In this episode, I am playing a recording of my speaking event last week at Lean Leadership Week for Lean Frontiers. Lean Leadership Week is an annual gathering of those seeking to learn, implement, and sustain successful lean transformations in order to address some of the most common challenges in lean organizations. The Summit highlights companies who are addressing these challenges through Lean Accounting, Lean HR, Lean Management, and Lean People Development.
My presentation was titled: Developing a Lean Culture. During the presentation, I discuss the three simple areas that need attention in order to achieve a true culture of continuous improvement. I also present a model to adopt understanding in change management. Finally, I challenged the listeners with three questions:
1. Do you have a long-term vision?
2. Have you developed expectations for behaviors?
3. Is it safe for your employees to fail?
Patrick Adams 00:01
Welcome to the Lean solutions podcast where we discuss business solutions to help listeners develop and implement action plans for true Lean process improvement. I am your host, Patrick Adams. Hello, everybody and welcome. Today on the Lean solutions podcast, I’m going to be playing a recording from a conference that I spoke at last week, specifically, the Lean leadership week with Lean frontiers. Lean leadership week with the with Lean frontiers is an annual gathering of those seeking to learn, implement and sustain successful lean transformations in order to address some of the most common challenges in Lean organizations. During the conference, I spoke on the topic of developing a true culture of continuous improvement. And I posed three questions to the audience. The first question is, do you have a long term vision? The second question is, have you established clear expectations for leadership behavior? And the third question is, is it safe for your employees to fail, I hope you enjoy this episode of the lean solutions podcast,
Jim Huntzinger 01:11
he’s been delivering bottom line results through specialized process of proven solutions for over 20 years. And he’s worked in all types of businesses ranging from private nonprofit government and manufacturing, and also from small to large billion dollar corporation. So been around the block for a number of different areas. So with that, Patrick, I’ll let you take it away. All
Patrick Adams 01:32
right. Well, thank you, Jim. I appreciate it. appreciate everybody being here. And just the opportunity to speak with all of you about creating a culture of continuous improvement. Love, the work that lean frontiers is doing, Jim, everything that you guys and your team are doing is amazing for the Lean community, thank you so much for for this event for all the events that you guys put on just the opportunity to pop in and be part of this as is definitely just a great experience for everyone. So thank you for that. With that said, let me let me jump into the the topic of the day creating a culture of continuous improvement. Culture is a learned process. It’s really the output or the response to the working environment that has been established by leadership in the management team, many times, at least a huge percentage would come from leadership in the management team, your culture at your company is really an outcome of of what you do of what you say, of how you do things, right and outcome. Everyone has a culture already. So I think it’s important for us to understand that that that it’s it’s it’s about the ways that your business practices, its values, right leadership actions, and the attitudes, the behaviors that show up every single day. Those inputs are what really create the output, which becomes your culture. And we’re going to talk quite a bit about that. Today, I’m going to ask you to do something crazy right now, probably something you’ve never been asked to do on a virtual before, but I want you to close your eyes, I’m going to give you a little story. And I want you to imagine that you’re actually there. So take a minute and close your eyes as I as I kind of walk through this. So I want you to imagine the output that you’ve created at your organization. Your culture, is a true culture of continuous improvement. So I want you to imagine that your day begins with a powerful tier one meeting, a powerful stand up meeting. Before the team lead calls the meeting to begin, you come in to just active chatter with your team, everybody’s chatting, talking it up, having a good time, saying good morning to each other, right. And then let’s imagine that the team was engaged in some root cause analysis or root cause investigation at the end of the day yesterday. And not only did you identify the root cause, but they established some potential solutions, and have some plans to experiment with that today. So you even you even overhear a few people excited. They had a hard time sleeping last night. They’re so excited to come in today and actually run this experiment today. So just then the team leader comes and calls the meeting to order. Okay, so maybe she says something like, Okay, everybody, welcome. Good morning. We were able to meet most of our goals yesterday, except that one that we all know about. However, we’re running an experiment today in hopes of eliminating a problem that we believe is causing us to miss this metric. Does anyone foresee any challenges with running today’s experiment and maybe one of the Your teammates across the way raises their hand and, and she speaks up and says, Well, after we met the meeting after we’d left last night, I got to thinking, in order for us to accurately measure success, we really need to free up Billy after lunch. And I just don’t see how that’s possible given his current workflow. So the team leader responds and says, Good point. I’m not sure how we missed that. This is definitely an issue. And I can’t help with it right now. I’ll escalate it to the tier two and