Everyday Lean: Find The Answer Not The Blame

Everyday Lean: Find The Answer Not The Blame

We hear and learn about Lean day by day and we tend to think that we really understand the basic principles. Continuous improvement, river of waste, visual management, etc. We learn, process, and eventually implement these theories in our everyday life. But is it really so? Are we really lean in all aspects of our life? And if we aren’t, are we willing to hear our critics?


I received an email the other day that caught my attention. The signature of the email read: “Find The Answer Not The Blame."

Please note that we will not have voicemail services available any longer. If you are unable to reach me directly by phone, please try your call again at a later time or send me an e-mail and I will call you as quickly as possible.”

This signature made me think: "Is this person thinking lean or maybe hiding a problem?" The opening line sounds like a perfect lean thinker’s slogan. Work on the process, improve it, and prevent the errors from happening again. One of the greatest things about a lean organization is that it never blames the person, it blames the process. It encourages employees of all levels to participate in improvement projects.

However, after reading the rest of this unusual email signature, I was wondering why this company ever got rid of voice mail, a basic means of business nowadays. Instead, it instructs the customer/business partner to do some more work, to try more until successful. It makes me wonder – was this decision really made with the Voice of the Customer (VOC) in mind?

I know, you’re probably thinking “that was quite a long thought for just a signature.” My mind works in mysterious ways but I like to think that at least a little part of it works in a lean TAKT (pun intended).

A Hungarian poet once said: “Don’t rush like the wind. Working is only worth if it’s done with attention, steady like the stars move in the sky.”

I believe it has a lot to do with the lean idea of Kaizen and continuous improvement. Although I’m sure the Hungarian poet Attila Jozsef in 1935 had little to do with Japanese Sakichi Toyoda and his ideas of Quality at the Source with Automated Looms. They both talked about the same basic idea though – do your work with extreme attention to detail, stop to correct as you go, to make sure you get the final product right the first time and every time after that. It seems to be a universal idea – so why do we find ourselves challenged with this problem daily?

I believe it is because we are human and by nature we tend to look for shortcuts. “It was easier that way” we say – “I saved time." We need to understand that by creating and following our shortcuts, we enable our bad, wasteful processes. It’s just like walking uphill on an escalator – one step up brings you back where you were before. So while at first, lean implementation might seem painful. But what it really does is expose problems that were hidden behind our wasteful workarounds.

After all, the most important part of the lean philosophy is continuous learning. Once we have this mindset and we live our life – personal and professional – under the assumption that we never know enough, we can untap our true potential.

Written by Susie Sterling, Lean Logistics Team Leader at LeanCor

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Posted by LeanCor Supply Chain Group

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LeanCor Supply Chain Group is a trusted supply chain partner that specializes in lean principles to deliver operational improvement. LeanCor’s three integrated divisions – LeanCor Training and Education, LeanCor Consulting, and LeanCor Logistics – help organizations eliminate waste, drive down costs, and build a culture of continuous improvement.

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