Drive out fear. Dr. Deming told us this many years ago when he published his famous 14 Principles.
Most of us have heard these words. Most of us probably think we understand these words. And, I bet, most “actively practicing” lean thinkers probably think they’re doing a decent job at driving out fear within their organization.
Now, obviously, I have no idea of knowing how you’re doing when it comes to driving out fear. But one thing I know, for sure, is it’s much harder to do than most think.
In fact, I recently spoke with some high performing employees who work for a solid, lean thinking, company and eventually came to realize that fear was impacting their performance. Now they weren’t afraid of getting fired or anything like that. Instead, these folks were afraid of letting their fellow employees down.
In this specific situation there was a, less than optimal, metric at the core of the problem. These employees bravely admitted to me that they tended to game this metric from time to time since they didn’t want to “look bad” to their management and fellow co-workers.
After more discussion with these employees, and eventually their management, a decision was made to change the way this process was measured. And that “metric” that caused most of the anxiety was changed to something more meaningful. And, best of all, these employees were brave enough to come clean with their thoughts and feelings and their leadership was able to adjust once they understood what was going on.
I share this story as reminder, and warning, that no organization is exempt from the perils of fear. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been practicing lean or how good you think you’re doing. Fear is just like its cousin, entropy. Always pressing and pulling. Always trying to break us down. Don’t let it. Be vigilant. And never, ever, stop improving.