make sure that we’re able to move ahead with the experiment today. So everyone seems pleased with the response that the team leader gave right. And then later that day, during one of her hourly walkabouts, the team leader, lets everyone know that the issue was raised about Billy to the tier two. And it was resolved and the experiment can move on as expected. Everyone is clear on the expectations. Leadership is in full support. And you’ve been given the skills, the tools and the freedom to experiment with a new way of doing things. Okay, now you can open your eyes. Doesn’t that sound amazing, right to be part of an organization that has a true culture of continuous improvement. Now, I’m only giving you a very small snippet of what might be happening at a company where there’s a true culture of continuous improvement. But how do you get there? Right? How do you get to that point? Clearly, not everyone that’s on the Zoom today is there and not everyone has arrived? Right. And I would even argue those that say they have arrived there, there’s probably a lot of opportunity for improvement and still a place to go. So how do we get there? Well, author, Dr. Michelle rosin from Huffington Post, she’s a Huffington Post writer, she’s also a behavioral change agent, she gave us the seven characteristics of a successful company culture. And I love to use these because I think, like, wow, Dr. Rosin is not a lean practitioner and not a lean consultant and lean coach, by any means. She as a behavioral change agent, she sees that the the, the, the necessary inputs, that will give you a true, successful culture as she calls a successful culture. Now, I would obviously argue that these also will give you what we need, these are some of those inputs, some of those inputs that will give you what we need in a true culture of continuous improvement. So let’s go through these briefly. The first one, a purpose driven company culture, a purpose driven company culture, the ability for someone to connect their why, to the work that they’re doing, right, why are they there? What is their passion? And how do I connect that to the work that I’m doing? At lean solutions? Our Our purpose is to empower and equip people for positive change. Right? So everything that we do, we’re asking ourselves, does this help us to empower and equip others for positive change? Because if it doesn’t, then that’s a problem. Right? Then our work isn’t connecting to our purpose? So do you have a purpose driven culture, I want you to ask yourself that, do you have a purpose driven culture? Do you know how your work is contributing to something higher than than yourself? Number two is effective communication patterns, effective communication patterns? So do you have a way for individuals at all levels in the organization to understand clearly what the expectations are? And how their work contributes to the overall work of the organization? Is it clear to them hasn’t been communicated? when change happens? How is that communicated? Right? So So ask yourself that, do we have effective communication patterns? Number three, a culture of feedback. The worst thing that can happen is for someone to initiate an idea or have an idea for improvement. And for them to follow the right channels to get that idea out there and then never hear back. It’s the worst. It’s the one thing that can just break someone for, you know, from being a contributor of a in a continuous improvement culture, to being someone that’s completely reserved in a continuous improvement culture. If you establish a system for people to give ideas or be part of improvements, then you need to have a consistent way to to give them feedback. So if the idea isn’t a good idea, or maybe it’s not an idea that can be moved to head on because of return on investment, or whatever it might be, that person needs to hear about it. They need to know what happened with their idea whether it’s being moved forward or not move forward, they need some feedback. That’s just one example. Do you have a culture of feedback? Number four, embracing diversity, embracing diversity so by a good a good company, a successful company, a good company with a culture of continuous improvement understands that some people have strengths and some people have weaknesses. And when we have a diverse team that we can bring together those strengths and weaknesses and in the people that have weaknesses can be elevated in their strengths, because others may be stronger in areas where they’re weak, right, a company that understands that is going to be able to move much quicker than a company who has individuals working on change, working on root cause analysis, that that all have the exact same strengths come from the same area, you know, a group of seven engineers, not nothing against engineers, but we need to bring in some diversity into that team, and make sure that, that we have different strengths and weaknesses represented there. So does your does your organization have? Do they embrace diversity? Number five would be teamwork. Are you are you using teamwork? To to drive your organization forward? When you when you are working on projects? When you have Kaizen events or Kaizen activities? Are you engaging the entire team? Or is do you have one problem solver? That is the the one good problem solver at our organization, and every problem goes to that one person. And then that one person works on problems at their desk in the corner office or whatever it might be? Right? That’s not teamwork. So are we engaging our teams and our organizations? Number six is engagement and loyalty? So are we engaging our teams? Are we loyal to our teams? Are they loyal to us is their trust built within the organization? And then number seven is growth and development, growth and development? So do our team members have opportunities to grow and develop their skills so that they can be better contributors to the organization? That