At the Australian Open in January of 2014, a heat wave had daytime temperatures reaching 42°C (108°F), yet officials did not invoke the “Extreme Heat Policy.” A few players experienced mild heat-related illnesses, but spectators and especially the press were appalled at the conditions and criticized the organizers for letting the matches continue. Roger Federer, on the other hand, chose to demonstrate the attitude that has made him one of the greatest tennis players ever. “It’s just a mental thing. If you’ve trained hard enough your entire life or the last few weeks and you believe you can do it and come through it, there’s no reason. If you can’t deal with it, you throw in the towel.”
When we help firms transition to Lean organizations, we use a mnemonic D-O-W-N-T-I-M-E+A. The letters in DOWNTIME represent examples of waste in an organization, but the +A may be the most important part of the equation because it stands for Attitude.
At its core, Lean is about changing mindsets. To change mindsets, leaders have to be an example for the rest of the team. People observe and follow actions, not words. If firm leaders seek to change a company’s mindset, it starts with leading by example.
So take a good hard look at your attitude in regards to running a Lean firm. Can you take the heat, remaining focused on possibilities and positive outcomes? Or do you tend to focus on the reasons changes can’t happen or won’t succeed?
If you need a tune-up, start practicing the Three Ps:
- Positive – Be aware that remaining positive is entirely within your control. Practice positive thinking by becoming aware of negative thoughts and words and making a real effort to push them aside and replace them with positive ones. Keep negative people at arm’s distance whenever possible. When you must deal with negative people, recognize that their effect is up to you.
- Persistent – Few people accomplish worthy goals on their first try. If you’ve already tried one method that didn’t get you the results you desire, try again with another approach. On the days you feel like giving up, focus on the immediate moment. Can you take one action that will bring you even the slightest bit of progress by the end of the day? Sometimes the smallest success can help get you back on track.
- Patience – Transforming your firm will not happen overnight. Developing a Lean culture can be realized only through a patient devotion to what you are trying to achieve. When we practice patience, we are better people, better managers, and better leaders. Practicing patience is a mindfulness habit. We have to learn to recognize impatience and make a conscious choice to change our mindset.
The success of your shift is in direct correlation to how many people in the company take on the Lean mindset. Make sure your attitude is in the right place, and the rest will follow. When you reach critical mass, your firm will take off.
By Michael Wherry, CPA, Lean Six Sigma Black Belt
Boomer Consulting, Inc.