Tools for Leaders

A (Very) Short History of Lean in North America and 3 Things to Make Some (New) History

A (Very) Short History of Lean in North America and 3 Things to Make Some (New) History

In 1996, Jim Womack – arguably the father of “lean” in this country – wrote a book as a follow-up to his first book, The Machine That Changed the World. This then-new book, Lean Thinking was the book that would change the face of manufacturing for a long time. In a 1996 Harvard Business Review article Womack and Lean Thinking co-author, Dan Jones, give us five steps to start thinking lean:

1. Define value precisely from the perspective of the end customer regarding a specific product with specific capabilities offered at a specific price and time.

2. Identify the entire value stream for each product or product family and eliminate waste.

3. Make the remaining value-creating steps flow.

4. Design and provide what the customer wants only when the customer wants it.

5. Pursue perfection.

So, where would we look for the things that we need to do to eliminate waste and make value (everything but waste) flow? Well, because Womack’s system was presumably extracted from Toyota and other Japanese automotive manufacturers, one has to look at the source of Womack’s and other lean thinker’s inspiration, what he called the pioneer: Toyota.  Toyota taught its employees to look for the seven classic wastes. Taiichi Ohno, in his classic Toyota Production System, says this, “The preliminary step toward application of the Toyota production system is to identify wastes completely.” (Take care to analyze the English translation, especially the words preliminary, step, toward, application.)

In droves, we flocked to see what Toyota was doing. There we saw the artifacts: pull systems—Kanbans, a pull cord that triggered a light and a sound to get the attention of supervisors – andons, leveled work cells, and lots of visuals. Some wrote many books on lean “tools,” the things we could see when we looked at Toyota: teams solving problems using material and information flow diagrams (what Womack called a value stream map).

Many of us eagerly read the books and ran off to put those things into place. We installed pull cords. We established Kanban systems, and, through the wonders of modern technology, we added technology to them, producing “electronic Kanbans.” And what was the result? In some cases, the improvements were real, dramatic and sustained. Some companies—the ones with an existing Toyota-like culture— received those tools like seeds and nurtured them to produce much fruit. But, as with many vogue management theories, many companies applied the tools, enjoyed a quick burst of improvement, but quickly slipped back to the old way, disenchanted with the results.

Time went on and when “it” didn’t work, “it” was retooled, now including something called Kaizen Events, eerily reminiscent of the Deming-inspired Process Improvement Teams of the ‘80s when management theorists were imitating what they called “Japanese Management.”  This time, though, they combined the “blitzed” improvement with the lean tools, and the results were better, but only for a short time.  These events – often facilitated by consultants – followed the five-step pattern offered by Womack which had the appearance of – if not the substance of – Toyota’s team problem solving.

The failure was simple: you can only imitate what you can see, and you can’t see the whole system. You can observe the artifacts of an Andon system, but can you observe the heart of the team leader responding to the Andon system rapidly because he considers a problem a blessing?  Or, because he knows that the real reason the andon exists isn’t to stop the line, but to keep the line moving.  You can observe the process a team uses to solve a problem, but you can’t grasp the development of that team’s culture: the way they attack problems, the way they think about problems and the reasons driving both.

Just to be clear, I don’t credit Womack with the early failures.  He was clear: you have to focus on culture and on solving problems.   I believe that Womack and Jones and their closest colleagues knew that a management system – something to manage and apply this new way of thinking – was required.

I do blame a few other things with the fits and starts and repackaging of “lean”:

  • our need to see immediate results at the cost of building sustainable foundations
  • our “let’s hire a consultant” to do things to us or for us instead of hiring coaches to guide us to “do it ourselves.”
  • our insane idea that one size fits all and that a “best practice” is our hopeful plan for improvement

So, what’s a poor organization – bruised and calloused – to do?

Here are three things that you can do today to move forward:

  •  Go and watch a cornfield grow. I could elaborate on this idea, but it is best left to your imagination. Comments welcome.
  • Find a coach and ditch the consultant. Find the low-cost, do-it-yourself strategic partner, roll up your sleeves and follow the instructions (there are no shortcuts).
  • Stop thinking about other organizations’ best practices as your goose laying the golden egg. First, brush up on Aesop’s Fables; Google it. We’ve seen organizations “kill” the true wisdom – the “best idea” inside or behind a best practice – by trying to replicate the ‘best practice” accurately.  Think differently by asking: what’s the best idea behind this best practice and how can we adapt it to us?