would be number seven? Again, these are seven really, really powerful characteristics of a successful company culture. But here’s the reality, okay, here’s the reality, which many of you are probably thinking, you’re dealing with human beings, right? And when change comes, human beings have a hard time accepting change. Not everyone. But many, many times humans have a hard time with change. However, I would argue that it’s not actually the people, I would say that it’s the system. It’s the system that is not set up to support people through change, right? Usually people don’t change because they’re working in a system that doesn’t provide what human beings need to embrace that change. Right. So this is a this is a really, really great actually just saw this. Over the last weekend, I was in Arizona, and someone shared this model with me from McKinsey, it was a survey that was done. And it’s pretty powerful. It was back in 2016. But I think it’s pretty powerful. So let’s let’s look at this. People, people from the survey said, I will change if, number one, I understand what’s being asked of me. And it makes sense. I understand it’s being asked to me and it makes sense. So people are a seek congruence between their beliefs and their actions, right, but believing, you know, going back to that purpose, believing that their why that their why inspires them to behave in a way that would allow them to move, you know, towards change. So that would be the first one that they understand what’s being asked to them, and that it makes sense. The second one is I will change if I see my leaders, colleagues and staff behaving differently. This is role modeling, right? People mimic individuals and groups who surround them. And sometimes that’s consciously and sometimes it’s unconsciously, but it’s also one of those reasons why we why we talk about finding a creating a model area, right or a model site, because people will role model, it’s also why leadership development, and we’re going to talk quite extensively about the behaviors and actions of leaders and why that’s so important in developing a true culture of continuous improvement. So role modeling is important. Number three is I will change if I have the skills and opportunities to behave in the new way. Right? There’s an old saying you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Well guess what in a in a continuous improvement environment, you can teach an old dog new tricks you can and and you have to you have to teach the individuals at your organization new skills, you have to be willing to develop them, whether they stay at your organization or leave your organization, you need to have a good development program in place to to give your employees the skills that they need to be successful in the roles that they have. The last one is I will change if I see our structures, processes and systems support the changes that I am being asked to make. This goes back to how the structures have to support the behavior, right so that the moment that or that people start to see that maybe lean initiatives are being built into, let’s say, the annual review process right now all the sudden, these lean initiatives are supported with the company structure. Right? So now there’s there’s things in place that are reinforcing the right things, instead of reinforcing the wrong things, which all too often is the case with many organizations. So again, this is a really powerful model, I think it really supports. As we start to think about how do we develop a true culture of continuous improvement, we really need to understand where the people are at and ensure that our systems are supporting people as they as they work through that change. All right, I want to back up just a little bit. And tell you guys a little bit about my background. Because I think it it really relates well to when we talk about creating a culture of continuous improvement. Many of you know that I wrote the book avoiding the continuous appearance trap. So just let me just give you a quick background on this early in my career, I worked for two companies, okay. Now, if you were to walk into either of these companies at the surface level, they would look very similar. They had, you know, similar visual management, they had similar KPIs safety, cost, quality delivery, both had similar org structures. And really, in walking through these two companies, it would be very difficult for you to tell differences in their approach to business solutions, just by looking at the the artifacts that you see, you know, tape on the floor, maybe some process maps on the walls, things like that. But underneath all of the floor tape, the pretty scorecards, the lean posters, was a toxic culture, where people absolutely hated to work, the company had high turnover. Sorry, one of the companies had high turnover, it had no stability, and the company appeared to have it all together at the surface level. But they struggled with those flavor of the month activities in real sustainment of any initiatives. Now, the other company that that I that I worked with, had a true culture of continuous improvement. And the difference was that underneath all of the artifacts that you saw at the surface level, was a place where people love to work, where people were connected to the mission where people were had purpose in their work, where the turnover was very low, where you know, that there was sustainment of initiatives, you know, engagement, excitement about changing activities. And I want to explain to you the difference between the two. Now, these are three very simple, simple topics that I think, again, very simple, but really were important in understanding the difference between these two organizations. So, company continued the company that have the true culture of continuous improvement, they did three things really well. Number one, they set expectations, very clear expectations, around goals