You’re Not the Hero

By Ron Pereira Updated on October 31st, 2019

We continuous improvement practitioners have much to learn from the movie business. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that the “storytelling formula” may be one of the most important things we lean thinkers can learn.

Most good movies/books (think Lord of the Rings or Star Wars) follow a specific formula.

There’s a hero (i.e. Frodo/Luke). The hero has a problem. The hero meets a guide (i.e. Gandalf/Yoda). The guide lays out a plan. The guide calls the hero to action. Finally, after much struggle, the hero succeeds and realizes their full potential.

Even if movies like Lord of the Rings and Star Wars aren’t your thing…go ahead and apply this same formula to your favorite movie. In most cases, a similar story script applies.

Now, as it relates to continuous improvement, the “secret” lies in the hero/guide relationship. You see, far too many times we lean thinkers ride in on our white horses and attempt to be the hero since we have lots of CI knowledge and experience. This is totally backwards.

We lean thinkers are the guides…not the heroes. Put another way, we’re Gandalf and Yoda and the people we’re helping are Frodo and Luke. And when we do our job right we help these heroes identify problems, come up with a plan, take action, and realize success.

And while this may seem obvious, I think, if we’re being honest, many of us are guilty of trying to be the heroes with all the answers. We want to be acknowledged and recognized for our wisdom and skill. Make no mistake…the desire and need for “status” is real.

But, for true and lasting continuous improvement success we must rise above the need for hero status and realize our main purpose is to guide, mentor, and serve.

  1. Sid Joynson

    November 1, 2019 - 4:34 pm

    HEROES and helpers.
    We made a 6 episode TV series with the BBC in 1994; it was called ‘Sid’s Heroes’. They showed different elements of TPS and Kaizen being applied on our two day workshops. They included a car component factory, a hospital, a shoe factory, a passenger ferry service, & producers of video tapes & refrigerators. We wanted to show that TPS can be applied in any industry, as long as you engage all your people who directly do the work or support it. We call these good folk the ‘Heroes’ of the organisation.
    We must teach managers to see these Heroes as the soldiers who can deliver the victory they seek on the business battlefield.
    The brightest managers know their main task is to enable all their people to shine. With this combined brightness brilliant organisation are created,
    I like to be called a helper, and make the point to delegates at the start of workshops that they are the real experts at doing their own job. With their combined abilities they can achieve amazing/Heroic results. I explain I will just give them some simple tools to use the ability they already posses
    We give a guarantee that if managers are not ‘gobsmacked’ by the presentation at the end of day two workshop, we will not charge for the event, and we always get paid.
    Well do I name these good people, Sid’s Heroes.
    Watch the Video Sid’s Heroes’ on YouTube, and be gobsmacked yourself. You will then understand the reason for my confidence.

  2. Brittany Lucas

    November 5, 2019 - 10:25 pm

    This is great advice that will stand with me as I move forward in my career. Being able to recognize that although you may have some great ideas right from the jump, explaining the process and receiving questions will not only further the knowledge of those that may be under you, it may expand the success of the original thought. People are most victorious as a team and realizing the shared victory will empower the “heros.” Lean thinkers in turn, will still be recognized for their desire to teach and acknowledged for their positive efforts. I hope that all of my future leads will understand the importance of guidance and mentorship so I can become a “hero” as well. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Kirby Sneen

    December 11, 2019 - 5:47 pm

    Great post. If you like this post you will love the book Building a Story Brand by Donald Miller.

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