About a week ago I had the wonderful opportunity to present to a group of professionals on the topic of lean strategy. Over the course of the night I was blessed with great conversation, networking, sharing good food and making new friends. As the night came to a close we approached the Q&A portion. As you may have guessed this is an opportunity for attendants to ask any question they want and for me to respond. I of course valued all of the questions through out the session however, one stuck out in my mind more than others. One gentleman raised his hand and asked "what of all the projects that you have completed has been your favorite project throughout your career?" For a brief moment my mind flashed back to cycle time reductions in a lathe center, then it turned towards a 5S event I was a part of about 10 years ago and finally a strategic initiative almost 11 years ago where a vision was established that still remains in effect today. Although these small handful of projects prior to obtaining any real ranking stood out in my mind I could not help but think that throughout the years my most important project ever has always been in regards to the development of people.
While the project may differ from person to person most managers, supervisors and even executives would agree that without people no project could be as successful as it may be with people. People at a unique element of personality, competitive nature and the want to develop something great that technology and machines simply can not match. So why exactly is the people side of lean so great?
Successful strategy involves people and behavior
Although every initiative is different we often realize that somewhere in the beginning stages of strategy we see words like: team, committee, communication and group. These core ideas are often paired with development and training. Whether it is an ERP implementation or the first initial development of Hoshin Kanri people are always part of the projects success, they are one key driver in a 3 fold balancing act that ensures that the strategy is formalized, overseen, shared and discussed with the entire organization and inevitably it is people who drive and balance actions that ultimately will accomplish objectives.
People as a project?
It probably feels uncomfortable to say out loud "Johnny is my project," and we don't often think of people as projects but indirectly somewhere in the project plan people will always fall into the most important "project" of all. For just one second ponder the thought of any child's school years.
Although we may not use "grade levels" to track our employees we do utilize such tools as balanced scorecards and performance metrics as a means of monitoring the organizations learning and growth and though we may not refer to it as a "people project" the core idea behind this learning and development is directly related to people.
Ask any great coach, sensei or teacher "what was your favorite project?" Some may respond "I liked that book report or that 5S was great, you might even get a few "my favorite project is setup reduction or changeovers" but chances are in the back of there mind people are somehow related to that favorite project.
The fact of the matter is that people whether a direct development "project" or a focus as a future mentor are in fact the most important initiative we can undertake. It is in their development that we guide organizations towards the achievement of visions and strategic goals. So .... the next time somebody asks "what is your favorite project?" What will your answer be?