Stealing Monkeys

No, I'm not going to steal your pet chimp, but it is often tempting and easy to "steal a monkey" from people while in the genba...

While doing some follow up at a manufacturing plant in North Carolina, I heard this strange phrase from a number of supervisors talking to each other about problems on the floor. One described a problem he asked his people to tackle but were having trouble with. The two supervisors invariably started brainstorming solutions to the problem. The other supervisor stopped himself abruptly and said, "wait, wait, wait...let's not steal their monkey." I asked what this meant and the explanation makes perfect sense:

When somebody has a problem, they have a monkey on their back. We all have problems we must face. If I solve the problem for them, then I have stolen their monkey. What a great way to think about empowerment! And what an easy reminder for you to stop yourself before you solve a person's problem that they could solve on their own.

I heard other people saying, "don't take their monkey" but I like the effect "stealing" has on the concept of being a genba leader. When we steal their monkey, we are basically telling people not to think, not to worry, not to solve their own problems within their control. Why do I say this? When we "take" something from somebody as a genba leader, we do it in the context of helping them. But have we... really? Have we really helped them, or hurt them? Put another way, when we steal a monkey, we are stifling responsibility, creativity, morale, and thinking in the workplace, precisely the opposite of what we want in a lean culture. We wonder why people do not take action, or offer ideas - because we "take their monkeys" for them! We decide to do the heavy lifting for them.

Stealing is wrong. And stealing somebody's monkey is just as wrong as stealing their wallet, we are stealing their ideas, their pride and their creativity before they even have a chance to know it is gone. Don't steal their monkeys!

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Capitalism, Lean Production and a Political Quiz

WARNING: Non-TWI post....

With all the garbage coming from the mouths of our politicians in recent years, (o.k., 100 years) I've been looking for alternative points of view on economics, politics and just stuff in general. You know, the stuff you won't hear on MSNBC, CBS, CNN - you know, thoughtful stuff.

Whether you agree or disagree with alternative viewpoints, they are worth a look so you can exercise your head muscle. Many people are out there waiting for you to discover them so that you may discover holes in your liberal and conservative views.

Kevin Carson is a research associate for the Center for a Stateless Society. He is a bit of a homebrew industrialist, a small lot advocate if you will, drawing lessons from the individuals point of view on the devastating effects corporate capitalism has on the individual. Interestingly enough, Carson seems to be a bit of a Leanster, you can check out this article here.

You can also check out other articles by Carson and other like minded individuals at the following websites:

Molinari Institute
Center for a Stateless Society
Ludvig Von Mises Institute

At the CSS website, I encourage you to take this Political Quiz. You may be surprised at the results! And I would encourage you to study more about the history of government and its role in the fall of societies, its lack of a role in societies that thrived, politics and really dig into some of the philosophies that may run contrary to popular political and economic thought.

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TWI Summit Wrap Up

Well, another summit is in the can!

This year was great...I felt like people are starting to make a lot of progress with TWI. In that I mean that people are really struggling with it. This is a good sign, it means they are asking questions, making mistakes and learning.

The best sign of this is that people are really questioning the rigidity of the 10 hour sessions. This is one of the first things I began to question as well when I started screwing around with this stuff about 5 years ago. A few years ago, as I started using JI, for example, I was rigid to the letter of the law when it came to delivery, writing Job Breakdown Sheets, and the four step method. As time went by, and my understanding of the principles grew, it occurred to me that the "perfect" training observed in 10 hour sessions is simply not consistently reproduced in the genba. Lesson learned: we aren't perfect and neither is JI. But you will be a better teacher, coach and problem solver if you use it to the best of your ability - but only if you try and learn from the 50,000 mistakes you are guaranteed to make.

I had the privilege of sitting on the town hall panels this year with Mark Warren, David Meier, Don Dinero and Dean Schroeder. Many of the questions posed to the panel were things like, how should we roll out TWI? Should we do JM and JI simultaneously? Should we do JR first? How involved should management be in the program? And so on. What I noticed was that the questions were oriented around a project mindset: "how do we get this done in a timely and effective manner?"

The answer isn't clear. The best answer is that, "it depends." People have to remember that the J skills are skills. If I learn how to hit a baseball, or swing a golf club, I'm not held to a deadline. Nor am I tested for the perfect swing. The key is that the skill is bettered by practice and having a good coach. The same approach needs to be considered for teaching the J skills in your company.

The last theme that was screaming at me was Idea and Suggestion Systems. Dean Schroeder had a great keynote presentation on Ideas Systems. Many companies showcased there fledgling, establsihed and retooled suggestion systems. Regardless of what was presented, it was confirmed for me that the J skills can and will enhance employee involvement and a natural evolution is to provide a channel for ideas that are bound to trickle upward - the result of setting standards (JI), improving standards (JM) and dealing with problems that involve people (JR).

Finally, many people asked about the TWI Blog, TWI Service, TWI Institute, TWI Learning, etc. and how they were all related. Especially concerning the concept of certification. First off, I should clarify a couple of things:

1) I'm not a consultant. I'm gainfully employed and have no intention of consulting any time in the near future with a wife and four boys at home.

2) With that said, I'm active in promoting TWI skills and if you are in the New England area and I can swing by, I have no problem stopping into your plant to talk continuous improvement. Also, I'd be happy to put you in touch with a TWI trainer and make recommendations based on my experience. Networking is a great way to learn and share and if you are ever in the Burlington, VT area, I can put you in touch with people who are on the leading edge of TWI, Lean, etc.

3) I'm in no way affiliated with the TWI Institute. The TWI Blog and TWI Service are exclusively my creation, my geek fix and mine alone, unless of course you read the blog and like what I have to say! With that said, I invite anybody to post on the TWI Blog as long as you aren't pushing your products or services. And if I don't like your post, I reserve the right to not publish it. My blog, my rules, but I'm pretty darn laid back and reasonable.

4) There is a forum for TWI practitioners on the Yahoo Group sites, started by Mark Warren. Everybody is downloading materials, but very few are active in reviewing the materials, developing them and providing feedback to the group at large. We need to have more involvement from everyone in order to take the TWI skills to the next level.

5) Certification. I was sort of o.k. with certification a few years ago. Now, I don't think it really matters. What is certification anyway? The purpose of the J skills is to solve problems. If you are certified and not solving any problems, then I would have to say to you: epic fail. If you are certified and training everyone in the organization because that is what the boss told you to do, well, o.k., half epic fail. My point is that certification solves not one problem in your organization, only the application of problem solving skills will do that. Certification is a great professional development tool, but beyond that, most companies will not see the value of what certification brings to the table. Go back to our example of the baseball or golf swing. What is the problem to be solved? Hitting the ball to a desired location.Will certification put the  ball over the wall or on the fairway? What will allow you to place the ball in the future? Certification or practical experience?

Next year, I suspect that a big underlying theme will be coaching and mentoring. We will see. I would like to see more case studies and companies that have established all three J skills in a large majority of their population, but we are probably still a long way off from that. At any rate, it was a great summit and I hope to see you at the next one!

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Quote of the Day

Competition whose motive is merely to compete, to drive some other fellow out, never carries very far. The competitor to be feared is one who never bothers about you at all, but goes on making his own business better all the time. Businesses that grow by development and improvement do not die. But when a business ceases to be creative, when it believes it has reached perfection and needs to do nothing but produce-no improvement, no development-it is done.
-- Henry Ford