Tips for Lean Managers

Build a Workplace You Can Be Proud Of

By Jon Miller Published on March 6th, 2007

People talk about pride. It’s a funny thing. I’ve never seen a “pride” poster in a factory or workplace that had their 5S down, good visual management in place and smiling employees. Maybe they 5S-ed the pride posters. Or maybe I haven’t been around enough.
I’ve heard some say that doing 5S for the sake of impressing customer is the wrong reason. If that’s the only reason, I agree. But I think we should all do 5S to build a workplace we can be proud of. Whether it is customers, family members or fellow workers, excellent 5S is a way to display high morale.
The word pride puzzled me for a long time. “Proud of being __” or “Pride in __.” Perhaps growing up American in Japan, I didn’t get my childhood dose of pride rhetoric. The Japanese were rising from the ashes between the 1950s and the 1980s and pride wasn’t a big byword. Or even “__ pride” with name of the city sports team or school mascot filling the blank. What is that about?
I do understand the feeling of accomplishment or authorship. People support what they create. This is one of the reasons why people resist change. They are defending something they created, and by extension they are defending themselves. Maybe this is called pride.
When doing kaizen and changing the workplace, whether it be changing the design of an assembly line, taking out a robot that is over-designed and far too fast and complex for building one piece at takt, or challenging long-held but shaky engineering standards, pride can be injured.
How can we turn this injured pride, which can become resistance to change and dislike of kaizen, into something positive? We need to tell people “build a workplace you can be proud of” and give them the opportunity to do this little by little each day.
Too often organizations put the authority to make changes in the hands of a limited number of experts or specialists, and the majority is led to believe that they cannot affect change. So these people may hold on to some small thing that they had a part in creating and take pride in it. When it comes time for the things they are proud of to change, they feel a sense of loss.
If you are asking people to give up something they created and they have pride in, you need to fill this sense of loss with something of greater value. I think the ability to do kaizen, to improve your work and yourself every day, is that something.

  1. Ron

    March 6, 2007 - 5:41 pm

    Interesting topic. Pride is one of the seven deadly sins for a reason. Pride in and of itself is not bad… but it can be taken too far as you discussed. When we have pride we must also have a strong cup of humility near by.

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