From around the age of 8 to around the age of 15 I tried to master the Violin. My goal? The “1st chair,” reserved for the most accomplished violinist.
Sadly, apart from pulling off a few Irish jigs and simple classics, I finally had to admit I wasn't very good.
That sad realization came as a huge disappointment. I had such a passion for music, but no matter how long I practiced, I was always a semitone off. My fingers just never hit the string in the right place. (Damn it!).
In retrospect, it should have been obvious that music wasn’t ...
.... anything I was ever going to make a career of. I, after all, was the youngest child of a large working class family. What was I thinking?
Besides, all those aspirations about music came to an abrupt halt when, as was normal in 1980's England, my career was determined by 72 pencil marks on an orangy-pink, multi-choice questionnaire.
Instead of music, my responses set me firmly on a technical path.
That was years ago, and since then a lot of water has passed under the preverbal bridge. While today I have a Mandolin (with frets to ensure I can land the notes), my technical path has led me to decades of experience in industry across Europe.
Recent years have seen me working more with people on the Top-floor than the Shop-floor. The life of jigs, fixtures, machine tools and designs, have gradually given way to new skills: Kaizen, strategy deployment, leader coaching, and culture change programmes. These later skills have delivered performance improvement for our clients.
This mixed bag of experience got me thinking. Are there any intersects, any places where old knowledge and new collide? The more I thought about it, I realised there were.
For instance, in Lean we use a concept called Poke Yoke. It is a technique of mistake proofing, creating impediments to doing something wrong. Think of the nozzles on diesel and petrol pumps. The throats on petrol tanks will not allow a diesel nozzle to enter. That prevents mixing fuels and ruining engines.
In the same way, the frets on musical instruments act as a low grade form of Poka Yoke. Don’t they ensure that mating parts (fingers & strings) end up in the right place to create a note?
Or, take Statistical Process control. That discipline uses math to define the high and low control limits of a process. In a similar way, the bridge and the nut defines the high and low tolerance of each string length. When tuned correctly (adjusted tension in different diameter strings), a finger placed mid-fret hits the note almost perfectly, while pushing the finger up and slightly off the mid-point creates an acceptable variation of the note.
In Lean we use another concept called Standard Work to define the one best way to perform a job today. That standard is taught to all the people in the process and then continually monitored until everyone performs the process identically every time.
Isn’t sheet music like Standard Work, allowing every musician to perform the same task and get the same result?
One might also draw a parallel to Hoshin Kanri and co-ordination across an orchestra (see our next blog).
Lean provides us Tools and Techniques and Strategy. What Lean hasn't provided is any method to replicate the Leadership Ohno San demonstrated to inspire the developments at Toyota, or the culture in which that leadership worked.
Written in approximately 450 BCE, the book of Ecclesiastes nailed it when it said, ”There is nothing new under the sun.” Indeed, the more conditions change, the more applications we find for old concepts.
Such old concepts span millennia and can help us understand culture and leadership. We can now verify historic observations with quantifiable data from neuroscience and other 'Big Data' studies (Googles Aristotle project).
Using modern methods, we can show why old age wisdom, like 'Kaizen' (On-going goodness for all), 'Love thy neighbour' and 'Do unto others' is a psychologically mature and financially sound practice to follow ... and how such beliefs ... such definitions of what 'Good' looks like, can lead to a high performance culture.
Duxinaroe are the culture change experts. If you've run into barriers when aiming to improve organisational performance through the application of Lean tools or you're talking about 'Culture Change', we can help.