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Need the Mental Toughness of a Navy SEAL

Recently, I have been reading a book by Marcus LuttrellA Lone Survivor.  Marcus was part of Navy SEAL Team 2 that came under attack in Afghanistan.  Marcus was the lone survivor of the six man team.

The book is very well written.  One of the interesting sections was about Navy SEALs BUD/s training.  Essentially, the weed out trials for the SEALs.  Marcus goes into detail the physical and mental pain they were put through.  Looking back he realizes it wasn’t to just weed men out of the group to keep the best of the best.  It was to prepare the elite fighting teams to be able to work, think and react under extreme pressure with the precision of a fine tuned instrument.  The SEALs would no be distracted from the physical pain and their surroundings.  They would think and react as they had been taught.  This mental toughness was what would get them through anything and make the SEALs stand apart.

This made me think of some of the legendary stories of Taiichi Ohno.  Stories of him leaving a guy standing in a circle to observe with no break until he came back.  Or calling in a team leader to his office and then berating them for leaving their team on the line.  While on the surface this seems very harsh, at least that is the way I reacted, he was driving home his points.  Taiichi Ohno was getting his people to be able to think and react under the pressure of delivering product on time in a cost efficient way and at the highest quality.

As lean implementers, we have to be able to think and react under the pressure of senior to middle management to shop floor employees questioning what we are doing.  We have to be tough mentally.  Not willing to quit if we are going to eventually change their minds and see the waste.  We have to be prepared for any question or situation that may come our way and react calmly and swiftly.

While people may understand the lean concepts, not everyone puts them into practice.  Part of it is because you have to mentally tough to go against what others are  doing.  Day after day.  Sometimes it feels like you are beating your head against a concrete wall, but we can’t quit.  We keep pushing and eventually things will break through.  And that will be a great day.

Note: By no means do I think lean implementers go through what Navy SEALs to, but the story got me thinking about the mental toughness it takes to make change happen.