A wise old Benedictine monk once said: (move) forward, always forward, everywhere forward. Shall we?

Deming • A Balanced Approach

Deming • A Balanced Approach

As Japan set about rebuilding industry after World War II, and U.S. industry was caught up in the Human Relations movement, one man was captivating Japanese management thinking.  W. Edwards Deming, a tall, soft-spoken mathematician, began to give the Japanese a formula for regaining a foothold in global industry, first nationally, then beyond.  His message was simple: focus on the quality of the output.  His Fourteen Points arranged human and operational principles into a system to produce quality.  Focusing on quality had two exciting prospective conditions for the Japanese: satisfying the customer, and doing so at the lowest possible cost.  The problem, Deming argued, was poor quality and the cost of poor quality. In fact, in Deming’s system – known in the U.S. as Total Quality Management – defects were the root of expensive goods and services.  Left unchecked, these defects would ultimately lead to a business’s end.






Deming’s system only caught on in the U.S. in the late 1980s, after the Human Relations movement had run its course and proven that tipping too far on the human side also created poor performance.   In Deming’s system, the human and operational systems were balanced, something that made great sense to Japanese managers whose culture held balance in high regard.

One of the companies that took Deming to heart was automotive manufacturer Toyota. Like many other companies in post-war Japan, Toyota was faced with steep odds, having to produce a relatively high mix of vehicle options to low volume quantities.  Using their history of innovation and Deming’s “new” thoughts for managing with a quality focus, Toyota’s production system and its “way” evolved.

Arguably, we are still in the Deming movement.  Lean, Six Sigma, Lean Sigma and all of the variants find their origins in the post-Total Quality Management movement. As variations on Deming’s theme, they are nothing more than the current expressions of Deming’s thinking: defects are bad news, and we need to stop them and not repeat them.  The common thread is attention to defects, or in common language: problems.



Regaining Focus - Keep it Simple

Regaining Focus - Keep it Simple

The Junkyard: Artifacts of Lost Focus

I recently talked to a colleague about her experience with the shifting sands of continuous improvement in healthcare. She walked me through the programmatic junkyard cluttered by the past 14 years of leadership thought. It was right to think that service can be a differentiator. It was right to focus on quality, and, oh yea, safety. It was right to look around at trends in healthcare management and hop on the lean bandwagon, then the six sigma one, then the lean sigma one. The biggest problem, said she, was that they kept losing focus. Each initiative would start out with energy and verve. But, soon, what looked promising, was quickly seen as a flash-in-the-pan.

Repackaging the Same Thing Makes it Fuzzy

I’m teaching a course called Operational Excellence in Healthcare at a local university. Every year I have to prepare by doing a literature scan and each time I do that I find great sources that echo my colleague’s sentiments.

This year, I found this 2009 article, published in International Journal for Quality in Healthcare by Kieran Walshe . A key finding by Walshe is that we keep repackaging the same thing and get limited results.

Over the last two decades, we have seen the successive rise and fall of a number of concepts, ideas or methods in healthcare quality improvement (QI). Paradoxically, the content of many of these QI methodologies is very similar, though their presentation often seeks to differentiate or distinguish them. Kieran Walshe

1)Even operational excellence is simply repackaging total quality. I’ve argued such in the past. We have to get focused if we want the movement to succeed. Walshe goes on to say:

The repeated presentation of an essentially similar set of QI ideas and methods under different names and terminologies is a process of ‘pseudoinnovation’, which may be driven by both the incentives for QI methodology developers and the demands and expectations of those responsible for QI in healthcare organizations. We argue that this process has important disbenefits because QI programmes need sustained and long-term investment and support in order to bring about significant improvements. The repeated redesign of QI programmes may have damaged or limited their effectiveness in many healthcare organizations.

His point is well-taken: by constantly re-packaging, and buying the next, new shiny thing that comes along (promising the same benefit), we do a disservice to the idea of sustained and thus continuous improvement. So, what advice can I give to regain focus? Keep it simple.

From Fuzzy to Focus: Simplicity

Regardless of what you call it, simplicity will help you gain or regain focus. Here are three ways to navigate to simplicity.

