Friday, January 20, 2012

We Don't Know

After a great kaizen event this week, kicking off an eight week project looking at reducing real waste (actually reducing landfill waste generated by the organization), we asked the team members for lessons learned. Our Team Leader, David York, leading his first kaizen experience, shared with our team one of the most insightful reflections I have heard in many years.

“We don’t know what the problems are…..that’s why we make them visible.
We don’t know what the root causes of the problems are….that’s why we ask 5 Whys?
We don’t know what the evidence is….that’s why we collect data.
We don’t know what is actually happening….that’s why we observe.
We don’t know what solutions will succeed….that’s why we experiment.”

Ultimately, it is alright for us “not to know” but in our arrogance and pride, we pretend to “know it all”. Maybe we are afraid of looking of looking stupid? Maybe we wish to look smarter than those around us? Perhaps we believe that our leaders expect us to know it all otherwise we are not worthy?

In reality, acting like we know it all prevents us from improving, learning and growing.

Thank you, David for teaching me this week!


Jamie Flinchbaugh said...

A great reflection.

This is why I believe that the most powerful words a leader can use is "I don't know." They need to lead by example that it's OK not to know, because knowing everything is impossible. I had this discussion with a VP of over 30 years experience who is just learning that it's OK not to know everything in advance, and it's transforming him as a leader.

John Hunter said...

Great stuff.

Jon Miller said...

Thanks Mike

It all starts with the admission:

"We know what we don't know some important things."

Wesley Connell said...

Great post. As a younger practitioner of Lean, I get to use the term a lot. I found that it's a great ally and is a great tool for create rapport. You avoid being viewed as an outsider who knows better and just seem engaged to guide in the improvement process.