around initiatives around connection of work to purpose to mission, they set very clear expectations. Number two, they enabled action that actually allowed people time in their day to work on reducing problems, eliminating waste, getting better at their jobs, developing their skill sets, they enabled that action. And then the third thing that they did was they sustained the results, they actually had strong structured sustainment plans in place to ensure that we didn’t go backwards. Right. So there was there was really good sustainment of results. Now, we talked about company continuous appearance, as I call it in the book, the company that didn’t have the true culture of continuous improvement, but had this what I call this culture of continuous appearance, they would have some spotty Enos of this, these three items, sometimes you would see some ex expectations being set. And sometimes you would see some enabling enabling of actions. And it depending on what site you were at, or what leadership you worked under, but sometimes you would see those two things, and then you wouldn’t see any kind of sustainment of the results. And so when you saw the were organism where the sites were setting expectations and enabling action, but not sustaining results, they the change would not be sustained, right? And then sometimes you would see enablement of actions sustainment of results, but no clear expectations up front. And so people were doing things differently. Depending on where you were at, there was really no organizational alignment. And then the last thing I saw was where they would have clear expectations set up front, they would have this good sustainment plan, but that wouldn’t allow people the time or enable them the ability to actually work on improving the work that they did. And so they had mediocre results. and this was the result of having a culture of continuous appearance versus a culture of continuous improvement. What company, the company that had the true culture had all three of these, as I mentioned. Now, one of the things that I think is important is in my book, I actually offered 12 questions, right? So a lot of people asked me, Why would you ask us questions instead of chapter headings? Why would you ask 12 questions, and not just give us a roadmap? If you worked at a company that had a true culture of continuous improvement? Why wouldn’t you just give us the roadmap tell us the 10 steps to developing a true culture of continuous improvement? Right? Well, here’s the reality. As many of you know, John Shook, he was the first American employee at Toyota is world headquarters, and then helped Toyota transfer a lot of what they were doing to from Japan to new me, and then other operations around the world. But John Shook said that Lean management is very much about asking the right questions and trying things or encouraging others to try things. Lean management itself is not so much about providing the right answers, but it’s very much about asking the right questions, right. So when you ask the right questions, it becomes more of a, the beginning of scientific thinking for your organization. Right? Under scientific thinking, your goal is to really think about the situation that you’re in currently, and where you want to be, break that down into smaller targets and start experimenting towards getting closer as you work through different obstacles getting closer towards that future, that you’re that you that you’re imagining for your organization. Right. But the only way that that happens is by you know, creating more of a culture of learning, and experimentation versus just doing what everyone says or font or, you know, following what what one organization did, and I’m trying to apply it to your organization. So I want to ask you all a question, I want you to be be be very honest with yourself, have you established a long term vision at your organization. So people need the ability to connect their purpose to the long term vision, we need the ability to break that down, cascade our goals into all different places in an organization and be able to connect to some kind of long term organization. This last weekend, I was actually in Scottsdale, Arizona, I flew from Michigan to to Arizona. And while I’m on the plane, I was thinking about something that I had read. A few weeks prior that we had a destination in mind as the the individuals that were on the flight, right, the pilot had a destination in mind. Did you know that during the course of a flight, that the pilot actually conducts hundreds, of course corrections, when they’re going from one location to another location, whether it’s to to adjust for weather or, you know, whatever it might be, they’re making these course corrections constantly. And the reality is, though, is that we still arrived at our destination, even though we had to make hundreds, of course corrections along the way. And I think that as as leaders in organizations, we need to understand that it’s important for us to have that destination in mind, because we are going to have to make course corrections along the way. And if we don’t have a clear vision of where we’re going, then our course corrections may or may not keep us on course towards a specific destination, we could end up anywhere. So I want you to think about that. The other reason why a long term vision is important is because other things will happen. Not just small course corrections. But let’s think about COVID. Right? Things will get dropped in your way that you don’t have any idea how you’re going to get around it. Right. I was backpacking in northern Michigan, this last summer and have this group of teenagers with me. And we came across this tree that had fallen in a storm and it was across the trail. And so then I just said, I turned around to the teams. And I said, Well, alright, everybody, I guess we got to go home now. Right? Is that? Is that really what we