Have a single, compelling, common aim that always pricks your value system.When you think of lean or six sigma or even early attempts at TQM, you know that having a target condition is essential to solving problems. Without a standard, it’s impossible to improve. The result in the early days was to set up metrics willy nilly. By willy nilly, I mean we’d set up global metrics that seemed right based on the external pressures instead of aiming at something compelling. Or, we’d set sub-optimized metrics that were myopic and parochial. Use a single, compelling, common aim that pricks values to create sets of aligned metrics. Ask yourself this: if we hit all of our targets would we lurch forward to our compelling aim? If hitting some of your targets would have you careening off-aim, look how you are defining improved performance.

Avoid the Perfection Trap where you end up going too deep without respecting learning by experimenting. My colleague described something called “Communication Boards” as a thing she could see in the junkyard. While the boards were a well-intentioned tactic, equally well-intentioned folks worked hard at getting them “right”. Even in my own practice, I’ve had to coach leaders who tended to be individual-performance driven to back down from seeking perfection. In a classic case of losing the forest for the trees, people who seek perfection lose focus on forward progress by focusing on jots and tittles. Forever, continuous improvement has been based on trial and error. Shewhart via Deming gave us a nifty learning aid: the pdCA cycle and we know that it’s all pdCA. When we try to perfect one thing, we neglect perfecting the things connected to it. I can have a perfect visual scorecard, but have weak problem solving “feeding” it. Better to try and fail and learn the system-ness of continuous improvement (thank you, Dr. Deming) than to perfect one component of the system. Simplify things by navigating to pdCA not perfection.

Early adopters may not be the best building block for focused change; rather, move as a team. This idea may take some time to sink in. I’m a fan of transformation thinking. I know in my heart that I should do something with my early adopters. Some would advocate pointing to them and saying, “See, this is what I mean! Look at how positive this is!” Thinking that the example is convincing, we’d expect others to just follow. The problem with this line of thinking and the reason that it adds to lost focus, is that like the Perfection Trap, we lose a sense of the whole. Drawing on what I learned as a young Naval officer learning infantry tactics (that’s a long story), a team that is moving as a team packs a bigger punch than one moving as a set of individuals. Early adopters tend to run out in front and it is right to harness their energy. But it’s equally wrong to let them outstrip the team and get too far out in front. A strung out team can lose people, picked off one-by-one by the flaming arrows of fuzziness in purpose, direction, and distraction. To stay focused keep it simple: move as a team.

Leader: Do This to Focus

Each time I start a new engagement, I try to begin with an assessment. I start the assessment by wandering around looking for artifacts. Some are active, in use and healthy. Though, I have to confess that I mostly find these in pockets and lacking system-ness. Most of what I find has been neglected and collecting dust. Junk in the programmatic junkyard, evidence of another short-lived movement.

Leader: get rid of the junk, go back to the basics and keep it simple to keep it focused. Simplicity begets focus. Focus begets results.

Next time I’ll take on Regaining Focus Part Two: System-ness through Integration.  Until then, pursue #better and stay excellent.


1. Kieran Walshe; Pseudoinnovation: the development and spread of healthcare quality improvement methodologies, International Journal for Quality in Health Care, Volume 21, Issue 3, 1 June 2009, Pages 153–159,
It’s the Process not the Person

It’s the Process not the Person

We Don’t Wake Up Scheming to Make Defects at Work (Most of Us)

My mentor, Rodger Lewis, drilled this one into my head from our first meeting.  While we love to blame people for outcomes, the truth is that the process is the culprit.  Most of us don’t wake up in the morning and think, “How can I cause a problem at work today?”  We don’t brush our teeth and ponder ways to create defects. In fact, most of us go to work thinking, maybe even hoping, that nothing goes wrong.  But, for some reason, we act like – therefore at least at that moment, we believe that – people are planning to do wrong at work.

We don’t wake up scheming evil at work.  Just our problem employees do.


I often find myself quoting another great friend and colleague, Dr. Rick Kunkle, a retired emergency medicine physician and healthcare executive.  Rick (“Doc”) Kunkle says, “The process is perfectly designed to give you precisely the result you are getting.”  When a defect surfaces, the process produces it.

Some will argue in favor of human error, to which I’d just reply, “Your process allowed the error.”

Med Error or Human Error: Process or Person?

I was working with a nursing manager a few years ago. She had 60 plus direct reports. As her organization hoisted lean on her without preparing her mind and heart, she saw it as a heavy burden. When problems surfaced on her team, she quickly ran herself ragged working offensively to contain them.  She was just doing what had been successful for her: firefighting.   When she couldn’t contain them all, she slipped back into her default defensive mode: blaming. First, she’d blame her leaders for forcing her to change, and then she’d blame her team.  One day, a serious medication error alerted the unit to the potential harm they were doing to their patients.  Instead of blaming people, she took a team with her to solve the problem. As she went from the point of recognition (the patient got the wrong med) to the point of cause (when the nurse was pouring the med), she realized that in the spirit of not harming anyone else, any one of her team could have made the same error.

