3 Ways to Handle Set Backs in Your Lean World

photo courtesy of zetson via flickr

The Harvard Business Review is a great source of information.  A recent article by Teresa Amabile and Steve Kramer is titled Three Ways to Turn Setbacks into Progress.  While this article is aimed at the workplace in general, it is also consistent with Lean Leadership principles.  Here are the ways recommended by Amabile & Kramer with some discussion on application at your Lean site:

  1. Don’t treat setbacks as failures:  Setbacks are not failures in a Lean world. You should even expect setbacks as you try new things to improve your process. In fact, the Deming Cycle (PDCA) is based on the fact that things won’t always go as expected on the first try.  Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed.  I’ve found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”  Get over it and figure out what to do next.  More importantly, give your team the freedom to grow through setbacks.
  2. Don’t constrain the solution in advance:  We often think we know what the problem is and can dictate the solution.  This may be the case on occasion but you’d think that someone would have already fixed the problem if it’s that easy.  Take the time to understand the issues involved and give the team freedom to explore solutions.  Teams have surprised me with great solutions on many occasions.
  3. Focus on small, achievable wins:  A few setbacks won’t seem so bad if you celebrate the success along the way.  The spirit of Lean Manufacturing is to make improvements every day (Continuous Improvement).  You should go after big projects with big paybacks but you should not ignore the smaller, quicker and easier wins.

Teresa Amabile and Steve Kramer provide good advice that fits nicely into a Lean culture. Have you found these techniques to be beneficial?  What else have you tried when you or your team have had setbacks?  How can you better lead your team today so they are better prepared for a setback in the future?

Best regards,
Christian Paulsen
Lean Leadership
Written for ConsumersGoodsClub.com

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About Christian Paulsen

Christian Paulsen is an Executive Consultant with 20 years of Lean Manufacturing. Chris adds value to organizations by driving process improvement and bottom line savings. Chris intends to help others by sharing the lessons learned after a quarter century of operational leadership, marriage, parenting, and even longer as a Cubs fan. Your comments on this blog are welcome. You can also connect with Chris via LinnkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook in the right sidebar. Chris welcomes your comments. Christian's professional services are available by contacting him through LinkedIn (right side bar)
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3 Responses to 3 Ways to Handle Set Backs in Your Lean World

  1. Editor says:

    Thanks for sharing this post, it’s great!

  2. Hi Chris,
    Thanks for sharing, it’s been a while reading your post.
    I’m happy to catch up with post publish here.

    Have you read this book “Effective Executive” ? There was an advise similar to (second points) where the author suggest. Before deciding a solution for a problem.
    1) we must understand the problem (its common to see people jump to conclusion)
    2) Understand the solution itself (which strike me, its someting we never do well enough)
    3) Only then work on solution.
    As it may sound easy, I find it tough to follow.

    • Hello Ganesh,

      No, I haven’t read that one yet. It sounds like solid advice though. It’s funny how often process improvement sounds so easy when someone describes either the methodology in a book or when they share a success story of here’s how we saved the company a bunch of money. If it were that easy though, everyone would be doing it. The reality is that some aspects may not be that hard but it takes time, discipline, team work, and some clever problem solvers. Thanks for sharing your insight.

      Best regards,

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