did? No. Right? We didn’t turn around and go home, because some massive tree fell on the trail. Right? I turned around and I challenged the group to figure out how do we get around this challenge? Because we have a destination in mind, we have a long term vision that we’re heading towards. So how do we get there? And, and the group obviously was able to traverse around the tree and get past it. But for many organizations, if they don’t have that long term vision in place, and when something happens, like COVID, for example, they’re not able to pivot or adjust and stay on on track. And so I would challenge you in your organization to really think about how do you stay on track and do you have a long term vision? I want to ask you another question. Actually, I have three questions today that I’m gonna ask you. This is the second one. Have you developed expectations for behaviors have you done Developed expectations for behaviors. Now, this, I’m going to talk a lot about leadership right now. But this could be behaviors for anyone in your organization. I talk about the fact that culture is an output of the behaviors, the actions of leaders, right. And so many times I worked with organizations that were the leaders say, I just don’t understand why we can’t sustain a culture of continuous improvement. We’re just we I have, I gave them this vision of where we wanted to go. But we just keep doing the same thing. We keep having the same results, I don’t understand it. And what they’re not understanding is that the same behaviors and actions are not going to give you different results. If you think that if you keep doing things the same way, the same behaviors, same actions of your leaders are spending time in the same place, in meetings, after meeting after meeting and not getting out to the place where the value add work is being done, then that’s complete insanity. You have to change the inputs, if you want to change the outputs. So you have to figure out what are the inputs, the leadership behaviors, the actions that are necessary to create a true culture of continuous improvement? If you want a different business system, you’re going to need a different leadership system. So what is leadership? Right? Before we dive into what Lean leadership is, we have to level set on what is leadership in general. So you know, I believe, and I think this definition came from Wikipedia or somewhere, but leadership is the art of motivating a group of people to act towards achieving a common goal. Okay, as an as a leadership team, you need to figure out how to win as a team. And then you need to get people excited and inspired to move towards winning as a team. Right. That’s your job as a leader. So what is you know, when we talk about leadership, we also have to think about what are the things that a leader needs to have? What are the skills that a leader needs to have in order to be a good leader in a lean environment? Well, leadership is not just about management, which would be you know, some of the planning, the organizing staff, the hiring, the firing, you know, that type of stuff. But it’s also about leadership, which is the direction setting the aligning to constituencies, the motivating the inspiring, right? It’s not so much about being a good manager or being a good leader, but it’s about figuring out how to how do you utilize both of both sides of management and leadership that both should complement each other in in being a good leader? Right. So what is Lean leadership? It’s always good to look at, you know, traditional leadership and compare that to what Lean leadership should be if we can see the gap between the two. And then we can ask ourselves, well, okay, where do I sit in between traditional leadership versus Lean leadership? It’s a really great way for you to understand how do I, how do I move closer towards that, that vision of being a Lean leader, right? So again, this is a good breakdown here, it’s in the slides, read through these and ask yourself, Where am I? Where’s, what’s the gap? Right? Am I a direction setter? Do I set clear expectations? Am I facilitating root cause analysis? Or am I the sole problem solver? Right? Am I the technical expert that everybody has to rely on? Or are we developing our team members to be to be the technical experts and the skill set that we need to solve problems? Ask yourself those things when you consider where you sit as a as a leader in your organization? There are five leadership actions that are key in being a solid Lean leader. Consider the fact that leaders must be teachers, right? You’re not out there to tell people what to do, but really facilitate change and help guide them by teaching them, coaching them, right build tension, not stress. So I always think about when we do rock when we rock climb, you always want to keep the rope the rope nice and tight taunt, right, you don’t want it to be loose because if someone was to fall it would create too much stress and the rope and the rope could break. So you always want to keep that rope tight, give tension, not stress. And that’s the same way as a leader we want to create tension within with our within our teams. We want them to feel and understand what what needs to happen, versus never showing up as a leader never been available and just trusting or hoping that our team does what they need to do. We need to be there to create that tension. eliminate fear and comfort. So develop a an organization where people are not fearful to try new things. That’s important. Lead through visible participation, not proclamation. You can’t sit in your office and yell to people that what they need to do. You need to be out there participating. You need to be part of the Kaizen events you need to be part of active change within your organization. And then building lean into your personal practices, right being sure that being being active in in developing yourself listening to good podcasts, reading