From the CEO: Practice what you preach

AME | February 26, 2023

I can’t tell you how often I use the phrase, “We are like the shoemaker with the bad shoes.” It’s easy to tell people how to do things or how things should be. It’s much harder to live the change you want to see, though it shouldn’t be. How many times have we talked about having standard work, only to look at ourselves and realize our standard work is dated?

How many times have we said or thought, “It’s fine how it is.” Or one of my personal favorites, “That’s not the way we’ve always done it.” It’s not a phrase I ever expected to hear inside a continuous improvement organization, and yet I hear it constantly. It’s a cringe-worthy statement for anyone, but especially for lean professionals. Yet I bet most of us hear or even use that phrase regularly.

Standard work was never meant to be stagnant. If an organization is practicing lean, over the years, people will have improved upon the processes, and the standard work will have to change. Are we open to it or stuck in how it has always been?

You’re probably thinking right now, “Oh, that’s not me.” Humor me. No one is watching or judging you. Take a moment to reflect. When did you last update your standard work? When your colleague makes a suggestion, are you open to how things could be, or do you shoot them down? How many times a day do you prioritize muscle memory over the pursuit of excellence?

In the past three years, most of our standard work has changed. How many of us were working from home three years ago? How many of us, like me, had never used Zoom prior to 2020 (come on, I know there are more of us out there). It was humbling attending my first national AME Board meeting and having to be schooled on Zoom audio. Who would have ever thought we would hold a conference virtually with over 1,000 attendees? The standard work of the past never considered that challenge.

Resistance to change is normal, but if we are hanging on to the ways things were years ago, we are behind. That is not to say we shouldn’t respect the past; rather, we should build on it with the skills, knowledge, innovation and openness of today.

Years ago, I came across an article on leadership in Forbes that I pinned away. The journalist wrote, “They won’t believe what you say. They will believe what you do. But, even if what you do matches what you say, you will eventually falter if it doesn’t match your own fundamental beliefs. It only works when what you believe and do and say align.”

As always, please stay safe and keep looking out for one another.