Tips for Lean Managers

I Mean It. Be Dissatisfied in the Work You Do

By Jon Miller Published on August 12th, 2006

Reader Jeff made a good point in a comment he left a end of one of the articles here at Panta Rei. I suggested replacing “Take pride in the work you do” signs in the workplace with “Be dissatisfied in the work you do” signs, more appropriate for a kaizen culture.
One of my missions is to have place for people to come and work and be satisfied. A sign like that sounds counter productive. Says Jeff in his posted comment.
We certainly don’t want people to see the “be dissatisfied” sign and cop a disgruntled attitude at work. Maybe this idea about dissatisfaction needs a bit more explanation.
I value “job satisfaction” but don’t care for the term. Sales guru of the moment Jeffrey Gitomer had a good article a few months back in the local business journal. The article contains many clever learning points for the business development person, and possibly for the Lean manager. In it Mr. Gitomer defines satisfaction thus:
Satisfaction: The lowest level of acceptable service.
Job satisfaction implies a certain lowest acceptable level of happiness with your job. By the same token, it implies a certain acceptable level of unhappiness.
Talking about dissatisfaction and openly and willingly recognizing dissatisfaction on the part of both management and the workforce requires an awareness of the current condition as being the worst ever, and an acceptance that it must be changed for the better.
The extreme of satisfaction can be complacency, and this leads to a desire not to change. Extreme dissatisfaction can lead to low morale, and a desire not to change. Either one can lead to ruin. Choose satisfaction or dissatisfaction, as long as it is something dynamic and changing for the better.
Newton’s first law of motion (a.k.a. the law of inertia) states that objects in motion tend to stay in motion, and objects at rest tend to stay at rest unless an outside force acts upon them. The same is true with kaizen. People who are dissatisfied and constantly changing for the better will always see more waste and find more ways to solve problems. People who are satisfied will tend to resist change, unless an outside force acts upon them.
In the sales world, customers come to the seller (or are willing to listen to a seller who goes to them) because they are dissatisfied with their current condition. They may have a particular want, need or pain they want fixed or their existing solution or service may be unsatisfactory. Stated simply, people buy things to avoid pain or gain pleasure. People change for the same reasons. So be dissatisfied.

  1. jeff

    August 17, 2006 - 6:19 pm

    Very happy to see my comment posted. I don’t mean to be be negative to your new signs. It sounds like you have to have an educated work force. I tend to think my work force is not ready for a sign like that (I run a cabinet making shop). I’m focused on seeing the job through the employees eyes and asking them to think to much might jepardize what I really need from them. I guess I’m probally behind in developement of a lean culture, however I have a grass roots perspective.

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