In preparation for a practitioner presentation at the Association for Manufacturing Excellence (AME) International Conference, I asked some of our leaders to record video “testimonials” from team members about how our Lean journey has impacted them. I gave no guidance or script and didn’t know what I would get back.
One of the frontline team members talked about how she had been empowered to make improvements to save time and money in the plant. She also shared that she cares for her sick and aging dad. She told the story of noticing that she, her family members, and the caregivers were putting things in different places and having difficulty locating the items they needed. So she took the 5S method home and applied it to the room in which they care for her dad to make things easier on all of them.
Of course, it’s great to hear such a heartfelt story of how a team member applied a Lean tool to her life outside of work. But it also helped me learn a much more valuable lesson.
Inspiring a Bias for Action and Failing Forward
The real investment in this team member wasn’t just on teaching her the tactical application of 5S. The real investment was in giving her an opportunity to improve her work.
We encouraged her to try new things, even if they fail, and we celebrated failures as much as the successes – failing forward. We encouraged her to make changes to the work processes she does every day to eliminate unnecessary steps and save a little time. We helped her see that mere seconds matter. We encouraged her to step outside of the traditional definitions of her work responsibilities to create new processes or systems.
This is the real investment. Because in doing so, we helped her develop an ability to see a problem in the status quo. We helped develop her confidence that she could change things and have a positive impact. We helped inspire a bias for action.
The Value of Human Connection
Caring for a sick or aging loved one is one of the most challenging things we face in our lives. We carry such a physical, mental, and emotional burden. When we invest in the people in our span of care and develop them, and they can go home with confidence and a bias for action to lift just a little bit of burden. To save a little bit of time in caring for their loved ones. To transition just a little bit of physical caregiving time to quality emotional time with their loved ones – that is the real value of Lean.