Wednesday, October 8, 2008


On the first day of class last week, my classmates and I walked into a room and quickly discovered that getting everyone into a seat was going to be a problem. The tables and chairs were arranged in a U-shape, with one table in the middle of the U. A couple extra tables were pushed against the wall, with accompanying chairs facing the walls.

As the previous class cleared out, we all sort of scrambled for a seat. I went for the front-and-center table in the middle of the room, then looked around to see several people still standing around. I'm sad to say my first thought was "Gee, I'm glad I got a seat."

A Lieutenant quickly took charge and got us to rearrange the tables into rows so there would be room for everyone. Dang! Why didn't I think of that? It's a classic leadership opportunity, a chance to see the need for change and do something to help make things better. Maybe I would have thought of it given a little more time, but the fact is, that lieutenant beat me to it. Embarrassing, but also encouraging. It's good to know there are guys like him out there, with an eye for change and a willingness to speak up and make things happen.

1 comment:

Mark said...

Great observation!

This reminds me of one of the key lessons of "Lean" (which I think is too often woefully misunderstood, misinterpreted, and misapplied). A popular "starter" Lean book is titled "Learning to See" (by Mike Rother and John Shook). The key element here, which I think is reflected in your story, is that we need to practice seeing and exposing problems in the workplace (whether it be a manufacturing floor or a cubicle farm). And then instead of implementing coping mechanisms that avoid the problem (i.e. dang, I'd better hurry and get a seat before they are all taken) we need to look to countermeasures that address the root cause (i.e. hey, those tables against the wall aren't adding value because of the way they are laid out... let's move 'em!)

So much of Lean really is about having that "eye for change" as you put it. Unfortunately, the "Learning to See" book sometimes leads to incorrect focus on which little symbols you draw on a "proper" Value Stream Map. Interestingly, Jim Womack's email newsletter from that came out today talks about related issues. That's sorta what spawned my response here...