My Lean Thinking colleagues in Maine State Government have also been looking for quotes in Henry Fords writing that would speak to our movement toward more efficient and productive work as individuals, companies and communities.  The one that was chosen for their monthly newsletter speaks to the people side of Lean. It speaks of the major cause of resistance and poor function in human beings participating in the transformational change that Lean process analysis can bring.  When I read this month’s newsletter there it was staring at me.

I pity the poor fellow who is so soft and flabby that he must always have “an atmosphere of good feeling” around him before he can do his work. There are such men. And in the end, unless they obtain enough mental and moral hardiness to lift them out of their soft reliance on “feeling,” they are failures.

Whew. Sounds a little strong for todays human resource function. But when you can get past the fatherly toughness you can see that Henry is absolutely right.  Like most self respecting professional continuous improvement professionals, before I looked at all the other flabby people in my work environment (clients and professional colleagues) I took a glance at myself.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not into self destruction, but I was raised with the belief that you should look for the log in your own eye before seeking the splinter in another’s eye.  How flabby am I either physically or emotionally?  Honest self assessment?  That is a very difficult thing for many of us to do.  We get very good at measuring process, cycle time, machine tool tolerances and others performance.  But how good are we at looking at self?  I have discovered when I am able to self assess my own production flaws I am much more able to objectively review others.

So I when I worked out last night I worked extra hard and vowed to move towards strength and away from flabby.  Strengthing body and mind through exercise and related activities is one strategy to improve this function. 

Another strategy is to examine the response we have when our feelings arise as we are trying to compete our daily tasks. There is a great list of short sayings called Constructive Living Maximsi which can help each of us get past our feeling and back to what needs being done.  Keep these handy when you start to feel like not working, they may be the thought that puts you back on task.

A third strategy for overcoming the power of feelings is good planning. If you do not have a map or plan, feelings can easily become the driving source of decisions.  Then you are in big trouble. When you do not have a plan, you are planning to fail.  What planning tool to you use? There are some six sigma planning tools that can be used.  I know of another.  I recently began working with some old process friends who have developed a planning tool for students and communities.  We used it almost 10 years ago when I chaired our community’s comprehensive plan committee.

The tool is called Running Start.ii I am working with them to adapt this tool for disabled adults participating in the voc rehab process and returning veterans who are integrating back into the community. This personal planning process facilitates the development of a plan, gives quantitative feedback regarding the progress being made and keeps you on track so feelings do not dominate decisions and you work the plan which has been developed. It might be a good process to use to reach the decision that you need a Value Stream Map to identify your prime constraint or waste and other process innefficiencies, although the tool alone will help identify those things as well.

How does all this relate to Six Sigma?  Seems flabby is much like muda and causes significant reduction in our physical and emotional efficiency. How big is your log? Mine is shrinking, I hope.

By the way, Michael thanks for the new BB LSS certification process you mentioned in your recent column on April 4, 2008. I now have a certificate on my wall too!  Just like the straw man in the Wizard of Oz. How transformational!

[i] Ford, Henry, My Life and Work, The Project Gutenberg: Release Date: January, 2005-EBook #7213, Produced by Marvin Hodges, Tom Allen, Eric Eldred, Charles Franks and the DP Team,

[ii] Reynolds, David, Constructive Living Maxims. For more about David Reynolds see

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