Friday, December 05, 2008

Lean Civil Disobedience

After a full day of kaizen yesterday, I made it just in time to watch my son play in his soccer double headed last night. It is always exciting to watch these games as these young athletes, in this case it was the 10 year old and under league, learn the game, practice their skills and have fun playing the game. It also made it very pleasant to watch the game in the comfort of an indoor soccer field while a light snow flurry dusted our cars in the parking lot.

The games were fun to watch even though my son’s team ended up on the low end of the scoreboard in both matches. The games were fairly typical except for one particular incident that caught my attention.

It seems that one of the team members on the opposing team was not happy with the coach’s decision to put him in as goalie. He reluctantly walked to the goal and stood there with his arms folded across his chest. I don’t know exactly why he disliked being the goalie except for maybe the idea that most of the kids say it’s boring to be the goalie or it’s not important. It seems the kids would much rather score goals than block them.

The coach yelled from the sideline for him to put his arms out and be ready. In return, the boy yelled back that he didn’t want to be goalie. The coach answered back that he had no choice and he better get with the program. In an open display of civil disobedience, the boy yelled back that he would play goalie but he was not going to use his hands. When we scored the next goal against this goalie that only half heartedly used only his legs and body to block the ball, he yelled back to his coach, “See I told you not put me in as goalie.” His coached yelled back that he would be the goalie until he started using his hands.

This struggle went back and forth as the game progressed without much change in position between coach and player. Maybe it was the fact that the player was the coach’s son that made it worse. Maybe it was the lack of subs that prevented the coach from pulling his son out of the game.

If you were the coach, how would you have handled this situation?

What would happen if the coach pulled his son out of the game and the team played without a goalie? Would the importance of having a goalie become readily apparent? What kind of message would the coach send?

Can you see similar situations where civil disobedience occurs in our workplace as we progress on our lean journey? Do any of our employees refuse to lift their arms to make a point and wait for a change to fail only to shout “See I told you it wouldn’t work!” How well do we explain the importance of the positions or changes to gain buy-in? Do we respond like this coach on our lean journey?

How often do we place greater importance on winning the game over taking action to teach valuable lessons?

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