like, oh, I've got these great stories from all my guests. I know I can't use 'em all but stitch 'em together. I'm like, no, no, no, that wasn't, that wasn't really gonna, that wasn't really gonna work either because people could go read the podcasts on the web, the transcripts on the website. Right. Well I put it in a book. So again, iteration back to the concept purpose design and structure.

Elisabeth Swan (34m 11s):
Yeah, no, that's great. That's great. And it makes me even more curious about what's gonna happen with your book. So remind me to come back to my cover cuz that was another Okay. Really fun. P D S A but the, what you just described hit a nerve, which is what I wanted personally. I wanted my, I wanted the book, I wanted to have my blogs and be able to reference them. I wanted to be able to say, oh, where's that story? Let me go look at that. Let me go pull this up. I would sometimes use the image and the question in our leadership class as a warmup question.

Elisabeth Swan (34m 51s):
It was something along the theme of what we were gonna teach about Lean Sigma leader for that open session. And so that became great fodder. So I wanted it, and then also the, the process of then having an ed editorial board, like, and, and you have to decide how many people you're gonna listen to. Right? And of course do and how many people want to have that conversation with you. Yeah. And then what do different people bring, right? So you get very different takes on what you do. And and I had, it was funny, one, one editorial board member sort of warned me, said, you know, I, I may say things that are completely out of line and I may infuriate you and all this kind of warning upfront.

Elisabeth Swan (35m 40s):
Yeah. And it ended up being such helpful. I mean, I know you appreciate it too. You wanna hear, you wanna know like, does this resonate not resonate? And it was just so helpful to hear things like, this one doesn't end on a hopeful note. Like you always end on a such a hope, you know, give us something to hope for here.

Mark Graban (36m 2s):
Was that a section that had one of my wisdom of the crowd stories? No, I don't always end on a, on an uplifting note. That might've been my fault.

Elisabeth Swan (36m 10s):
No, it wasn't you. Okay. And also just the story structure. Like I, I've studied story, you know, sort of, it was like, so I need to come to what's the resolution, what's the change? What happened here? Right? So always coming. And so the person was sort of calling me out for, I don't hear the resolution, I don't hear the, what's the change here, but that told me, oh, you hear it elsewhere. So this is coming through, this is good. And just, you know, we've, you know, you probably deal with this all the time, but, you know, letting go of words, right? People saying, I remember someone saying like, well this one here, I don't think you're adding anything aside from the fact that it's like three different cliches.

Elisabeth Swan (36m 53s):
It's like, ow. But that's good. That's great. I don't wanna single cliche in this book, man. Let's get that out of there. So that I felt like was a, an, you know, the, the online process was a collaboration and then the editorial process is a collaboration and those, it it's a build. So that just feels that that's a, i I think a really rewarding process. Yeah. I don't know about you, but I think that's, yeah.

Mark Graban (37m 22s):
Yeah. Well, I mean, you, you want honest feedback where it may, I may, you know, some of it may sting, but then, you know, you take a breath and you come back, you know, that person's, that person's right. And I can come back and then that, or sometimes I jump right too. Like, yeah, you're right. That was not written clearly at all. Not, try not to beat myself up. Just go back and try again and fix it. You need people pointing that out. But, you know, I think of like a, a book as a startup product in, in entrepreneurship circles or lean startup circles, they always talk about the trap of the potential trap of asking friends and family for feedback about your product, your app, your software, your business people might be nice, right?

Mark Graban (38m 8s):
They might not, you know, they, they might say nice things, but I'll give a shout out and credit to Karen Ross who helped me understand a lot of this kind is really what you're looking for, right? You don't want someone to be mean and rip what you've done, but kind is like helpful, like challenging and you know, as opposed to just what, what'd you think of the book? Like, oh, I, I loved it. Like, okay, well that, okay, that might be true, but that's not very helpful.

Elisabeth Swan (38m 36s):
Yeah. You,

Mark Graban (38m 37s):
You how do, how do you know? How do you, you've gotta maybe, yeah, you think of who do you reach out to? If somebody doesn't know you at all, they might be a little leery of giving the feedback. And if someone knows you too well they might say, well I don't wanna hurt Elisabeth's or Mark's feelings.

