Authors: Martin Mark Palmisano, Paolo Vincenzo Ciannamea
Connecting the dots, to set an efficient system is necessary a team of people characterized by the fact that every one of them is full potentially available and ready.
The individual readiness allows building a strong team of people armed with a holistic vision so that they can coordinate the actions to perform. This concept of improving a system through the elimination of “something” made me think: many times, we tend to implement complex solutions but this just ends in adding more complexity.
So that, instead of focusing on designing complicated projects we firstly should see what is preventing us from the desired state to eliminate. For the greek philosopher Epicurus, the state of “happiness” can be in seen in logical way as the absence of “pain”. A state that can be pursued by the elimination of vain desires. Pratically, a Lean Thinker of life. He also thought that friendship is fundamental because if every individual is at their full potential, it then comes the readiness to share with others and so develop a value-based society where it is possible to offer each capability as contribute to the social system.
During those days, I was finding myself surrounded by these concepts different times and I started to see a pattern: both the management system and Epicurus’s philosophy are based on raising the individual potential first and the community one as a conseguence secondly.
In the first case, the target is to develop an efficient elimination wastes system based on people potential. In the second case, the target is to develop a value-based society thanks to the individual states of wellbeing. A practical experience in industry was giving me the confirmation of a well-functioning world-view and a roadmap to improve my daily habits and routines..but how?
In industry, one the most powerful tool is what it is called Standardized Work (SW). Even in this case, I was doubtful at first because it sounded like making every process machining and robotic.
As lean practitioner then, I realised that the true purpose of SW is to analise the current optimal way of doing something, studying it and making order in the procedure: it is about creating repetition.
Creating repetition is what enables to discover what prevents a system to work, not only properly but, in accordance to the target state. Now it is where crucial point comes: we already know that most likely, the system will not work as wished and it is not a reason to consider it a failure but an opportunity to understand why the deviation occurred. It makes all the difference between just being in implementation mode and consciously challenging the system to work closer to the target state.
Once again, I could not help but starting with reversing this strategy in everyday life. I asked myself if I were just in implementation mode or I was consciously choosing how to step up in my projects to the next target personal condition? Was I just facing life issue as they came? Or was I taking the opportunity to see what was preventing me to move forward? Were my days just “busy” pretending of being efficient or was I creating “positive struggle” to challenge myself every day?
If we observe our habits, analysing them, we can get conscious of what we need to improve in a certain domain of our interests. Our routines might be seen as our standards and we can continously challenge them with self-assessment cycles. I like to visualise the concept imagining the effort required to reduce the gap between two funes hard to pull, trying to keep as closer as possible as it were the distance between the current situation and the desired state.
A Simple Example
As a simple example, let us assume as domain of interest for this case is “learning a new language”.
Our vision is a description of something realistically unreachable, which in your mind can be “use the language as a native speaker”: no metrics, no constricts. This will help you to align your actions in the direction of “learning a new language”. Starting with the observation of what you do day-to-day to learn the language, you might to get aware what is preventing you from improving it. Assuming the result of the observation is brutally “I am just watching videos randomly sometimes”, which we must agree is not an defined-oriented-vision action. Now, we can design a target state. Especially with first steps we should not define directly high standards (we will reach them slowly without even noticing it because high standards achievements will require many improvement cycles and a bunch of time). The first steps will already be well-designed if we just want to make order in the process. A target condition can be characterised by three elements: a way of doing something (the standard), a metric, a period of time as spectrum to validation.
Now, here is where another crucial mistake comes: people become seeker of the metric as it were the target. Seek actions, not metrics. What is key are the actions, the numbers are results of them.
For the sake of this example, assume that the target condition is built as follows: the standard is to listen to a podcast you like, the metric is one hour per day and the period of time is two months. The outcome will help you in any case. If you cannot reach the target condition, you will have a flashlight on what prevents you to be following the standard. If you reach the target condition, I am 100% sure that will have come up with a lot of ideas to set the next cycle (maybe you will be aware you need writing exercise rather than listening, maybe you will have found other resources to learn…).
This day-to-day strategy creates symbiosis between our actions and oriented-by-vision intentions: only one of them is nothing without the other.
It is not too complicated since we already are creatures of habit, but it requires discipline to consciously see them, designing them and point them in a direction of interest. Self-discipline is a powerful exercise of Leadership.