This weekend my 4 year old daughter learned to ride her bike without training wheels. She has been after me for quite awhile to let her have a shot but I have been hesitant. I just didn’t think she was ready.
But after she saw her 5 year old cousin ride his bike without training wheels she gave me that look like, “OK, take the dang things off and let me roll!” I did.
Let’s Roll Dad
We started off slow and she fell a few times. I held the back of her seat and ran behind her. She fell. I picked her up, brushed her off, and we tried it again.
After a few more tries she managed to stay up for a few seconds without falling.
Then she got it.
She was riding her bike and having a blast. She was making this laughing sound like I have never heard her make before. It was as if this was the best thing that had ever happened to her.
Perhaps in terms of achieving something it was. I mean this is a big milestone for a child.
Parallels to Lean & Six Sigma
You may wonder what this has to do with Lean and Six Sigma. I think there are major parallels.
- I was keeping her from her potential by not letting her try this a month ago when she started hounding me. I was trying to protect her I guess… but she was probably ready then and I should have let her try. Many times employees are ready and willing to make things better only to be halted by management who “know better.”
- She had to fall a few times to understand this was going to take some effort and concentration. Fighting the good fight with Lean and Six Sigma is not easy. We will make mistakes and if we are not making mistakes it likely means we are playing it safe. Also, when we do “fall” it is important to get right back on the bike. Hopefully we have someone there to help us to our feet.
- My daughter can now ride her bike… but the whole stopping thing is still a little shaky. Thus, she needs to keep working at it until she is totally competent. The whole idea of kaizen is not to be perfect from the get go. The idea is to get better… then a little better… then a little better.
If a 4 year old can understand this why is it so hard for us grown ups? When was the last time you laughed like a child after achieving something so wonderful? Perhaps the innocence and vigor of a child is what all of us need from time to time on our journey towards continuous improvement.