“Preach the gospel at all times; only if necessary use words.”
- Saint Francis of Assisi
It is not what we say, it is what we do. Leading by example is a powerful method for success on our lean journey and in life – probably our most powerful. It removes doubt, builds trust and strengthens our message. It helps others to better understand and inspires action. It even helps us gain a deeper understanding. It shows what is important.
Can you guess who is shown in the picture above? This is the president of a company in Japan participating in the site’s daily 5-S activities. Each morning, the entire salaried management team works side by side to clean and organize the plant. From washing floors and trimming hedges to cleaning bathrooms, no task is left undone.
5-S, lean activities and leading by example
What kind of message do you think the president’s actions send to his employees?
The simple truth is that you don’t have to be a CEO or president to lead by example. Every day, each of us has the opportunity to lead by example, and it is our choice to take advantage of this opportunity or let it pass us by.
Do we preach 5-S and yet our own desks are disorganized and piled high in clutter?
Do we preach daily continuous improvement and yet we don’t want to change how we do our own tasks?
Do we preach standard work and yet we avoid creating or following any standard work in our daily tasks?
Do we preach elimination of all waste and yet we can’t imagine giving up our one-sided, color paper copies of our monthly policy deployment even though we have access to the digital copy?
Do we preach establishing a no-blame environment and yet, when there is an error made, the first question out of our mouths is “Did you write the employee up?”
Do we preach about the benefit of using outside eyes and yet we don’t want any outsiders (especially corporate) messing around in our area to look for improvement opportunities?
Do we preach “make all problems visible” and yet we kill the messenger of any bad news or hide problems from others?
Do we just talk about the lean philosophy or are we trying to live the lean philosophy?
About the author:
Mike Wroblewski started his lean journey with instruction in quick die change from Shigeo Shingo. Mike is currently the lean sensei at Batesville Casket Company in Batesville, Ind. He also writes a blog called “Got Boondoggle?” featuring lean and Six Sigma topics. Check it out at http://gotboondoggle.blogspot.com/.