My kids range in age from 3 to 16. And, as long time Gemba Academy followers may know, I have quite a few kids in between these two. And while my wife and I have learned a lot about parenting over the years we’re still learning. Our oldest child often complains that she’s the one being experimented on. And, to be fair, she’s sort of right since she is the first to experience many things like getting a cell phone, learning to drive, and, gasp, liking boys!
Professionally, I’ve been practicing some form of continuous improvement for more than 20 years. So, in a way, as my wife and I have been learning how to parent I was also, in parallel, learning how to practice lean. And, obviously, I’m still learning!
But, to be sure, there is one thing that most definitely stands out as the single most important lesson of all… the process.
Now, to be clear, when I say “the process” I don’t mean a process we map out in a factory or office. No, the process I am referring to was popularized by Nick Saban who currently coaches the University of Alabama football team. Now, as a boy that grew up in Ohio I am no Alabama fan… but I must confess that I’ve long admired Saban for the way he goes about his business.
You see, to Saban the focus isn’t on winning another SEC championship or National Championship. Those, to him, are results. Instead, what Saban relentlessly pursues is perfection at whatever he, or his players, are focused on at that moment. He wants perfection at whatever they’re are doing. Every drill. Every play. Every conditioning session. Every study hall. Be as perfect as possible during each of these moments.
And Saban believes that if he and his players follow the process to the best of their ability the results, including championships, will come. And, obviously, as anyone that follows American college football knows Alabama has done OK during the Saban era.
The process has obvious ties to the way my wife and I try to parent our kids. When my son is worked up about losing a football game I come back to the process. I ask him if he prepared as well, and thoroughly, as he could. My boy works really hard so his answer is normally a resounding yes. I then ask him if he played his very best during the game. Again, his answer is normally that he did. At that point I kiss him on the forehead, tell him I’m proud of him and that I love him, and to keep following the process. We then go get an ice cream and that’s that.
And, of course, I believe the process is the only way to success with lean and business in general. There are no short cuts. We must focus on doing our very best every minute of every day. Put another way, if we ever find ourselves overly obsessed with outcomes or results danger is likely near. When companies only focus on “making the numbers” they usually abandon anything that resembles the process. Instead, these companies usually overburden their employees with things like mandatory overtime and threats of moving the business if things don’t improve. That’s a lousy way to run a company and almost always leads to failure.
So, let me ask you… what’s on your agenda for today? How can you ensure you do your very best at whatever it is you need to do? How can you follow the process?