Helping our Friend from Down Under: Part Two

By Ron Pereira Updated on January 13th, 2011

Lean CommunicationsIf you had one story to “sell” lean or six sigma to over 1,000 employees what would you say?

Well, that’s precisely the situation our friend Gail is facing Down Under. To get the full history of Gail’s story please check out part one of this mini series.

I’ve thought about this question for the better part of two days. It’s an interesting situation to say the least and I’ve actually started and stopped this article several times.

Beyond Storytelling

Rather than explaining how to write a story I’d actually prefer to speak about some other aspects of a lean or six sigma deployment that are, at least to me, far more important than well written prose.

Please don’t take me wrong, I do think communicating before and during a lean or six sigma deployment is very important. So, for storytelling or writing tips I’d recommend Gail study the works of Plato and Hollywood. Both are masters at crafting and telling stories.

The Successful Deployment

Assuming an organization has someone able to write a story the most important question is what should this story be about? Well, here are some of my personal thoughts and I’d love to hear yours.

1. Respect for People.

First of all, no matter where you live or work being respectful of people must become a priority. Does this mean we must all sit around and sing kumbaya all day long? No. Of course not. But it does mean listening to our employees and challenging them to be the best they can be.

2. Results is a Four Letter Word.

Next, while respecting people is very important getting results – real results – from any continuous improvement deployment is mandatory. And in the end, the word results could be summarized with fours letter – cash.

I’ve actually written about this before when I contrasted activity based programs with results based programs. Sadly, most organizations are trapped in activity based program hell. If this is you… please save yourself before it’s too late!

3. Go to Gemba.

The thing that separates the pretenders from the contenders is the willingness of management to get up from their big office and comfy chairs in order to head to the place the actual work is done.

This place, called the gemba, is where real value is added. As such, the leaders of the organization must be there are often as possible.  So, when there is a problem the leadership should go to the gemba to help solve the problem.  And when things are going great, the leadership should go to the gemba to see how to make it last.

And even better yet, whenever a kaizen is occurring the leadership should be right down there on the floor with the employees helping out.

And here’s a tip for Gail. When your leaders are out there helping snap a picture and include that in your story. This normally catches the attention of a few skeptics.

4. Go Slow to Go Fast.

Ah yes, my favorite – go slow to go fast. I’m actually being sarcastic as this is not my favorite part of lean leadership. But it’s something I’m working on and plan to work on forever.

What does go slow to go fast mean? Well, it means to realize that all of our problems won’t be solved overnight. No ridiculous bail out program will solve the big 3’s issues. And no lean or six sigma program will take you from last to first in the next 60 days.

Toyota has been at this for over 50 years and they are far from infallible. But last time I checked no Toyota representative was flying in on private jets asking for their allowance to be increased. Private jets? Are you kidding me? I digress.

5. Be Speedy.

Now this, my good friends, is indeed my favorite leadership aspect! And while it may seem to contradict the previous point of going slow to go fast it really doesn’t. Let me explain.

You see, to be speedy means to make things happen fast. In other words, instead of attempting to improve on time delivery for your entire plant… try to break this project up into 5 or 6 smaller, more manageable pieces.

This is precisely why there are two types of kaizen – system kaizen and point kaizen.

This is the Story

So, I suppose my best advice for Gail is to start focusing on these five aspects of leadership before worrying about writing  the story. After all, the best stories are true stories… so win a few battles before attempting to explain how we plan to win the war.

I’m curious if you have any other advice or thoughts on the matter.  If so, please share.

  1. Sheila R.

    November 21, 2008 - 12:02 pm

    I especially like your comment about managers going to the floor. At least at my company most of our managers would not be caught dead on the shop floor. This probably explains why we have struggled to sustain our Lean program.

  2. Sunil Yadav

    November 23, 2008 - 10:32 pm

    As you said in your article that results are four letter word.rightly so,but what should we do if we are not seeing any immmediate impact on balance sheet with Kaizen activities.Shall we continue our improvement & wait for results later on or shall we wait for results to show & then carry out next kaizen.

  3. Ron Pereira

    November 24, 2008 - 8:23 am

    Hi Sunil, my comments about results was more focused on ensuring you are doing kaizen for the right reasons… and that reason should be to make the company more profitable in the long run. This is to say that we shouldn’t be overly concerned by metrics like “number of people certified” or other nebulous metrics.

    To answer your question directly… don’t wait! Be aggressive with your improvements. Set a goal for yourself and those around you to make something better each and every day. Anything. Just make it better. The results will come. I promise you!

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