Saturday, August 29, 2009

Unlikely leaders

I was at my surrogate grandmother's funeral yesterday, reflecting on her stories and on those others told about her. I never really thought of her as a leader, only as my grandmother. But she touched so many lives, and I've never heard anyone say anything negative about her, except herself, and then only in a story about her own mother.

On the drive home, I thought about her as a servant. And how, as a servant, she led so many people to do so many things. What we focused on yesterday was her discipleship. How many people were led to Christ as a result of interacting with her? Her greatest gift might be her ability to tell a story, and how she could draw you in to her story and keep you there, engaged, excited, waiting anxiously for the next word. But I think also that her gentle disposition and her kindness created the right storytelling environment.

How can leaders in all walks of life learn from that small point?

It isn't the story you're telling. It's the person telling the story. Be the right kind of person - a servant - and your stories will matter and people will learn.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Community Action Partnership

We're about to start our first Community Action Partnership program in Louisville, Kentucky. This is a special version of ILS's Lean Systems Certification Series that we're doing onsite with three host companies. Each week of the series has a different focus and is hosted by a different company in their facilities. First up is Linak-US, maker of linear actuators, the device used to make adjustable hospital beds and other furniture adjustable!

Week 1 (August 24 - 28) focuses on Systems, so we'll be learning about Value Stream mapping and analysis while we actually create a value stream map at Linak.

For more information about the Lean Systems Certification Series, see:

For more on the Community Action Partnership, see:

Friday, August 7, 2009

Friday, Course Ends

We've just finished up a week of learning about the Lean Organization. This workshop focuses on people, leadership, learning, and systems. The class had twenty people from 13 different organizations representing everything from learning institutions to textile manufacturers to boat builders. Two were owners/CEOs of their companies.

We had a lot of great discussions. We spent time talking about the servant leadership and about developing a system to identify, encourage, and reinforce the set of behaviors we want in our leaders. This one theme kept returning as we discussed collaboration among working teams, between customers and suppliers, and between individuals.

This group progressed well through the three rounds of the StrikeFighter system simulation, eventually building 15 aircraft in just under 17 minutes (against a target of 14 minutes.) We wrapped up with a discussion of self-efficacy and psychological flow, wit a focus on practical steps to take to enhance both.

Now I'm ready to head back home to the US. There are always a lot of interesting developments down here, and we have a crew staying busy here. It's nice to see the interest growing, but I worry about the quality of consulting beyond what we're doing down here. It's pretty easy to find consultants who can help with a 5S effort or with a couple of kaizen blitzes. But listening to the participants in the course, that's about the extent of expertise once you get away from ILS and TexSkill our partner. More people need to understand how to focus on developing people and improving their skills, instead of just applying lean tools almost at random.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Sunday, Surfer's Paradise, Queensland, Australia

Up to meet the sunrise. A short walk this morning; trouble with my knees again. Beautiful sunrise over the surf. About a dozen boats bobbed in the waves and maybe thirty surfers, braving the icy Pacific for a shot a t a decent wave to ride. Cyclists are also out in droves this morning. It is a perfect start to a beautiful day. I was surprised and delighted at how many sunrise walkers greeted me this morning. Simple, but nice and I remembered an activity from the little book "Fanning the Creative Flame" that said go for a walk, and greet everyone you pass. Now I know why they recommended that.

Stopped in, after several passes, for breakfast at a beachfront open cafe called Montmartre by the Sea. I thought I'd have something different so I ordered their low-fat brekky: two poached eggs, turkish toast with avocado, and a grilled tomato. I could not believe how good it was. With a cup of flat white coffee and a place to sit and write, I was all set.

This week has been great for perspective taking. The walk along the coast at Coogee when I arrived Wednesday morning, and yesterday and this morning on the beach here just reinforce the desire or need I have to live someplace like this permanently. I'll have to start looking for something in Florida, but I want to keep the farm in Kentucky to enjoy seasons when we want to. Got to figure out how to finance that kind of lifestyle.


After a couple of days with friends in Australia, interacting with the leaders of a couple of different facilities, I wonder about a few things.

-Too many senior leaders seem to think they know more than they do and get very defensive when they realize they don't know what they don't know.

-Even the leaders who know what they don't know are often afraid to admit this because of the way organizations cultivate leaders behaviors to conform to preexisting patterns.