I remember this conversation, many years ago:
Mr. Ok: you need to convince them.
Me: but they won’t do it. They just don’t want to do it.
Mr. Ok: let them understand, show them what the problems are, help them see.
Me: we tried and it’s not working! They just trust themselves and their ideas.
Mr. Ok: then make them get to that idea. Help them understand and create the right idea by themselves
Me: I don’t want to manipulate them!
Mr. Ok: you will not manipulate them. You will not lie to them, you will tell the truth. You will help them see, for their own good, not for yours. This is not manipulation.
Still valid today 🙂
Do or do not, there is no try!
Many times (everytime?) the only way to know if something works is doing it. And not simply trying. Doing means “do your best to make it work” and “be prepared when it fails to learn why”. And you know it will fail… Well, nobody becomes an expert without some mistakes, right?
I’ve found this sign recently at a hardware shop in Madrid. It was in a self-service area were customers could manually pick up different types of screws, pins, nuts and similar stuff. It explains what is the recommended use of 2 different types of hinges, shows how to decide if you need them right or left oriented, and supports the written information with pictures.
Maybe it’s not technically perfect (is there anything perfect, anyway?), but there are 2 things that I found outstanding from the communication point of view. First, it is simple. Simplicity is key, especially when you expect the user to read it alone. It’s incredible how many signs try to cover all the bases and as a result the signs are difficult to understand and create great confusion. Second, it tries to push decisions as close as possible to the final user. It puts the information at the point where it is most useful. And this is very cool. This strategy reduces the probability of error and increases speed of decision at the same time. Yes, it’s time to forget those old-fashioned stories that say that quality and speed are opposites.
Maybe the quality and speed of decision have increased at this shop with this type of signs, maybe not. But just the fact of trying is really great.
If you’re going through hell, keep going.
Implementing change can look pretty much like hell. And the only solution is to keep going. Yes, I know, life is not fair 🙂
Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?
The Cheshire Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.
Alice: I don’t much care where.
The Cheshire Cat: Then it doesn’t much matter which way you go.
Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
There’s so much to learn from the Chesire Cat.
W. Edwards Deming once said, ‘if you can’t describe what you are doing as a process, you don’t know what you are doing’. In the same way, I believe that if you can’t describe the goal of your project clearly, you don’t know why you are doing it.
Let me be very clear about this point: if you don’t have a crystal clear goal, your lean project will probably fail. Even if things go more or less well – which is not very likely without a clear goal, but may happen for some unknown reason – you can’t prove it because you don’t have anything to track your progress. In 99% of the cases, the best structure to describe your goal is this: ‘make something go up’ or ‘make something go down’. And that’s it. It’s so simple that it is very difficult to do.
Goals should be related with H-Q-D-C metrics: Health (Safety, Environmental), Quality, Delivery and Cost, in order of importance. Some people include also the Moral category, but the first four are appropriate in most cases. Avoid goals like ‘implement a system to optimize the customer experience’, which are misleading and unclear. Follow the ‘make something go up/make something go down’ rule and convert it to ‘reduce complaints’, ‘reduce waiting time’, ‘increase sales’… force you to define what you really want to accomplish. And please, eliminate the words ‘optimize’ and ‘implement’ from goal descriptions. ‘Implement’ makes me especially nervous because it means, in many cases, that somebody knows (or at least thinks so) the solution to the problem to solve. In that case, don’t start an improvement project and simply put the solution in place.
When talking about religion, love and many other aspects of life, it is ok to be ambiguous and unspecific. ‘I love you’ is definitely a much better option than ‘my love for you has been on average 56% this week’. But when you are working on a lean project, be specific. Please.