Connected to the second step of writing resolutions for arbitrary dividing points in time, we need to address one of the biggest obstacles to success which all of us face: ourselves. The human mind is an incredibly powerful thing, the means to control which is in our hands, yet we use it to delude, divert and distract ourselves in various ways. In reflecting on goals for the coming months, I have identified seven personal behaviors that need to change.
1. Overproduction. The mother of all wastes, the deceiver which provides the appearance of value added (but customer-less) work, the beast which feasts on our most productive hours, I need to slay it. This starts with doing a better job of understanding the deeper purpose of work we do, the customer voice and the essential few outputs that have value.
2. Scatter. Even when we are working on the right things, we may be working on too many things. As a curious person I am guilty of starting more things than I finish. This needs to change, and self-control is being exercised daily during this holiday period when idle hands seek to do the devil’s work (start new projects). Perhaps I can satisfy my curiosity by digging up and finishing a few old projects first.
3. Walking past waste and doing nothing. When small wastes stop bothering me, numbness to large wastes is soon to follow. I recognized the loss of sensitivity towards wasteful expenditures in the past year, and several people called me on the fact. It’s a scary thing to recognize you are going blind, after having once regained one’s sight, metaphorically. I feel a bit better about the shock I felt in seeing this national Italian restaurant chain’s errant use of energy while out shopping with my family a week ago. A well lit, vacant outdoor section of the restaurant with a gas fire battling the cold wind…
…and still I walked by and didn’t bother to go inside and give the manager some painfully obvious energy-saving tips. I need to do better than take a photo in the future.
4. Using past failure as an excuse. “Rather than make excuses, think of ways to make it possible” is an axiom of kaizen that is easier to live by in good times than in bad ones. Related to #3 above, I need to become intolerant of even seemingly valid excuses and the resulting lack of accountability from myself and from others.
5. Delaying difficult decisions. It’s never too late to kaizen. It’s also never too early. I wish we could say the same about difficult decisions, but unfortunately the luxury of delaying difficult decisions is directly proportional to the waste we are willing to tolerate by delaying these decisions. If an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure, then we’ll have to mix measures and say a gram of decision not delayed is better than even an ounce delayed.
6. Turning the PDCA wheel slowly. Planning slowly must be followed by quick, team-based execution (DO) and then by follow up (CHECK) and adjustment, correction, learning and standardization (ACT). I refuse to believe that it will take me 40 years to learn this. I don’t have the time, even if I’ve already been on this path for 16 years. I need to crank the wheel faster this year.
7. Not following up on following up. Standard work for leaders is all about checking that we are checking. Are standards being followed? Do we have standards for everything? Is everyone following these standards? If not, why not? When were the standards last updated and who all knows about it and has done yokoten (copy best practice)? Someone in a position of significant responsibility once said “Trust, but verify” and an old carpenter’s adage goes “Measure twice, cut once”. I look forward to more go see, more standards and more tenacious follow ups for and by all of my Gemba team members flying about the world.
Happy New Year.