Dec 28, 2009

Joy, hope, and lean

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?


Jim Baran, Owner Value Stream Leadership said...

I would have to say my moment of joy takes place every morning when I look into the mirror.

I see the real problem. The rest of the day is going about fixing it - or trying to live in the solution.

Jim Baran
Owner, Value Stream Leadership

Jamie Flinchbaugh said...

What a fantastic reminder? I was just commented on another blog about SMART goals (which I don't believe in, MT is enough) but wonder if we should add a J, for how will this goal bring you joy.

I love what I do. But I'm not lucky. I made it that way. When I'm not happy, I attempt to (don't always succeed) to figure out why and fix it.

Too many people are waiting for joy to find them. I think instead they need to go find joy.

Jamie Flinchbaugh

Unknown said...

Great thoughts, guys. We do need to take the occasional quiet moments to reflect on what makes us happy. It's different for each of us, at different times of our lives. For me, it's stories and ideas with meaning. What's "meaning"? That's the true puzzle.

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