The Difficulty of Mastery = The Difficulty of LeanBy
Dan Pink’s book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us is an excellent description of modern day Lean practices. Just using the example of Mastery from the book will give you an idea on how powerful of a process Lean actually is. I would encourage you to visit the Mastery chapter in Dan Pink’s Drive book for more background. He states that mastery is based on three laws:
- Mastery is a mindset
- Mastery is a Pain
- Mastery is an Asymptote
He also states that flow is essential to mastery: “But flow doesn’t guarantee mastery—because the two concepts operate on different horizons of time. One happens in a moment; the other unfolds over months, years, sometimes decades. You and I each might reach flow tomorrow morning—but neither one of us will achieve mastery overnight.”
In Lean terminology, I can restate these same three laws this way:
- Lean is a culture
- Lean is grounded in Standard Work
- Lean is an Ideal
We also think of Lean in terms of creating flow. But just as flow does not guarantee mastery, flow does not allow us to become Lean. Flow happens along the way of becoming Lean. Many people think they are Lean companies once they have done 5S, Value Stream Mapping or held a few Kaizen Events. The truth is just like mastering anything, it does not happen overnight.
Why does it take so long? Why do so few achieve it? From Dan Pink again: “Mastery is a pain.” That is why it seldom is done. When implementing Lean, most people draw the wrong conclusion and assume it is Leadership. They blame leadership as being shortsighted. This view is not only wrong; it is dead wrong. Our primary problem is not leadership but a long standing culture that is engrained within our organizations. It’s the way we do things. But worse it is also the way others help us do things. The outside forces that surround us to include vendors, customers and for that matter our entire supply chain simply supports the way we have always done things. So, not only do we have to create change internally but externally as well. It is not only a pain but it has to be someone else’s pain. Or does it?
From my blog post, If less than 1% of companies are successful with Lean, why are we doing it?, I stated: What does work is the same thing for both people and organizations. It is the scientific process of trial and error. You don’t get it right at first, you have to break habits, personal habits as an individual and company cultures as an organization. Successful companies do it a little bit at a time. In Lean, we call this scientific method PDCA. We plan, do it, check the results and adjust. It is a purposeful experimentation.
In the book, Change Anything: The New Science of Personal Success the authors created a strategic, step-by-step guide to breaking longstanding bad habits introduce a system for adopting-and sticking to-better behaviors. I found the work paralleling Lean in many of its approaches and put Lean practices in parenthesis. Their strategy is based on four simple steps:
- Identify Crucial Moments (Identify Value)
- Create Vital Behaviors (Map Value Stream)
- Engage All Six Sources of Influence (Create Flow – Enable Pull)
- Turn Bad Days into Good Data (Seek Perfection – PDCA)
What people forget about Lean is that it is the change agent for an organization. In its simplest form, you first go and see the current state. Second, you visualize your process. You make your process steps visible. You visualize things in a way that reveals your problems, not in a way to hide problems. If you understand what standards are, how the process should work because it’s very clear, then whenever we see a variation from the process we react immediately. This allows you to choose one problem from the other and just solves them one by one. This is incredibly powerful, this vision we have with lean systems of increasing our competency, increasing our training without having to take people off line, without having to get to classrooms, but by building it into the way we work. It is this empowering aspect that is not easy. But it may be the only way an organization can master Lean.
Audio Collection of Dr. Balle on Kaizen
Continuous Improvement, The Toyota Way
Marketing with PDCA eBook released on Business901 Website
Lean is not a revolution, Lean is solve one thing and prove one thing!