Lean Quote Reader Participation: Can’t Please Everybody

Tim McMahon, who runs the blog A Lean Journey, posts a quote every Friday and discusses how it relates to lean.  Tim does a great job of pulling quotes from all types of sources.  I like it and look forward to it every Friday.

With that in mind, I want to try something similar but with a different twist on it.  The success of this depends on you, the readers of this blog, and your participation.  I will post a quote and in the comment section I would like you to tell me how this quote might resonant with you and what you are doing to implement, coach, teach, and practice lean.

Like everything else, lets experiment and see how this works.


“I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.”

—Bill Cosby

I look forward to reading your thoughts on how this quote might relate to what you are doing with lean.

Posted on February 18, 2011, in Quotes and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. This quote speaks for itself. Pleasing everybody means working on the wrong things. Too much WIP is a result of the desire to please everybody which results in longer cycle time which pisses off the people you were trying to please in the first place. Organizational leaders need to know how to prioritize based on what’s valuable to the business (whether it be contract size, prestigious customer who provides great references etc), know who they can and cannot piss off and not be afraid to make hard decisions. That’s a pretty rare skill from what I’ve seen from my experience.

    • Get perspective, Jason. I like the analogy of too much WIP building up. Too many times we try to please everyone. It is like trying to build a process that takes into consideration every single one-off case that could happen. The process becomes too big and has too much waste. Build the process for the 80%. Don’t try and please all 100% of the cases. Then manage the remaining 20% of the cases through the process. When a process is working well, it is better to manage only 20% of the work and not 100% of the work.

  2. Trying to please people who have different goals, needs, and priorities costs a lot of emotional energy. It’s also a sign of stakeholders who are out of alignment with each other. If your employer believes long hours are the way to do the work, your family will not be pleased. If your employer respects a balanced life and fosters a culture without mura and muri, you will have the right amount of time for a personal life. Likewise, if silo-ed managers have goals and policies at odds with each other, pleasing one will likely make the other displeased. Maybe if there is a true true north, you can please everybody.

  3. Matt, I am glad you enjoy the Friday Lean Quote. I find a lot of people like this as well. So onto the your quote.

    While we should always strive for perfection I think pleasing everyone is a mistake. In all teams and improvement initiatives there is some level of compromise that is necessary. With it you may never solve a problem. This new current state is only temporary since we aspire to continuous improvement. I tend to use the 80-20 rule. If you can get 80% agreement then move forward. Respect for people is about working together and understanding all points of view to make improvements.

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