Feel like there is clear direction? Confident there is common vision for where things are headed? Great! Hard to be successful if we don’t agree on the destination.
big scary things. Following the often exhausting process of agreeing on vision, we face a yawning chasm stretching from our toes out toward the happy place. It may seem abundantly clear what our next step should be in chasing improvement, but how confident are we that everyone around us will step off in exactly the same direction and pace?
One of the most valuable things clearly defined direction|vision brings is clarity about what we must measure. Our next effort in the Improvement Kata focuses on leveraging the vision to clearly define our current position using these supportive measures.
Many lean/operational excellence transformations fall prey to the trap of pursuing an unclear vision from a poorly defined starting point. The direct effect of this fuzzy launch pad is drunken wandering instead of structured experimentation towards the happy place.
Once upon a time, I was part of a leadership team exploring the benefits of “lean.” Enamored with the positive financial metrics, we read books, visited plants and worked to understand where our company stood in comparison. At the time, I don’t think we understood that the analytical person (Elephant Rider) in us loved the inventory reduction and cash flow, but what spurred our emotional half forward (Elephant) was the level of engagement and obvious fulfillment of the employees working in companies driven by people-centered cultures pursuing OpEx business philosophies. Our vision should have included direction for the rider and the elephant, but alas we just talked about the easy stuff.
We initiated “deployment” or “transformation” without clearly understanding the fundamentally different underlying approaches to employee development and leadership girding successful cultural transformations. While we understood people were an important part of our transformation, we never worked to grasp the current condition about what mental models our people possessed. We were ignorant about the preparedness and loyalty of our middle managers. We knew little about their abilities to support and coach tools, much less model the behaviors essential in establishing a learning culture focused on problem-solving at all levels.
Ugly. One word to describe the political posturing, back-biting, passive aggressive natures that surfaced as we cheered from the top, deployed tools at the work and just expected our managers to get on board. Every day our assumptions about the current condition of our people generated prodigious amounts of emotional waste. Our managers strove to survive in a game where the rules had changed without their input.
Lean journeys are cultural transformations. Paradigms shift and people look at their entire world in new ways. Whether exploring problems at the enterprise level or right next to the work, don’t assume! Force yourself to measure everything… even the messy stuff. Take the time to grasp all aspects of the current condition in light of your hard fought vision… the world needs less emotional waste.