Elisabeth Swan (38m 54s):

Mark Graban (38m 54s):
I guess this comes back to the art of like, who, who do you ask for input?

Elisabeth Swan (38m 59s):
Yeah, no, I think it's really critical. Cause you want the kindness, right? Not the sort of problem or you know, you're, you're good but you, and you wanna, in a way you can hear it, right? So, and you might, and sometimes it might sting and you might go, okay, I'm just gonna sit with that. I'll come back. And then you might read it. I dunno if you ever do this, you look at feedback and in your mind it was like, you know, a punch, you know, a left jab. And then the next day you might go look at it and go again and say, actually that wasn't really a left jad. That's actually, they're not, that's not sharp.

Elisabeth Swan (39m 40s):
It's just, it's some, it's fairly accurate. And that's probably what got me is that Yeah, that's true. I really, it's like you think you, I, you know, I'm, there's humor. The book has a lot of humor in it and sometimes the jokes didn't land and sometimes it was because it's, it's, I don't know if this where this expression comes with, it's like the curse of knowing like, you know, all this stuff. So you think you have shorthand, right? And so you think these two sentences tell the joke and actually it's missing a sentence. So that was just a, like a warning. Like you, you need to explain a little better cause I don't really get it

Mark Graban (40m 14s):
Right. Yeah. Yeah. That's, that's very true. That could be not just a joke, but explaining some concept and like trying, trying to be able to go back and read or have others read as a novice to what you're trying to write, you know, can be very helpful. My, my last book Measures of Success, you know, it's about statistics and charts and you know, it's not full of formulas or anything, but I tried to, you know, check for reading comprehension by asking people who knew nothing about tqm, statistical process control, whatever. Just like, is this re like, I'm not dumbing things down, but I wanna make sure it's clear, you know, I think you have to, to, to get that feedback.

Mark Graban (41m 0s):
If, if you're writing a book about lean and you have, you know, have it reviewed by a bunch of really knowledgeable lean people, they might miss something that would be unclear to a novice, maybe not, but there's that risk.

Elisabeth Swan (41m 12s):
Yep. No, that's a really good, and I don't know about you was, I'm assuming that was a late edit, having the novice take a look was after you'd been through rounds with your editorial group?

Mark Graban (41m 25s):
Well actually the, the copy editor that I was using at the time who had done some work with me on lean hospitals, like this was not her domain at all. Mm. So she was doing not just copy editing around grammar, but she was also kind of doing those continual readability checks.

Elisabeth Swan (41m 42s):
That's actually great. That was, I believe, the first person who was not in our realm with my copy editor. And he told me when he, he would write lines that cracked him up and then he would say, wow, this made me think and I wanna get, I wanna get copies of this for my daughters. Like, it was just like, and and he's, this is not someone who ever says anything he doesn't mean, you know what I mean? So that was, that was huge. That was actually a big turning point for me. I was like, oh, okay, if he got this then yeah, I think this has legs.

Mark Graban (42m 22s):
So let's talk a little more about, you know, process of bringing a book to market. You wanted me to come back to PDSA on the cover? Oh yeah. Why don't we talk about that?

Elisabeth Swan (42m 31s):
Yeah, I mean just you and I went back and forth and you just showed, you shared with me, I was showing you my cover and you shared with me yours, which is ho

Mark Graban (42m 41s):
Hold hold it up again for the YouTube viewers. Okay. Front of the book. I don't think you showed the

Elisabeth Swan (42m 45s):
Front of the book. I did not show the front. So you

Mark Graban (42m 47s):
Showed the front of the book. There we go.

