Lean can be summarily defined as “The pursuit of perfection (value) through the relentless elimination of waste.” Understanding what this actually looks like in the real world is an entirely different matter.
The 8 wastes (technically 7) and the tools to continually strive to eliminate them are well documented. Why is it then that companies still find themselves struggling to implement lean thinking into their culture?
Any lean initiative requires mutual trust and respect between members of the team, the leadership, and stakeholders. Many companies follow traditional management methods that are contrary to the servant-leadership style required to foster an environment that provides:
Time to Learn – at all levels
Permission to Think
Authority to Execute
Permission to Fail
Time to Reflect
Time to Share (Lesson Learned / Successes Earned)
To continually improve is to recognize that successes and failures are synonymous with learning. Understanding what works and how it can be improved is equally as important as what doesn’t.
Some leaders and managers claim they do not have the resources that are available to larger corporations. I would argue that this is simply an excuse for failing to engage their employees in the process. In essence, they simply don’t perceive their employees as partners in the improvement process or trust that their employees are capable of making a difference.
All the tools in the world won’t save your business if the very people who are expected to use them can’t be trusted to do so. A servant-leader can teach them “why” and show them “how”. When done correctly, a short time will pass and the “student” employee will tell them why and show them how – only better.
That’s right! The first Monday of August is a civic holiday here in Ontario, Canada. However, if you ask people what we’re supposed to be celebrating you may be surprised by the vast array of answers – including “I don’t know.”
Some of the confusion begins with its declaration – the provincial government has not defined this day as a statutory holiday although it is given to all federal and municipal government employees, In other words, this holiday is “optional”.
Having one long weekend per month has now turned into one of expectation. We only need to scramble for a cause to justify its existence as this excerpt from Wikipedia clearly demonstrates:
Another example with a more specific cause is Family Day – first introduced as an election promise and subsequently established in 2007 by our provincial government to cure the long weekend void of February. Once again, Wikipedia provides a more thorough review:
During the Ontario provincial election in 2007, Dalton McGuinty of the Liberal Party promised that if re-elected premier he would establish a provincial holiday in February. On 12 October 2007, the provincial government established Family Day, with the first being observed on 18 February 2008. Its creation raised Ontario’s number of public holidays to nine per year. However, this holiday does not necessarily add to the number of holidays Ontarians receive, as employers can substitute any non-statutory holidays that employees may already be receiving in lieu of this day. Many employers have substituted the popular Civic Holiday, which falls on the first Monday in August. Although the Civic Holiday is enjoyed by millions every year, it is not public (statutory), and workers may have to choose one holiday or the other, based on their contract, union negotiations, service requirements, etc.
There has been much debate as to whether Family day was introduced as a means for our Premier to gain re-election or a necessary measure to assure the continued well being of Ontario families across the province.
The relationship to leadership and lean
On the breach of trust
Not all leaders are elected and we seldom have an opportunity to express our real opinions of them. As for government however, our levels of satisfaction can be measured in votes. Our intentions may be challenged and as leaders we must be transparent, accountable, and serve with integrity. Was injecting the “Family Day” holiday into a platform of many “to be broken promises” an expression of real concern for families in our province or simply a means of swaying votes? The manner for delivering on such a promise seems unprecedented as are many promises made during election campaigns.
As for business, the effects of leadership are more immediate and direct. For public companies, share prices rise and fall with the mere utterance of good or bad news and is evidenced by the ever-present volatility of the stock markets. Local economies are increasingly affected by global events as never experienced before.
Leading on Purpose
Our civic holiday is indicative of the confusion that continues to resonate throughout an organization long after a program or measure has been introduced without a specific purpose. As I review the many names that define this civic holiday and the excitement that accompanies each of them, I am reminded of how many organizations perceive a common sense of purpose among the ranks, only to learn that reasons for all those smiling faces are as diverse as the number of employees working there.
As leaders, we are challenged to foster a culture where the efforts of our teams are focused toward a greater common vision that is clearly defined, understood, and embraced by all. If there is at least one common thread for the civic holiday, it is to honor local heroes and people in our communities who played a much larger role in shaping our communities, our country, and our world for the betterment of humanity.
The last word
We all need a break from routine and, next to vacations, a long weekend certainly tops the list. There are many people who don’t really care why they are getting an extra day off while others are very much “in the know”. Being a leader, its our business to know. Oddly, after I finished this post, someone asked, “Do you know why Monday is a holiday?” I said, “You’re not going to believe this but that’s the topic of my post today!” As leaders, we make it our business to know “why” and “what”. As for the “how”, I’ll leave that to the experts.
I wish you all a happy Civic Holiday Monday – whatever your reason may be!