good books. And then develop deploying those into your personal practices, right? That’s important as well. So these are really five really great Lean leadership actions to be aware of. I’m not going to spend time on Dr. likers leadership development model. But I think it’s important to mention, because it really lays out exactly what a Lean leader should be doing in a lean in a in an organization that has a good culture of continuous improvement. Right, we talked about the self development, we talked a little bit about coaching and developing others. But daily management is a big piece, as well as creating that vision and aligning goals, which we talked a little bit about as well. Being at being a servant leader is also a big part of leading a lean organization. So being a servant leader, is there are certain characteristics of a servant leader that are hard to learn. And there’s other ones that are learned that that can be learned, right. So but But understanding and knowing these and building these into your personal development plan are important if you want to be able to lead in a an organization that has a true culture of continuous improvement. And then the last thing that I want to mention about leadership is Leader Standard Work. We have to we have to understand that it has to be intentional the behaviors, the actions, where we’re spending our time, as leaders, we have to be intentional about those inputs, and really creating structure around them. And Leader Standard Work can do that, to help us create incremental opportunities to to to to develop the right inputs that are going to give us that that true culture of continuous improvement. And that’s really what Leader Standard Work does. This last summer, I was back up in Alaska, actually one year ago today, and then or this week, and this summer was my second visit to Alaska, both times I was I had the opportunity to go up in a bush plane. And the bush pilot literally pulled out a his his Leader Standard Work his checklist to make sure because he knew that the the outcome he that he was shooting for was a safe flight. Right. He knew that. So the inputs to that are on his checklist. And he knew that if he follows those that checklist, then the outcome of having a safe flight is going to happen. So he literally pulled out his Leader Standard Work. And he checked that off right in front of me. And I just thought it was the most amazing thing I did take a picture of it. Because, you know, as many of you may have heard, pilots do have checklists that they follow. Astronauts have checklists, surgeons have checklists. So who are we as lean practitioners? As you know, leaders in our organizations? Are we better above? Are we are we better than sir, are above surgeons? are we above the pilot level? Like? Or should we be following their practice in developing the right inputs to create a good output? A successful output? Right? If we know that then we should be following that as well. So create your Leader Standard Work, discussion questions here? Again, run through these and give yourself a yes or no on these and and then take action on at least one or two of these these discussion questions which which are in your handout? All right, the last question that I think is necessary for me to ask in developing a true culture of continuous improvement. Is it safe for your employees to fail? Is it safe for your employees to fail? Many times we put negative comments on negative thoughts to the word fail. And maybe we can use a different word right take fail out of it if you don’t want to use fail. But employees need to feel safe to experiment to try things to, to step out of the box and do things differently than what they did before. They have to be feel safe to do that. And as leaders, it’s our job to create an environment where people do feel safe. I think this is a really good quote from Katie Anderson, she actually wrote the foreword to my book. This came out of her book leading to learn learning to lead. She said leaders words and actions set the culture for their organization. seemingly small choices when it comes to language and behavior can have a big impact in shaping the people centered culture that you want for your organization. I think this is an amazing quote and it’s so true when you think about the the the behaviors the language that you use as a leader, are you setting? Are you creating an environment where people feel safe, where they can trust you? And are you are you are you enabling them the opportunity to then now that they trust you and they feel safe? Are you enabling them the opportunity to actually experiment and try things that they wouldn’t have otherwise done? If they if they were working in a fear based culture right where they’re afraid to try things because you know, the boss is gonna yell at me or what if it What if it doesn’t work out and then I get fired or you know what? Whatever it might be the you have to as leaders, we have to eliminate those so that team members can feel safe to start to experiment and try new things and get better. And when you’re doing that you’re starting to develop a learning culture, right? When you’re going back to those team members that are experimenting, and you’re asking them, how did that go? What did you learn? Did Did it work? No, it didn’t work? What did you learn? What can we apply next time when we try this again? Or what different? What other experiments should we run based on what you learned from that experiment? Right? When people when you’re reflecting, and people are feeling comfortable to do that, that’s when you’re developing a true culture of continuous improvement. So think about that. I want to tell you a story that I heard from rich Sheridan at Menlo innovations here in Michigan. Creating a culture of continuous improvement is really about creating great workplaces that people love to be a part of, right, a workplace where people are able to