Elisabeth Swan (42m 48s):
We'll see if I can get that. Yeah. Sitting up there. Okay, so this, that's the cover of my book. And so it was what's, you know, the process of a cover working with a designer. And I'll be interested if this aligns with your experience. I love your cover by the way. So the process is tell us, covers you, like what are covers you're drawn to, right? So what do you like, and then what kinds of elements do you see in the cover? What are colors you're drawn to or not color or fonts, you know, anything that is, you know, in your mind that let's make it explicit for the designer to work with and then they give you a bunch of options right

Mark Graban (43m 34s):
Now, b before you go further in that did, did they also ask you to share some, is it helpful to share some examples of ones you don't like? Ooh. Of not just, Hey, I like these and then here are some that I think no, or,

Elisabeth Swan (43m 46s):

Mark Graban (43m 46s):
From that positive,

Elisabeth Swan (43m 47s):
They didn't ask that. But what was tough was I gave books I liked, but they're not my book, right? So I like, you know, do you know the book? What is it? Essentialism, it's got this great image of kind of a snar. It's very simplistic and stark and white and it's got this snarl of red twine in the, you know, just the word essentialism coming out. And it's, it's so striking. But I was like, but that's not how my book cover would work. So it was, we, the best conversation was getting us together, looking at covers.

Elisabeth Swan (44m 28s):
Like you could go on Pinterest and say, just look, show us some great book covers. Something like that. But I found it still tough, you know, it's almost like blank slate, where are we going with this? What are we gonna do? But one of the through lines was you're the, you're an illustrator, you've illustrated this book. There's, you know, 60, 70 of your drawings in here, so shouldn't there be some of your drawings on the cover? Okay. And then it was, you know, picture, you know, one of the first images was a frame, right? Picture yourself, you know, there you are in a frame. But then I thought, well if I draw a face in there, then that's who the leader is.

Elisabeth Swan (45m 10s):
So it was like, well what if it's a mirror? But then it just kept feeling like too on point, like it's okay picture. And, and then it was, but my, the illustrations aren't popping for me. They feel like clutter. Like I don't, I'm not, I'm not enjoying my illustrations in this iteration. And then they took a series of them kind of in just in little squares and angled them up the page and that had movement and felt like, oh that's interesting. And, and someone said, oh, it's kind of like a, like a movie, you know?

Elisabeth Swan (45m 51s):
Yeah. And then I thought, oh, that's interesting. That's interesting. It's still is not capturing me, but it's, it's capturing me more. So I sat down with a friend, I think over the weekend and she's got a design background and I just started thinking, okay, what if we re really took a movie reel and just, and then my illustrations, it could be a mix of them cuz it's, there's so much in here. It's not just, you know, humans, but it's, anyway, so that ended up being that image. Right. So that's the movement I took that from. So that was the PDSA, right? So, well, many, many rounds there.

Mark Graban (46m 32s):
Yeah. Well it's funny, it's funny you say movie. I looked at it like a role of film because the, the images were very different.

Elisabeth Swan (46m 40s):

Mark Graban (46m 41s):
You know, I mean we, we, we explained TQM, we have to explain what a roll of film is.

Elisabeth Swan (46m 47s):
Oh my god. Yeah. I, I, there's so many things I had to call out someone. I was like, what was that old, do you remember the old copy machine mimeograph? Oh yeah. And I had to describe it, A mimeograph was

Mark Graban (46m 59s):

Elisabeth Swan (47m 0s):
It was like you had

Mark Graban (47m 2s):
The blue on the white paper and some way would have to like literally crank out the copies.

Elisabeth Swan (47m 6s):
Yeah. And, and in grade school I was a teacher's pet and so I got to go and mimeograph the exam or whatever it was. And I remember liking the smell of the mimeograph machine, right. That ink had a distinct smell to it. So Yeah. Yeah. That's taken me way back. So anyway, that yeah, a film strip a a movie reel. A the movie camera film. Yeah. Just that. And I think also I'm a huge movie fan, so that was like very appealing for me. I'm like, oh good, I could just pull it all together. Yeah,

Mark Graban (47m 35s):
Yeah. But iterations. And then you hit a point where you're like, yes, it's like the Ted Lasso moment where he runs back into the room. You're like, yes,

Elisabeth Swan (47m 43s):
Yes, yes. And of course the designer is waiting patiently for me to get to that. Right? They, yes. Yeah.

