You Need Perspective to Build a System
Your Team Might Not Be Enough.
The costs of not being in control are obvious. Psychologically, fiscally, operationally…the costs are debilitating. Yet, almost all our companies are simply out of control. We might tell ourselves it isn’t a problem or that we are in control, but we’re lying.
Being in control is understanding what you can control (standard work / ordered work) and what requires reaction to get into control (unstandard work / disordered work). Lean gives us some tools to gain this control, but more often we need to create our own tools, our own processes. And this is the problem.
The weight of gaining control is immense, it’s why most people simply don’t do it. We have to work against all our fears of change, the perceived “additional work” of improvement, and the potential loss of what little predictability we have. Steering even the ship of state for our personal work, let alone our teams, families or companies, is hard work.
I came across this panoramic shot I did at the end of a two-day session I did with my friend David Dugan (DD) in Brisbane with his clients back in 2017. What struck me about this shot is this was the sheer evidence of thinking, learning, processing and acting that happens just over two-days of thinking and acting on improving how we work. The walls are packed with work.
The people gathered are all solopreneures or microbusinesses. This isn’t one company, it’s likely 10 to 12 companies or people working together to find ways to have more control over their businesses and their lives. They were excited, ready to face challenges, and bold. They were also aware of risk, daunted by complexity, and fearful of the unknown.
That’s what made this group so exciting to work with. It wasn’t one team with one problem that could be solved with one root cause. When a team is over focused, it is very hard to teach the team how to build a system to solve problems…they just want to solve the problem they have, they just want to control the work they have. So the end up doing that once, but it isn’t repeatable.
This group was from all over the place. Lawyers, jewelers, manufacturers, hair stylists, authors… They had nearly nothing in common with each other than wanting to work, to create, to make a better world. And that meant that those were the results….
They focused on getting control of their work, but also how to build systems of continuous improvement that could be maintained by just one or two people. DD was likely going to continue coaching them, but the systems needed to be resilient and practical. So, they built systems of problem solving first…independent of the problem being solved.
They could only build these individual systems collaboratively. Lawyers had to learn about being hairstylists who had to learn about manufacturing. They had to see work through other lenses and other perspectives.
The Punch Line: You need oblique perspectives to create resilient systems. Your team can easily build ways to create small improvements in your way of working, but you need other people, with very different world views, involved if you are going to engage in real improvement.
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About Jim Benson
Jim Benson is an award-winning Lean and Agile systems designer. He is the creator of Personal Kanban and Lean Coffee. He is the co-author (with Tonianne DeMaria) of the best seller: Personal Kanban. His other books include Why Limit WIP, Why Plans Fail, and Beyond Agile.
He is a winner of the Shingo Award for Excellence in Lean Thinking and the Brickell Key Award. He and Tonianne teach online at Modus Institute and consult regularly, helping clients in all verticals create working systems. He regularly keynotes conferences, focusing on making work rewarding and humane.