I heard an interview on NPR with Senator Jim Webb that got me thinking. He was talking about Jacksonian doctrine and said that you measure the health of a society not at its apex, but at its base.
I don’t know anything about presidential economic theory but the statement got me thinking about how we measure the health of the organization where I work and, in turn, how we try to improve that health. Currently the apex is all about market competitive affordability and how our continued survival depends on it.
This was and continues to be the impetus for Toyota’s culture of kaizen; improved productivity, reduced costs, and improved quality for the sake of existence. As apex objectives these are awesome! Yet in their deployment, I see things get lost in translation. Leaders ask “why don’t they (the base) get it?”
I might instead ask, “why don’t leaders get the base?” When I lead kaizen efforts with front line teams, we work with leaders to challenge the folks in “the base” to deliver value-creating processes to our patients. When they know what they need to achieve, in terms of tangible process outcomes, these teams are immensely capable of action that results in improvement.
Let’s think about the health of our organization by considering the capability of our processes. What should a world class process deliver in terms of lead time, cycle time, quality, and volume? Let’s start with an objective that can be acted upon and impacted – by the base.
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