Why?  Because the process allowed the error to be made.

Fatigue, distractions, confusing med names, similar patient names all create the potential for errors.

Waking up in the morning and devising evil plans to fail?  Not so much.

The distractions at the point of cause were many.  Their med dispensing unit had been located in the midst of their nursing station – the hub of all things on the unit – because power and internet cabling was readily available there.  They were thinking cost savings over safety.  It made sense to the nursing manager because so much of the nurse’s work away from the patients was done there at the hub.  They were putting productivity before safety.  When they observed nurses being interrupted endlessly whiling pouring meds, they knew they had put that step in the process, pouring critically controlled meds, in the wrong place.

As a new containment, the nurses would don fluorescent orange and yellow safety vests – the kind you’d see in a factory or on the highway – when they poured meds in the busy area.  It was a visual signal to not interrupt me when I’m pouring these meds.

Re-Thinking How We Think: it’s the process not the person

So, how does a wise leader correct his or her defensive thinking?

First, take every leadership thought captive to the principle: it’s not the person, it’s the process.  As much as your heart wants to believe that John Doe is an idiot or, worse, an evil person planning to make defects on purpose, let common sense prevail.  Sure, John Doe’s personality may make him hard to manage, but the process delivered precisely what it was designed to do.

Second, begin to practice error proofing.  There are four levels of error proofing: elimination, prevention, detection and loss control. Eventually, the nurse manager I mentioned was able to move the medication dispensing unit.  Her containment worked as a form of prevention, but by moving the dispenser to a quiet, non-traveled area, she eliminated distractions coming from the unit nursing station.  Yes, the nurse pouring a med still was responding to call signals and pager calls, but at least the manager had eliminated some of the distractions.  To her credit, the nurse manager rounded the pdCA cycle and began to work on solving the next med error distraction problem: group pages that didn’t require a nurse to stop pouring a med.

Lastly, lead your team into this new mindset.  It’s so easy to get caught up blaming someone else.  For some reason, we believe that we are better if we can compare ourselves to others failures.  Truth and transparency prove otherwise.  Remember how our nurse manager realized that anyone could have created the med error with the process as it was? Lead your team into humility by practicing humility as you lead them.

Rodger and Doc knew the principle and lived it: it IS the process NOT the person.  The sooner we believe that the sooner we find our way to sustainable gains and a safer place for our patients and our team.

A Model for Thinking about Your Team’s Movement

A Model for Thinking about Your Team’s Movement

We’ve been teaching through this model for the past decade, but I’d like to introduce you to an update to it, debuting this fall (coming to a client near you). This diagram represents the new and improved Adams Strategy Team Continuum model, one of several thinking patterns that my team and I have developed over the years.

 ASG team continuum


First, a bit of background.  In 1993 I was introduced to a book that I continue to use even today.  The Team Handbook, First Edition by Peter Scholtes initiated a basic understanding of team development for me as a very young Process Improvement Project facilitator in the Navy Quality Leadership program at the Naval Station Newport, Rhode Island. One of the biggest takeaways for me was Scholtes’ “Four Stages of Team Growth.1)” Many of us remember Scholtes’ description of Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing. Who can’t relate to the feeling of starting anew with a fresh set of people, shimmying to understand their places in the vast scheme of the team’s mission?

Later, somewhere around 2005, my mentor, Rodger Lewis, introduced me to his version of the stages of team growth: tentative, emotional, attainable and masterful. He had been working with the Rotax division of Bombardier Recreational Products, and I found the last two words – attainable and masterful – clunky and abrupt.   Rodger had also added three C’s that I immediately labeled “catalysts” to move from one stage to the next.   From Tentative to Emotional, the team needed communication.   From Emotional to Attainable, the team needed consensus.  From Attainable to Masterful, the team had to develop consistency. The BRP team in Austria had used the T.E.A.M. model in some training and had drawn an arrow from left to right under the words.  Besides the clunky language, possibly attributable to “wooden” German to English translation, the linear nature of the design and the flow of the three Cs also didn’t sit right with me.  Perhaps an homage to Scholtes, Lewis’ pattern seemed to be a good parallel.

