Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Us and them

I'm in the midst of reading Richard Branson's book "Like a Virgin; Secrets they don't teach you in business school".  A great book, and Branson's outlooks on business and life are worth taking note of.  Once chapter in particular is called "They Say; Third Person Problems" and its a very good observation about what we typically see in business, and what separates a great company from the not so great.

When you are out on the floor engage your employees in a conversation about the state of the company, listen for "we" and "they".  Branson explains that we as humans typically associate problems in the third person, where as positives are addressed singular or "we". Example, "they do not like my idea" or "they are making us change" contradictory to "I have that one in stock" or "we are going to give you this service as well".  The them and us tell a lot about the state a companies culture is in.

So listen for the "they's" in your lean journey and consider those opportunities to improve.  What's the culprit of us and they and how do you fix it? Why, communication of course!  If employees do not fill engaged in the activities the company is taking then the chances of them embracing those activities or changes is slim.  

Those that practice lean know how important it is to build a culture of "we", what's difficult is assessing if you are doing a good job.  Try this "Branson approach" and see what you find.