Mark Graban (47m 52s):
Well I'll, I'll share, I mean the, my, my book cover was a, a collaborative iterative process with an old friend of mine who's a professional artist, graphic designer, doesn't normally do book covers. Right. So he wasn't too locked into, well, here's the way I normally do a book cover, but maybe we can save that story if I can come on just in Time Cafe sometimes.

Elisabeth Swan (48m 15s):
Oh please come on. Just in time cafe. Cuz man, that book's coming out soon and I am very excited to hear,

Mark Graban (48m 22s):
So I don't wanna take away from discussion of picture yourself a leader, but I think one thing I'm gonna do, and I know, you know, I think Don would be fine with this, is I'm actually gonna do a blog post that shows the evolution and iteration where I'll tell a quick story. I thought I wasn't gonna do this, but just real quickly started with six pencil sketch concepts and then we kind of narrowed in on one and then it's gone through at least 10 cycles of iteration along the way. So I think I'll, I'll share some of that. It might be interesting to see how some of that sausage gets

Elisabeth Swan (48m 55s):
Made. Good for you. Yeah, that's interesting to look back at, what were those iterations, what were those cycles and what did we take from one and go to the next? And some of them might be we took that, we took that, and then we went, actually let's go back to this. You know, so it's not like linear.

Mark Graban (49m 11s):
Right, for sure. So, but, but back back to your, your book and whether it's the title or the cover or, you know, I mean there, there, there's all these decisions to make and I I think this is also like entrepreneurship. Like you wanna get input people who are proxies for the voice of the customer, if you will. But then at some point, like you've got your vision and it's you, it's your name on the cover, Elisabeth. Like at some point you gotta say like, okay, now I like this. I I'm gonna, I'm gonna do this. Like, how did, did you have any moments where, you know, you were trying to find that balance of like, you know, respecting and accepting the input versus saying, well here's my vision

Elisabeth Swan (49m 53s):
There. Were all along the way. Because on the one hand, like you said, it's voice of the customer. I have to listen to this. And sometimes early on it would be h I wanna wait and see if anyone else says this. I wanna hear if anybody else hits this. And sometimes you, and even if it was two people, I'm like, okay, I gotta listen to that. But sometimes it was one and the, the one reviewer who said, feel free to toss it out, you know, to completely ignore, you know, might be off the mark. And that stuck with me. It's like, okay, some of them might be off the mark for what I'm trying to do.

Elisabeth Swan (50m 34s):
You know, I think, and some people said, I don't know if you want this. And I'm thinking, I do. I want that. So those decisions and like you said, finally coming to, yeah, it's my, it's my decision. I'm gonna have to do this. I will tell you one funny story about some of the decisions, and one of them was, it was, the conversation was how do I make sure someone said, you, you don't sign your illustrations per se, you put a little swan there, right? Sort of the s of your name in a swan, but you don't write Swan or Elisabeth Swan. So I wanna, you know, how do you make sure people know that those are your illustrations?

Elisabeth Swan (51m 15s):
You know, and I, so I was talking about this with my husband and he said, why don't you put written and illustrated by Elisabeth Swan on the cover.

Mark Graban (51m 23s):

Elisabeth Swan (51m 27s):
That should have occurred to me.

Mark Graban (51m 30s):
Yeah, you're right there, there, there it is. I, i, as I've the preview copy you had sent me there, there is that, that symbol. And I mean, that, that seems like something like a professional cartoonist would do. Like

Elisabeth Swan (51m 41s):
They have Yes. I I think as of having sold these now I am profe, I I'm professional. Yeah. I've, I now have illustrated and someone, someone's actually paid for the illustrations. They got a book too. But that's, you know,

Mark Graban (51m 58s):
So a couple questions before we, we wrap up, Elisabeth, my god, we, we could talk for hours about the topics and everything in, in the book. We'll come back away from some of the, you know, author thoughts and tips. But you know, I'm, I'm sure people who are listening are writing or considering writing a a book, but looking, you know, at the content and you know, there's, there's two sections here. At the risk of it seemly self-serving, I'm wanna talk about the two sections where I had contributed one of these wisdom of the crowd stories. Just a, I don't, I had to pick two, so I picked those. One was, you've already mentioned earlier acronyms and you call it heading off the head scratchers.