Shortly after that, I doodled my first adaptation to the model on a flip chart during a training session I was doing.  The simple adjustment changed the design profoundly and forever: I added an arrowhead pointing left to the left of the line.  The arrows on both ends of the line depicted movement both forward and backward.  My point was that while these words could describe the stages of team growth, the reality is that teams are on a continuum, always moving forward or backward, never static.  In fact, we all know that the best teams can slide the whole way back to “tentative” in a matter of minutes depending on the effect of the changes around them.  From that point forward, we called this model the Team Continuum instead of the stages of team growth.

After years of wrestling with the C-words as catalysts and the clunkiness of the team acronym, I have finally decided to unveil our new and improved Team Continuum (feel free to kick the tires).

I’ve left Tentative and Emotional and Communication unchanged. These three always seemed to make the most sense to me and required little explanation.  When we teach through communication as a catalyst, we emphasize the need to navigate to facts, getting to a full grasp of the situation.  On the road to understanding the facts, teams encounter strong opinions shaped by previous experiences; these differing views and even the facts can prick values causing emotions to surface. As emotions surface and begin to bump into one another, conflict is inevitable.  The duration and lasting effect of that conflict are something a leader can control.

The older I get, the more I realize that there is little forward progress without conflict of some kind. I studied Clausewitz’s On War a dog’s age ago and learned that friction was good for two things: 1) spotting where, in the fabric of disagreement, I need to more deeply analyze and 2) advancing the contention to move to an agreement of some sort.   Applying Clausewitz to our team continuum model, I realized that just acknowledging emotions wasn’t enough.  The real catalyst to getting an alignment is active conflict.   I often illustrate this idea using the metaphor of a car stuck in snow or ice – without the addition of friction, the wheels just spin.  Living in the North, I am way too familiar with this situation.  Without resistance, the wheels spin, and I often end up going a different direction than planned: my car and I are not “aligned.”

I should add a few lines here about how negatively we westerners view the act of conflicting. I’ve worked with teams who have inordinate potential that remains untapped and unlocked because they refuse to conflict. The roots of the word mean “to strike together.” It is this militant connotation that I think causes the most anxiety in our hearts.  What if, instead of two people striking one another, the model for conflict was two ideas striking against one another.   Healthy debate is good for a team.  There is wisdom from the writer of The Proverbs who posits that iron sharpens iron.  The effect of this active, deliberate, sharpening style of conflict bears good fruit.  Active conflict as a catalyst led me to the next improvement to the team continuum: changing “Attainable” to “Aligned.”

Attainable reads like a possibility instead of a true condition.  Aligned is an actual condition, one that we leaders strive for daily (crave daily?). The aligned team is still fragile.  We may agree at the moment to aim in the same direction, but aiming AND executing in the same direction – moving forward – requires Consensus.

The best way to understand the Consensus catalyst is by illustration.  The team has reached consensus when each member leaves a decision-making meeting in agreement and tells his team, “This is what WE are going to do…” instead of “This is what THEY decided to do…”  Consensus requires work: nipping, tucking, taking away, adding to and ending up with something that the entire team agrees with, wholeheartedly.

The consensus is what initiates the team into Moving Forward. Anyone who has hung out with us more than an hour or two has heard us coaching teams to “move as a team.”  The implication is that moving forward means altogether, no one left behind, no one racing ahead and all aiming the same direction.  The team that is moving forward has the potential to succeed.  I think this is what Lewis meant by “masterful.”  In his view, the team was full of mastery.  Mastery and application of it require will. When I changed Masterful to Moving Forward, my intent was to add this sense of will – the impulse that got the movement started and that, Lord-willing, will keep it moving. Until change occurs and by nature causes the team to slide back.

The leadership key – how to put the Team Continuum to use – lies in developing proficiency in the catalysts.   While sliding backward is inevitable, regaining forward movement is entirely dependent on the leader initiating and engaging the right catalyst.  As Scholtes aptly says, “Don’t panic.  With patience and effort, this assembly of independent individuals WILL grow into a team.2)” Patience, friends.



