Elmore Leonard is an American novelist who has been writing lean and taut crime novels for a half century. He is the Toyota of crime novels, if that’s a compliment. Reliable, not flashy, always delivering on the promise of a hard-boiled reading experience. He does this by sticking to a process called Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Good Writing. They are:
1. Never open a book with weather
2. Avoid prologues
3. Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue
4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said”…he admonished gravely
5. Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose
6. Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose”
7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly
8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters
9. Don’t go into great detail describing places and things
10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip
Skip it. Avoid it. Leave it out. Never touch the stuff. Don’t be tempted. Stick to the story.
Succeed through subtraction. This man is a lean thinker. And he bears an uncanny physical resemblance to both John Shook and James Womack, after they borrowed some hair from Mike Rother. If Elmore Leonard cared what a gemba walk was, he might say something like this:
1. Never open a gemba walk dialogue with weather. Show some respect for the people you are talking to on the gemba. Know who they are, know something about them, ask about their kids, their hobby, their dog, whatever lights up their life.
2. Avoid prologues. Don’t spend time explaining who you are or why you are walking the floor and asking questions. If you need to this, you don’t trust them or they don’t trust you. If they are surprised to see you, that’s a problem. Build trust first.
3. Never use an interrogative other than “why?” to carry dialogue. Go ahead and use the other interrogatives such as “what” and “how” to start the dialogue. Stick with “why” to carry the dialogue forward. You’re on a gemba walk to identify lack of standards, standards that are not attainable or standards not being followed, and engage people in thinking about why this is so. Encourage them to find creative solutions to these problems.
4. Never use the word “not” to modify the interrogative “why?” You’re smart, maybe you’re in a position of power. It’s terribly tempting to show that by giving answers. You’re not on a gemba walk to solve problems. Instead, develop the sensitivity to see everyday problems, the skills to solve problems creatively, in a scalable way. People expect leaders to solve problems. Your “why not..?” robs them of an opportunity to come up with solutions themselves. Let them learn how to fix it, even if it takes longer.
5. Keep your “a-ha!” moments under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 steps of gemba walking. If you’re doing a whole lot more learning, you might need to go back to kaizen school before you’re ready to teach. Or maybe just keep walking.
6. Never use the words “maybe” or “I guess.” You’re solving problems again. Stop speculating. See rule #3.
7. Use technical terms, jargon, sparingly. Speak in code only if you want to keep secrets. Speak the language of the floor. Listen with an open mind to whatever lessons it will yield. Humble yourself on the gemba walk and become the learner.
8. Avoid detailed descriptions of problems. You’re walking the gemba to check the level of understanding of the problem solving process, not whether they have the right solution. The right process yields the right results.
9. Don’t ask people for great detail in describing places and things. Take a healthy interest in the workplace, the product, the process. Don’t let curiosity take over and lose focus on the purpose of the gemba walk. It’s not industrial tourism.
10. Try to leave out the part that customers tend to skip. You know, the non value added parts. Oh, that’s most of your operation? Sorry. You better get busy with kaizen.