Thursday, September 04, 2014

And soon, a major motion picture?

So this book arrives in the mail, with an accompanying note from my buddy and colleague Jim Womack at the Lean Enterprise Institute.  He's writing to entice me to read Lead with Respect, A novel of lean practice.

A novel?  About Lean? Fat chance I'll read that, even though I'm a Lean devotee.  How could it possibly be engaging?  I put it aside, perhaps to glance over as airplane reading on a long flight after I'm tired of watching in-air movies.

Well, then I was in an airplane and I started reading it.  It's really good!  It is engaging.  It is also one of the clearest presentations of the elements of Lean philosophy that I have seen.  And this is because the book is not about Lean techniques or Japanese words:  It is about the core principle, leading with respect.  In short, this is a leadership book, not a Lean book.  You don't have to do a whit of formal Lean techniques to gain something from this story.  But if you incorporate Lean techniques into your leadership approach, you'll do even better.


Ward (from a Lean company) teaching Jane (CEO of a company that's not):

Problems first is the basic attitude that underlies our success.  I realize this sounds paradoxical, but every other aspect of learning to lead with respect is tied to our ability to face our problems--and when we do, not to ask who, but why?

You want people to be:
--Specific about the problem
--Insightful about the cause
--Clever about the countermeaure
--Open minded about who else is concerned
--Rigorous about status checks

The purpose of go and see is to grasp the real place, real people, and real relationships. We don't want to pressure people to work harder.  That won't get us very far.  We want them to work smarter by working better together, so they don't waste each other's time with nonvalue-added stuff.  We want to understand the waste caused by problems and misunderstandings so that we can solve them together.

Another way of thinking about lead with respect is managing by problem solving.

Basically, you ask "why?" repeatedly until the most obvious answers are swept off the table and people finally consider the real problem together.  Yes, it does take practice. And it's usually awkward as hell.  But it's important to wait it out.

Teamwork is really individual responsibility to solve problems with our colleagues.  What we're aiming for is teaching everyone to work better with each other.

Most managers struggle to teach operators their management problems: profitability, share price, and so on.  Why would the guys in the shop care?  Top brass prattles on about KPI.  The guys on the floor call these numbers "VIP-Is"--they are created for and shared by people high above their pay grade.  These issues have nothing to do with their daily concerns.  If experience has taught operators anything, it's that any new management initiative is likely to end up as added pressure on them.  So why even bother?

One reason managers get to be managers is that they find change more exciting than scary; they're always looking for the next magic bullet.  To operators, change is scary, because they've learned the hard way that things never change for the better--at least not for them.

So lead with respect is about understanding that change is scary and working as the manager to break down large challenges into small, everyday steps.  The big change we introduce in how we work is helping everyone accept that day-to-day improvement is a normal part of the job.

1 comment:

Michael Ballé said...

hi Paul,
i m a great fan of Goal Play so really appreciate your kind words, thanks! (And respect!)