Monday, August 15, 2016

Content Follows Form or Acting Your Way to New Thinking

By Pascal Dennis

By walking, I found out where I was going
Irving Layton

Acting your way to new thinking is easier than the other way round. (Tip of the hat to my colleague Mike Rother.)

That’s why Politeness is called the door to the Great Virtues – (another tip of the hat, this time to Andre Comte-Sponville.)

Politeness is pure form. Our children don’t understand why they have to behave in a certain way. But the more they do it, the more they come to understand Gentleness, Humility, Compassion and other great virtues.

Content follows form. May I suggest that form helps to create content? The imitation of virtue over time becomes the real thing.

What’s this got to do with Lean management? Quite a bit.

Lean excellence rests on a set of mental models or mindsets, which I’ve described in some detail (Getting the Right Things Done). These include:

  • Leaders are teachers

  • Go see for yourself

  • Make problems visible

  • Engage everybody in improvement work…

What’s the best way to change one’s behavior? Why, through a set of routines – even if you don’t fully understand why you’re doing them.

Understanding will come: “Holy cow, I had no idea what was actually happening. If I hadn’t gone to see for myself, I’d have made a disastrous mistake!”

Or, “Good thing we committed to involving the front line in planning our launch, and giving them the authority to stop and fix problems. It’s our best launch ever!”

Or, “I thought standardized work would hinder my creativity. But it’s freeing me up. I now have time to reflect, coach and make strategy!”

In our old Toyota plant, I often didn’t understand why we did certain things – daily stand-up meetings, scheduled & purposeful gemba walks, PDCA cycles around all significant activities and the like.

But I did all these things because that’s what you did in a Toyota factory, and because I intuited a deeper, richer pattern, a chessboard grander than any I’d imagine before.

By walking I found out where I was going.

Best regards,


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