Mark Graban (52m 39s):
Tell, tell us a little bit about that and then I'll, I'll just, my, my story's real short, I'll tack onto it. But

Elisabeth Swan (52m 45s):
Yeah, that one was, it's part of that. What, what described kind of that curse of knowledge and acronyms. It, you know, in our world, the consulting world, when we go work with a new organization, it felt like there's always its exchange of acronyms. Like, you know, we've got C and DMAIC and PDCA and, and then they've gotta give us all their acronyms and it's shorthand for them and it's shorthand, it's language. We have two different languages and it, it contributes to distance it there. Once you know it, you're in an in crowd and if you don't, you're out. And it's, it keeps people, I think, from embracing something that we're trying to teach.

Elisabeth Swan (53m 31s):
Right. How, how does, how do you invite someone when they don't know what you're talking about? So I was joking around about just all the acronyms that get flown around and sometimes I have no idea what they are. Or parents, you know, as soon as they cop onto what the latest acronyms our kids are using in text, the kids have moved on. Like, that's an old one and you're, you're dating yourself by even using it. Yes. So yeah, that was about clarity and, and conversation.

Mark Graban (53m 58s):
Yeah. And then the, the, the little story that I added in there was about a time when I worked at the Lean Enterprise Institute. I don't think I shared some of this detail in the book, but I'll say it here. I was working with Rachel Regan, who, who I think is great and if she's listening, you know, hi Rachel. But I, I, I remember there, there, there was something she made reference to, it was on a whiteboard or it was on a calendar or something. And it said FU meeting. And I was like, wait, what? Like, what, what's the problem? What's, she was like, well, she was like, no, it doesn't mean anything bad. When she was at Toyota, it was a very common acronym for follow up. Like, ok, there we go.

Mark Graban (54m 38s):
What I asked, instead of just making an assumption,

Elisabeth Swan (54m 42s):
Obviously I love that meeting. And then you just showed me, you had a, you had fu in some, a column of information that you were sharing a spreadsheet of like, it's f you know, oh,

Mark Graban (54m 56s):
Let me again mention the KaiNexus webinar that Elisabeth is present presenting on April 18th. We have a checklist slash planning document and we've done more than a hundred webinars. Now in the spreadsheet column that lined up with Elisabeth's was column f u No, no offense.

Elisabeth Swan (55m 17s):
You're like, hey, check it out. There's f u again that I think that post was born of my irritation with all the posts about VUCA and they'd say, VUCA this, VUCA that. What do you do about vuca? Ica, vca, which stands for volatility. I'm gonna get this wrong. Uncertainty. What's the C? Yeah. Anyway, Google, so I'm already

Mark Graban (55m 43s):
Lost it. Google, Google save, Google save me volatility, I had to Google it. Volatility, uncertainty, complexity and Ambiguity.

Elisabeth Swan (55m 49s):
Okay. So those terms mean something to me, but when I hear that word, it sounds like a cat coughing up a hairball. Yeah. So it was just like, what? Come on. Like do we have to speak in this? It's, and, and like you did and I just did and we are familiar with this term. I don't, I don't remember what it means, but yeah, those, it's a, it's kind of a, it's a plague.

Mark Graban (56m 14s):

Elisabeth Swan (56m 14s):
Alright. What's the other one? What's the

Mark Graban (56m 16s):
Other, so the other one was about perfecting rework. And I'll tell the short version what I wrote was longer, I'll tell the short example, but, but, but, but tell us why that's a problem worth, worth addressing in, in organizations or for leaders.

Elisabeth Swan (56m 32s):
Yeah, it's, there's probably some great quotes from Dr. Deming or Peter Drucker, but it's like, you know, it's just doing something really well that we shouldn't be doing at all. And it's, we don't question it. We sort of deal with, we, we have to do this thing cuz we get this wrong or this doesn't work. We haven't figured out how to make it work. So we just got really good at getting really fast at the fix. And the story I told there was, I dunno if you want me to tell the story, but it's, this was going to a play with my husband and we had to drive up to Boston, and it was put on by Harvard.

