This time of the year, we look back and reflect, then look forward and plan. Goals, achievements, cost savings, and all that stuff. We want our timetables, training schedules, and reports to move our lean agendas forward.
But I think it's joy and hope that propel continuous improvement. We're just humans, with primitive brains that run on emotions more often than on facts and figures. Is Toyota's "respect for humanity" more than mere politeness and listening? Doesn't it tap those deeper feelings?
I'm reminded of a story that Joe Sensenbrenner, quality expert and mayor of Madison, Wisconsin, some twenty years ago, told me about bringing continuous improvement to city government. He required that all managers, including chief of police Dave Couper, attend Dr. Deming's series of lectures. Joe described the chief striding into the hall, in uniform, gun on his hip, not happy about listening to something that he felt had little to do with police work. Dr. Deming stood at the front of the room at an overhead projector, marker in his hand, as the chief sat down.
Then Dr. Deming wrote down one word and the chief's face changed completely. The word was "joy."
As Dr. Deming continued to explain a new view of quality of product and service, Dave Couper's view of police work was overturned. From command, control, and threat of force, be began to see the police force as part of the community, creating relationships, and helping people in crisis. Sure, there were still criminals who had to be arrested, and community policing did not cure all ills.
Dave Couper went on to take the practice of community policing to many other cities, improving communities one police officer at a time. It all began with that one word, joy.
Maybe we should take time to remember a moment when we felt that joy in our practice of lean. It could have been when employees came to a pilot cell and ask for help to implement 5S or visual control in their areas of the plant. It could have been when you were in the midst of a project and saw the light turn on in someone's mind. It could have been that moment of celebration when your team solved a difficult problem.
What's been your moment of joy?