use their brain power and feel supported and respected. Like, like, like I mentioned. And Rich told me the story. And I just thought it was a great story, actually heard it at the Michigan lean consortium with, with Mark rave, and he’s going to be on here next. But Rich said that he was working with a large banking organization, and this large corporate bureaucratic banking organization that he walked into what had a very difficult culture, right. And one of the things that he challenged one of the directors there was to empower and enable empower their people to run some experiments, little things, small changes, little experiments that they could do to make their job easier to remove some of the headaches that they have on a daily basis. And rich rich gave them this this challenge in that particular director went back and took that took that challenge seriously. And she she gathered up her team. And she asked, she enabled them she got them excited about trying things and she wanted them to, to experiment with, you know, one thing that they could make their job better. And they when rich came back to visit this particular banking organization, they, the director told him that they decided that when they were going to run an experiment, they would put a red balloon on their desk to signify visually that they were running a an experiment. And Rich never told them to do this. He didn’t tell them to use red balloons, or whatever it was, that it was something that they came up with on their own to do that. And he thought that was pretty interesting. But he said that he came in to this, this company, and where they have, you know, just massive square foot square footage of cubicles everywhere in this particular office. And he said he turned the corner and all he could see in this entire room was red balloons everywhere at every desk around every corner red balloons. And can you imagine just the visual alone of you know, the excitement that that creates for people to see that other people, right, you talk about, we talked about role modeling, when we see other people that are engaging when every leader has a red balloon on their desk, and they’re all experimenting and trying new things that are going to make the organization better. And he went to one person in particular, who was sitting at one of the desks, and he it was an older lady. And he asked her if she could explain to him about her experiment. And she she said absolutely. And she said, You know, I have three steps to my process. And I feel like if I do step three, after step one, instead of at the end, I think it’ll save some time and it’ll make things better. So I’m trying, I’m moving step three, after step one, and I’m going to experiment with this and see if it makes it better. And Rich. So that’s amazing. And she was obviously very excited about it. And he said, Have you always been this excited? And she said, No, no. She said, I used to hate my job. I hated coming to work. It was absolutely terrible. I almost laughed a few times like it. I’ve been here for 20 years I did it. And he said well, what’s changed? And she said, Well, now I can run experiments. And it was just that one thing, that one thing to enable her to run experiments. That’s what changed her viewpoint. And now she was excited to come to work. She couldn’t wait to get into work to to run her next experiment or to see how things were going with her current experiment. It’s just an amazing story of how those little things can change the trajectory of your organization. When I was in the military, I witnessed many leaders who tried to solve every problem themselves. And if he came, it was it was very difficult and I walked into one organization where the plant manager said to me that he could and even go out on the production floor because he, you know, had to, he had solves so many problems for so long that they he was the go to and when he went on the production floor everybody bombard them with all these problems, and he didn’t have time for it anymore. And you know, this was a significant problem. So we went out on the production floor, and I told him instead of solving the problem for them, instead of running and solving it, ask them this one simple question, what do you think we should do? Even if you know the answer, what do you think we should do? And then enable them to actually run an experiment? And I promise you that when you just use that one simple question, what do you think we should do, it will change the way that people feel about what they’re now it’ll take time, right, it might have taken you 10 minutes to go solve a problem, it might take them an hour. But over time, as they continue to use their brain power, they’ll start to be able to to get those done much quicker. So the last thing I want to do is I want to challenge you to think about your next steps, like I talked about in the beginning. It’s important that you don’t sit through this 40 minute presentation, or these these three days during the Lean leadership summit, and just listen and never walk away with action. I want you to think about what is the one thing at least one thing that you’re walking away with today that you can apply right away? Right? Are you going? Are you going to think about how to run experiments and make it easy for your team members to fail? Are you going to ensure that your team that your company has a long term vision or that your group has a long term vision that you work in? Right? Or are you going to make sure that you have the right leadership behaviors actions that are going to create a culture of continuous improvement? Which one are you going to get started on
Jim Huntzinger 41:43
today? So thank you so much. I mean, talk about abundance of insight and, and things to think about and work on towards implementing. You have a lot a lot of separate people to think about.
Patrick Adams 41:59
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