Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Leading by Example

“Preach the gospel at all times; only if necessary use words.”
Saint Francis of Assisi

It is not what we say, it is what we do. Leading by example is a powerful method for success on our lean journey and in life, probably our most powerful. It removes doubt, builds trust and strengthens our message. It helps others to better understand and inspires action. It even helps us gain a deeper understanding. It shows what is important.

Can you guess who is shown in the pictures above? This is the President of a company in Japan participating in their daily 5S. Each morning the entire salaried management team works side by side to clean and organize their plant. From washing floors, trimming hedges to cleaning bathrooms, no task is left undone.

What kind of message do you think this sends to his employees?

The simple truth is that you don’t have to be a CEO or President to lead by example. Every day, each of us has the opportunity to lead by example and it is our choice to take advantage of this opportunity or let it pass us by.

Do we preach 5S and yet our own desks are disorganized and piled high in clutter?

Do we preach daily continuous improvement and yet we don’t want to change how we do our own tasks?

Do we preach standard work and yet we avoid creating or following any standard work in our daily tasks?

Do we preach elimination of all waste and yet we can’t imagine giving up our one-sided, color paper copies of our monthly policy deployment even though we have access to the digital copy?

Do we preach establishing a no-blame environment and yet when there is an error made, the first question out of our mouths is “Did you write the employee up?”

Do we preach about the benefit of using outside eyes and yet we don’t want any outsiders (especially corporate) messing around in our area to look for improvement opportunities?

Do we preach make all problems visible and yet we kill the messenger of any bad news or hide problems from others?

Do we just talk about the lean philosophy or are we trying to live the lean philosophy?


The Williard Group, LLC said...

Nice post Mike! This is good reinforcement of a basic principle. All of us are role models. It is however, our choice what kind of role model we will be, positive or negative. Either way, the choice is ours.

Jamie Flinchbaugh said...

Great job.

I think one thing that might be missing is that no matter how hard we try, we won't always walk the talk. We won't always live the example.

Then we become the hypocrite. We all have gaps. In order to maintain integrity with our message, we must acknowledge our own gaps and acknowledge that we are learning to, along with everyone else.

You will fail. The journey is hard. Your only choice is to either acknowledge your gaps or hope no one notices them. And I'm sure you know how successful (or unsuccessful) the latter is.

Jamie Flinchbaugh