The idea that centralization creates strength is a long-lived theme in our culture. This idea informs our value structure and in turn our leadership decisions and behavior, yet there is very little examination that this assumption is best. The lens of interpretation that is used when prioritizing any endeavor is biased towards the ends of supporting people in leadership.
And this is one explanation about why Lean is so widely adopted. Leaders can easily see that there is meaning from a Lean principles-based perspective yet there are plenty of artifacts and behaviors available enough for the unexamined adoption to be resilient. Improvement is the booby-prize of Lean but can also be done by through a variety of means.
The test is congruency between the various layers of your onion of culture. Analyze it in terms of deeper and deeper layers. On the surface, as yourself, what are the tools and methods that you employ? One layer deeper; how do those artifacts and behaviors fit the values that you espouse? If you don’t speak about your values there is obviously a gap in your Lean. Then at your core, guess at the unconscious assumptions that the value structure is based upon. Is there true respect for humanity? Are you assuming people would lie, cheat and steal if given the chance? Are they not smart enough to succeed without help?
To examine your onion of culture write about all these layers in list format next to your values and your tools/methods. Use this worksheet.
Are you feeling stress in a group? Universally, group incongruence is the result of nonempathic communications. To resolve this work the group through an exercise examining these assumptions, values and practices. It is an extremely quick route to solidarity. When underlying assumptions can be shared empathic communication is necessitated.
It was Heubert Dryfus who spoke in a reflection of his award for teaching who talked about how the best approach for teaching is to let students into his own personal learning process. I don’t know if this method has an academic name, but it makes sense seeing the best practices in action that surround Lean thinking. Take for example the following seemingly separate types of engagements; all geared toward learning and discovery:
The emphasis of Lean techniques bringing responsibility to the individual contributors to improve.
The grand push towards coaching as a model for improvement.
Consider how we best learn. I think it is at the intersection of repetition, life-cycle understanding (see Job Instruction), and the non-expert model where both teachers and students are learning and sharing with each other. Based upon that I submit these 3 educational design principles:
Understand the whole before going deeper.
Learn from every encounter.
Reflect on yourself and your contribution.
Some say that we, as humans, feel like we are living life as it should be if and only if we are learning. This is the perfect definition of lean: optimal Respect and Continuous Improvement.
Guys Joe (Joseph Luft) and Harry (Harrington Ingham), through some form of happy hour, came up with the JoHari window. Pick a topic – it should fit into one of four quadrants. On one axis is whether you know it and on the other is whether others know it. The purpose of thinking about these things is for us to recognize the complexity of ourselves in relationships.
We share parts of ourselves and hide others. Parts of us are obvious to others which we may hide from.
In our work environment, wellbeing with others is paramount to success. Our effectiveness relating to others limits all other aspects of our competency. Said another way, our relationship with others is the foundational competency through with all of our other competencies exist.
Take time in your Lean journey to reflect on your relationship competence.
What are the aspects of yourself that you are known for?
What do others know about you that you do not?
What is something that you have yet to discover about yourself?
It is worth our time to always be on the lookout to develop some skills in relationships. Without the focus on relationships we have a tendency to avoid conflict creating a culture of silence surrounding problems. Conflict may be perceived as negative or risky and we lose the benefit of collaboration and prioritization.
Prosocial is an adjective defined as relating to or denoting behavior which is positive, helpful, and intended to promote social acceptance and friendship. It’s a term gaining ground only in the last couple of decades. Using prosocial communication requires the speaker to unconditionally address the strengths of the other. It is to look for and reinforce the positive within the context of what is being said. It takes a lot of work to speak in a prosocial manner and is very challenging when you feel that something that was said threatens your station in life. It is at this point that you must put negative judgements on hold and embrace differences as gifts.
Lean is a system of working together better. It is based on respect for each other. I can’t think of a more basic communication adjective surrounding respect than prosocial communication.
For more information about this please see this paper and anything by Carl Roger’s Person-Centered Approach.
Today, I was exploring the topic of a suggestion system with my coach. My background is similar to that of the likes of Kaizen Teian compiled by the Japanese Human Resources Association or Quick and Easy Kaizen by Norman Bodek. What I like about these systems are the social interplay between management and the employees. Of course, the tool doesn’t mean much – they all promote scientific thinking.
So, as an internal coach I was asking if the tools that we’ve developed are conducive to these kind of social structures. I was informed that yes, indeed, these tools are conducive and that although they are not currently being used as such, it is up to me to get people to use them effectively. Let’s get busy people. What fun!