Guest Post: Leadership Lessons from John Mayer

Joe Wilson has worked in a variety of continuous improvement, problem solving and engineering roles in manufacturing and distribution functions  in the automotive, electronics, and food/grocery industries. He was responsible for site leadership of Lean implementation during the launch and ramp up of becoming a supplier to Toyota and was able to work directly with their personnel and the Toyota Supplier Support Center.  His training background includes courses in Lean/TPS through TSSC and the University of Kentucky’s Lean Systems program.  He is a Six Sigma Black Belt and a Shainin Red X Journeyman in addition to training in Kepner-Tregoe problem solving techniques.  Joe also has a BS degree in Engineering Management from the University of Missouri-Rolla.

Sometimes a song can highlight something better than anything else is able to.  (Which makes sense if you think about it.  Songwriters make money on being able to convey an idea, thought or emotion in an extremely concise and memorable way).  It happened to me the other day as I was listening to the Continuum album from John Mayer.  Probably my favorite song on that album is “Belief” and the lyrics hit me in a different way than they ever had before.

Why did it hit me so differently?  Probably because it feels like lean transitions are so much more about arguing about belief than tactics.  Lean transformations are littered with conflicts about the value of reducing inventory to highlight problems or push backs of ‘command and control’ vs empowering team members or even how single piece or small lot production can be more cost effective than traditional economies of scale thinking.   Even within the community of improvement thinkers, we spend time debating whether Lean or Six Sigma is the best or if Lean Six Sigma fixes the ills of the other two…always over beliefs.

I realize when I ask someone to do something that is more a Lean (or SS or LSS) method than a traditional manufacturing method, I am asking them to believe what I believe or at least suspend their own disbelief.  I also know that for any example I want to pull out about a success that Toyota has had, somebody who really wanted to do their research wouldn’t have to look hard to find other very successful companies who don’t use these tools.  It’s tough, but sometimes you just need to lay enough examples of collaborated successes in front of people to show the value of your beliefs without attacking theirs.  Give them something to believe in about you and what Lean can do for them.

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Posted on June 20, 2011, in Guest Post, Leadership and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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