You Must Teach a Man to Fish

“Give a man fish and he eats for a day.  Teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime.”

This quote comes to mind when thinking about my role as a lean transformation leader.  Lean is about how we think and behave.  I don’t want to just do things differently.  I want to teach and coach others how to think and behave in a way that aligns with the lean principles.  There are two major reason for this.

Reason 1

I want the changes that I make to be sustainable.  If the people involved in the changes don’t think in a lean way then at some point the changes will not be sustained.  The metrics/results/process will slide backwards.  In my experience, it slides at least to the previous state if not even further backwards.

The best example is a manufacturing facility that Joe and I worked at together.  At one point, the facility was in the red with revenue over $100 million.  The company decided to “go lean”.  Joe and I, as well as another friend of ours, were tasked with leading the lean initiative in our facility.  We became part of the plant staff.  The plant manager and the department managers listened to what we had to say.  They let us lead the lean initiative. Joe and I did a lot of great things from a lean perspective.  In three years, the plant was in the seven figure profit range while revenue had dropped 25%.

This was a collaborative effort to use lean.  Everyone played a part in the success.  But in a big way, Joe and I failed.  We both moved on to bigger and better opportunities.  During the turnaround of the facility we did not change the way the plant manager and department managers thought.  When some traditional mindsets started to creep back in, we were there to guide back to a lean mindset, but we never really changed their beliefs.  We hadn’t taught them to fish.  Within a couple of years, the facility was back in the red and back to traditional batch-and-queue mass production manufacturing.  The results were not sustainable.

Reason 2

The second reason overlaps with the first.  When you transform another person’s thinking, not only will results be sustainable, you have another person who can educate and transform the thinking of others.  The lean thinking allegiance starts to spread.  Instead of one person trying to transform thinking, you now have two.  And so it spreads.

Transforming people for traditional ways of thinking to lean ways of thinking is not easy.  The better the support system that is built the easier it is to continue to transform people’s thinking.  There are times when a great support system is very reassuring.

These are the two biggest reasons why transforming the thinking is just as important as delivering the changes, driving results.

 

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Posted on November 1, 2012, in Culture, Development, Engagment, People and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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