1. Scholtes, Peter R., Brian L. Joiner, and Barbara J. Streibel. “Chapter 6 Learning to Work Together.” The Team Handbook. Third ed. Edison: Oriel STAT A MATRIX, 2010. 6-4–8. Print.
2. Scholtes, Peter R., Brian L. Joiner, and Barbara J. Streibel. “Chapter 6 Learning to Work Together.” The Team Handbook. Third ed. Edison: Oriel STAT A MATRIX, 2010. 6-8. Print.
To Transform Culture Exercise Values | Three Things to Do It Today

To Transform Culture Exercise Values | Three Things to Do It Today


My kids are part of a generation of fitness fanatics: they spend hours daily in the gym. At first, I didn’t get it.  When I was a kid, I “lifted” because my coaches told me I had to.  I was in the gym during the season.  There were distinct “off-seasons,” which I used to downgrade my condition, not maintain it.  Maybe that’s why I ended up playing club sports in college.

Howard Shultz, colorful twice-CEO of Starbucks, conceived of the cool coffee house as America’s “third place:” there was home and work and Starbucks.

My kids’ third place is the gym, daily.

Some of this consistent daily ritual is social.  My kids see friends there, they laugh, joke and share life.  All the time, lifting weights.

All the time: strengthening their bodies.


I work almost exclusively with organizations attempting some form of cultural transformation.  I see a common error made by leaders: they think that transformation is a passive thing.  It can be over great lengths of time.  Think of the Easter egg that you are dying.  You keep yours in the dye for 20 minutes, and it comes out brilliantly colored.  The three-year-old with you dips ten eggs in the same dye in the same period and her’s are a dull, pastel, less brilliant version of yours.  (Don’t fret: I told her that they were amazing and beautiful!)

The transformation model that I  subscribe to is much more active. We work with leaders to create what Edgar Schein, the granddaddy of Organizational Culture, calls the “daily experience.”  If we behave right, daily, the culture changes. But how?  It helps if you know how.


Transformed culture is a rearranging of the parts into their optimal whole.  Organizational culture consists of actions and behaviors, mindsets and attitudes, and values. Organizational value systems are not independent.  They are interdependent.  They represent the overlap of the organization’s individual values.  And, they are both virtuous and not.

Strategic transformation aims at strengthing the virtuous values, the ones that advance the strategy.  For example, one of our operational excellence system “threads” is continuous improvement.  Each thread has associated good values.   The continuous improvement thread values are “focus on the customer” and “solving problems.”  We place high importance on these things.  The strategic intent – continuous improvement – advances as we strengthen those values.

So, for me, the key to transforming a culture is to exercise the values. Schein’s insight – the daily experience – helps us to operationalize the idea.  Why? Because the daily experience is what exercises the values.

Every day in your organization, daily routines exercises values: virtuous ones and the ones that aren’t. The values you hope for and the values you despise.

What’s a leader to do? Don’t dip your eggs and wait! Design your daily experience to exercise the right values.

I’ve watched my kids over the years.  They’ve gotten strong and fit.

If we exercise values, just like muscles, they get stronger and more defined, easier to see and more efficient.


Here are three things you can do today to exercise your virtuous values:

1.  Add a predetermined sequence your operational discussions.  An excellent example of this is when high-reliability organizations apply “safety first” as a value.  They start each discussion with a safety observation.  When this starts to hit habit stage, the change is remarkable.  If you want a problem-solving culture, initiate the day with asking about problems.  End the day with the same questions.

2.  Find the pervasive negative values and starve them.  Well-fed and exercised values are hard to defeat. Find what is feeding and exercising the negative values and cut those behaviors out right away.  You’ll  be tempted to cut out the people giving the negative vibe. Resist the temptation.  Cut out the parts of the daily experience that feed and exercise the negative. For example, we often encounter middle managers who are able firefighters.  They work around problems and keep things moving.  That daily experience of workarounds feeds values that go against actually solving problems. Stop promoting firefighters. Recruit, promote and retain team problem solvers.

3. Use your positive values as navigational aids. Your team gets lost every day at some point.  A fog settles in, and they lose track of the ever-important “why.” Your responsibility to your team is to keep them moving in the right direction.  Values help us take our bearings so we know where we are and where we should be heading. When you encounter that middle manager who is trying to work around the problem, navigate to the value.  Help him answer his personal “why.” Why are you working around the problem instead of finding its root cause?  Is this the right thing for us to do for our customer or the expedient thing?

Awhile ago, I suggested to one of my kids that he could take a day off from the gym based on his busy schedule for the day. He agreed.  Later that day, he rearranged his schedule to get to the gym.  Exercising is his daily experience.  He wasn’t just exercising his muscles; he was exercising his values. In the end, they both get stronger.



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