By Jessica Bush
I’ll admit, when I applied for the Marketing Specialist position at Gemba Academy, I didn’t know much about lean. I was less than a year out of college and all I had to go off of were snippets of information from one IT class and my pre-interview research. That was January 2014. Almost a year and a half later, I can now look back and reflect on the very beginning of my lean journey, and the lessons I’ve already learned since joining the Gemba Academy team.
Lean Is a Lifestyle
Given the nature of the company, it was obvious that working for Gemba Academy would involve a lot of thinking, writing, and learning about lean. What I didn’t expect was how quickly lean would saturate my personal life. While out shopping just a few weeks later, I realized how inefficient it was to make countless trips clear across a huge store to pick out items. Next time I visited that store, I had a route planned. Soon I was rearranging my kitchen and assembling thank you cards using one piece flow. Holistically, now more than ever I am empowered to make autonomous decisions and unafraid to make mistakes. I even find myself relying on the concept of “Respect for People” to guide me in my treatment of others, whether coworkers, friends, family members, or complete strangers.
Perspective Adds Value
Part of what makes lean so powerful is the diversity of its practitioners. We share a common interest in continuous improvement, but our unique backgrounds, skill sets, and personalities are what form the lenses through which we view and solve problems. Working for Gemba Academy means I am often surrounded by expert lean thinkers, which can be intimidating. When the self-doubt settles in I remind myself that, as a lean novice, my perspective is what’s valuable. I can relate to and connect with our new-to-lean customers on a level that the experts can not. If I’m struggling to grasp a particular concept, for example, chances are some of our customers are as well. From this angle, my inexperience is actually an advantage.
It Isn’t Easy
Above all, I have come to understand that practicing lean requires patience, commitment, and a genuine desire to improve. It isn’t always glamorous, nor are the results always instant. Like any journey, it’s a series of small opportunities that, if taken, can amount to a significant transformation. The best part of being a young lean thinker is that, in theory, I have decades of practice ahead of me. From successes and failures, to taking risks that pay off and taking risks that don’t, to applying what I think I know and identifying what I have yet to learn, I’m looking forward to the road ahead.