In the past 7 years as a Lean Continuous Improvement (CI) practitioner, the most common question I get asked is, “So… What is it you do in your role?” Usually, in response to this question, I pause for a moment and tend to describe the technical aspects of my job, whether it be: achieving financial benefits through the delivery of projects, releasing capacity through streamlining processes, describing my role as a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt and the list most definitely goes on. In all cases: I’m often greeted with a blank face, disinterest, statements such as “that sounds complicated” and then the topic of conversation quickly changes to something different and more likely understood by the unaffiliated.
While on holiday in Europe and after a repeat of the same conversation I took a moment to reflect on why I kept receiving the same response, I was reminded of the most used definition of insanity: ‘insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results.’ In my moments of reflection, I started to consider the statement usually presented back to me ‘that sounds complicated.’ When I think about what I do on a daily basis, none of it is rocket science, nor does it require a doctorate in astrophysics.
Lean and Continuous improvement can be and in my opinion ‘is’ simple on most occasions, with the true complexity being engaging with those people impacted by any potential changes. Remember, everyone is different! We all have our own set of values, beliefs, individual purposes or objectives, all of which make embedding change that little bit more difficult. So, understanding ‘what’s in it for them’ (the voice of my customer) and being able to articulate it in a simple way when conversing with them is important in helping them see or think slightly differently about a change to the way they’ve always done things.
Why then have I and others tended to complicate a response to this question, when part of the focus behind creating value is, to simplify things? Could it be that my typically technical response is some form of self-preservation driven by the fact that creating a culture of continuous improvement is the goal and if that is achieved my role may no longer be required? Maybe it is linked to the fact I separate work from my social life and have completely forgotten the fact the concept of continuous improvement can be applied equally in your social life just as much as in a business setting.
I came to the realisation that a significant part of me being able to fulfil my purpose is me helping and supporting others. Something I do every day and is the foundation behind my job. As a Lean CI Practitioner, we do this by delivering projects which may release capacity or deliver financial savings for our clients or businesses. It also includes the facilitation of Lean training courses, the coaching and mentoring of people along their development paths. It was at this point that I was able to answer the original question simply enough whilst creating the appetite for others to want to know the ‘how’.
Now when I am asked the question, “What do you do?” my response is quite simply, I support both businesses and people in realising their potential by sharing a simple approach which will help achieve their goals and ultimately their purpose.
How would you respond to the question and if you’re not a practitioner, would response provide enough intrigue to want to find out more?
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