Ask a manager “would you rather have one idea worth $1M or 1,000 ideas worth $1,000?”, and most instinctively understand that there is less risk and often less cost in implementing 1,000 ideas. The trouble is getting those ideas. So, those committed enough to the concept pursue many schemes to initiate and inspire those 1,000 ideas.
Some leaders ask me “what can the organization do to get these 1,000 ideas?” The more inspired leaders ask “what can *I* do to get these 1,000 ideas?”
In The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Lean, in our chapter on lean leadership, we claim one of the essential leadership moves is to “lead by participation, not proclamation.”
So…participate! If you set up a system to surface, capture, and apply small and rapid continuous improvement ideas, then use it. Be a role model…a visible role model. This is not to show off. If you want small ideas from others, then find small ideas, submit them, and execute them. Let everyone see you using it.
In working with one VP responsible for supporting 3,000 people, she found a small change in her email use habits that turned out to be a productivity improvement. If kept to herself, then it’s a nice idea. When she shared through the system for managing improvements, it both encouraged others to adopt the same improvement, and encouraged others to find their own improvements.
Too often, although they would never use these words, managers think “I don’t need a system to improve, I do it naturally.” Good for you. But bad for the organization. If you are too cool to use it, then every other aspiring leader will think they are also too cool.
Demystify it. Make it the standard. Set the example. Use the system.
There is more you can do, but nothing you can do will have a greater impact that this simple (recurring) act.
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