Sunday, July 27, 2008

I want to build a house; What hammer should I buy?

My favorite marketing writer, Seth Godin wrote this brief bit of wisdom last week. I quote here the essence:

I want to write a novel. What word processor do you recommend?

Yesterday on the radio, Jimmy Wales was talking about the Wikipedia movement. A caller who identified himself as a strategist at Amnesty International asked: We're going to build a website to promote freedom and democracy and human rights. What software should we use?


If you want to do something worth doing, you'll need two things: passion and architecture. The tools will take care of themselves. (Knowledge of tools matters, of course, but it pales in comparison to the other two.)

Sure, picking the wrong tools will really cripple your launch. Picking the wrong software (or the wrong hammer) is a hassle. But nothing great gets built just because you have the right tools.

This hit me at several levels.

How often have I failed in explaining Lean because I focus on kanban cards or kaizen events rather on a passion for operational excellence?

How often have I failed by talking about seven wastes rather than the enjoyment of every work day for all workers?

Do I provide an example of a passionate operational leader or a bureaucratic box-checker-offer?

Lean offers tools which the passionate individual and company can use. The passion needs to be for the result, though, not the tools; even we need to know the tools every bit as well as the finish carpenter knows her miter saw and laser level.

This hits me deeply…I hope it does you as well. Let your passion show.

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Friday, July 18, 2008

A Tale of Two Meetings

In attending back-to-back meetings last week, I saw much.

Meeting one involved three of us trying to solve a logistics problem. The organizer set it up at the spot of the problem and involved just the people who had a stake in it’s solution and had the tools to fix it. We stood up for about 35 minutes, touching the offending product problem. The organizer had compelling and clearly presented data, plus she offered some solutions. The meeting had both facts and emotional punch. We settled the issue quickly and the solution was soon implemented.

I then attended a more traditional meeting. We gathered around a conference table in comfortable chairs. We looked at Power Point slides of black text on a white background. One person attending brought some product samples, which added a visual clue to the problem we were trying to solve. Yet, it didn’t have the energy or the punch of the first meeting.

Now, the Lean folks among us will say, in Pavlovian fashion, “Yep, that’ll show ya, gotta have the meeting in gemba, get to the workplace.” True. But why?

My favorite marketing writer Seth Godin wrote recently about how to organize the room for a meeting. Well worth the read, he makes the point we all walk into a meeting room, look around and quickly pick up clues about how we should behave. Often, this is at cross purposes with what we need to get done. So, he says, change up the clues! Make it look different…you’ll get a different response.

Which is why meeting in gemba so often works. It changes the clues. What do I do when I don’t have a chair? What do I do when there is noise in the room? What do I do when I’m faced with a wall full of product rather than a nicely paneled wall?

Try it.

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