Elisabeth Swan (57m 14s):
Harvard has ART, the American Repertory Theater, and it's big ART acronym. And so we were of course, hit traffic and it's a friend of our son who's in the play, I think it was Donnie Darco, and very excited to see this young talent. And we, we found a parking space, also a miracle in Harvard Square and raced to the, you know, raced right into the ticket booth. And the woman, as soon as we put our tickets down, handed me the sheet of paper with a picture or a, a layout map of Harvard Square and a yellow sharpie highlighter line through it and said, here's where the theater is. If you go and present this, they'll know what to do.

Elisabeth Swan (57m 57s):
So it was like, okay, grab that, grab the things. Now we're racing across the square, up and down into Backstreets and find another theater apparently associated with the a r t called, you know, one Arrow Theater, which happens to be the address One Arrow Street. So get in there and there's a whole bunch of people standing in line with this yellow highlighted map, and she says, the woman at this theater says, okay, there's about to be a lights out moment, so then you, you guys are all gonna file in. And we left the front row open so you can just sit down in the front row and you, you haven't missed more than blah, blah, blah.

Elisabeth Swan (58m 41s):
So we're like, okay. So we lights down, we got in there, we got a front row seat, and you know, we watched, I, I don't know how much of the play we missed, but got, you know, a great seat and clearly they had this great rework for the fact that everybody thought it was the ART, but it was actually a different theater. Yeah,

Mark Graban (58m 59s):

Elisabeth Swan (59m 1s):
Anyway, that's, we do it all the time.

Mark Graban (59m 3s):
Yeah. How do we get back to the root cause and, and prevented, the one deism I'm thinking of is maybe one of the Mainer things he said, but I think it's kinda spot on. I think he called it the American way of making toast. You burn it, I'll scrape it.

Elisabeth Swan (59m 20s):
Oh, I love that. That's beautiful.

Mark Graban (59m 24s):
The one example I used and I, you know, see too much of it is just in a nutshell how often at, you know, before a case in an operating room, they'll open the surg surgical packs and find something lost, missing, broken, well, lost and missing are the same thing, I guess lost, broken, dirty. And you can get really good at that response loop as opposed to going back and saying, how do we make sure instruments aren't missing, not put in if they're broken, less likely to look or at least give the appearance of, of being dirty. And I, I mean, you, you, you can do both if, if you don't have perfect mistake proofing, but I think sometimes people don't challenge the nee, you know, how how do we eliminate the rework cycle instead of doing the rework better?

Elisabeth Swan (1h 0m 11s):
Yeah. Yeah. And it's just, you get caught up in perfecting it and, and stop and, and, and it takes like a beat to go, well, how about we go back to, like you just said, how do we not have those things happen? Which is the harder thing to do.

Mark Graban (1h 0m 29s):
Yes. And and people might be aware and then they might say, Hey, we don't have time, because there's so much rework that existential

Elisabeth Swan (1h 0m 38s):
Yeah. We have to work the backlog first and then we'll get to fixing it.

Mark Graban (1h 0m 43s):
Yeah. But there are so many gems and, and, and, and great ideas and reflections and stories in the book. Again, it's Picture Yourself a leader. Elisabeth Swan is, is the author. I'll put links in the show notes, Elisabeth… So, you know, thank you so much for doing the episode here today. Thank you for, you know, congratulations on the book. Thank you in advance for doing that KaiNexus webinar. I hope people will check it

Elisabeth Swan (1h 1m 12s):
Out. Yeah, please do. Thank you, Mark. Thanks for having me. This was a ball.

Mark Graban (1h 1m 16s):
This was fun. Thanks.

Announcer (1h 1m 17s):
Thanks for listening. This has been The Lean Blog podcast. For lean news and commentary updated daily, visit If you have any questions or comments about this podcast, email Mark at

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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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