Wednesday, December 20, 2017

A Response To a Comment About My Post "Lean Self"

Last month, shortly after my blog on the “Lean Self”, my friend and mentor Mark Graban posted a comment to that blog. This was unusual.  Usually, Mark emails his questions and points of concern to me after receiving my final draft of the blog post, but before I publish the final, final draft. His questions sometimes come from sheer confusion about what it is ‘that I am really trying to say’, but many times it is his way of teaching in the Socratic (and Toyota) method. That is, rather than lecturing, asking the student a series of questions that lead the student to discovering the answer or reflecting deeper on the subject. Occasionally, I am not sure which it is.

I have decided to answer in another blog post, rather than a reply to the comment that may go unnoticed.

Mark comments:

Thanks for sharing this, Chip.

I agree that having a personal “true north” and understanding your own “current state” can be beneficial.  I don't quite see how to apply the idea of a “value stream” though. What is “value?” How does it flow? How do you see that connection in one’s personal life?


Here is my response.

Mark, thank you for your comments. Please forgive my tardiness in replying. I have been recovering from a little bit of surgery.

Your questions have caused me to re-evaluate my premise as regards extrapolating the Lean mindset to the “self.” As they should.

What is ‘value’ in this context?
Another way to arrive at an answer to this question is to ask, “What is really important to you in healthcare?” Or, “What is really important to you in a car?” For the “self” it would be, “What is really important to you in your life?” I think (hope!?) for most people it would be “contentment.” To be contented financially. To be content at work. To be content in our relationships.  To be content with ourselves. The Hebrew word “shalom” is generally translated as meaning “peace.” And it does, but it is the peace that comes from being “whole” (content spiritually, physically, emotionally, psychologically); not having excess or being destitute, but from having enough or being grateful with what you do have.

Part of the Lean definition of “value” is that the customer be willing to pay for it. If you are not willing to put a price on what you want, it doesn’t really hold any value. This holds true for the “self”, also. But, it doesn’t necessarily mean money. It means doing the hard work of honest self reflection, letting go of false assumptions, admitting mistakes, mending relationships, simplifying, budgeting, pushing back the ego, stepping out of the forest and,then, prioritizing and starting, somewhere, on a lifelong journey of improvement.

What is the “value stream’?
The Lean concept of the “value stream” requires, amongst other things, a provider, a customer and a “gemba” (the place where the work actually occurs). Unlike other applications of Lean where the provider and customer are separate entities, for the “self” they are the same, us. And the “gemba” is our hearts and minds.

The steps we go through in our hearts, minds and lives to get whatever value we get is the “value stream”. Whether that process results in contentment or “dis-ease” in a particular area of our life depends on how much muda (waste, i.e. faulty thinking, biases, rewritten history, skewed priorities, energy vampires, B**l S**t, etc.) is embedded. Graphically representing this thought process produces a “value stream map”

For example: I must be perfect →  I burned the turkey → I’m a bad cook → I’m a lousy wife → I’m a bad person.  Not good “flow.” Lots of bad processes and “trash.” What’s the value here?

Note that using 5 Why might take you back through this process. For example:
     Why are you a bad person?  Because, I am a lousy wife.
     Why are you a lousy wife? Because, I am a bad cook.
     Why are you a bad cook? Because, I burned the turkey AND I must be perfect!
BINGO!! A possible root cause. The false belief that “I must be perfect!”!

Now, to be able to map this current state value stream may not be easy and it may require the help of “stakeholders” (others who have our best interest at heart). And, just as in any other Lean application, finding the “waste” in order to produce a better future value stream will work best if our “stakeholders” are given access to our gemba and are present; if we are open, honest and communicative about what is going on inside of us and in our lives.

Thus, I think the Lean concepts of value, true North, gemba, current value stream, future value stream, A3 thinking, 5S, 5 Why and kaizen are just as valid working on improving ourselves as it is in improving manufacturing, service industries, healthcare, etc. for the customer- us!