The Most Important Quality For Your Lean Journey


One area of focus we love to write about at Lean Smarts is what might be called the “soft skills” of lean. The hard skills are plenty and obvious: value stream mapping, heijunka, kanban, and more. But it is not the hard skills that make or break a lean initiative.

The issues that are critical for lean success are more philosophical and intangible. This is why we’re likening them to soft skills.

There is one such quality that is absolutely critical to your success with lean. It’s more weighty than any lean tool and makes the ultimate difference in how far you can go.

It’s humility.

The role of humility cannot be overstated. If there was one thing we could give you out of all of the lean tools, tricks, and advice, it is humility. Humility is the reason why some organizations get transformed from the inside out and why others just never seem to significantly change.

We’ll give you three reasons why.

1. Pride Blinds You To Reality And The Truth

You cannot fix a problem that you cannot see, and this is why pride is so deadly. Pride blinds us to reality so that we no longer see (or accept) problems that are right there in front of us.

As a lean leader, you need to hate and fear pride unlike any other sin.

The only way to maintain clarity and understanding of your progress and problems is to be humble. Humble people can hear and accept anything, which makes them more capable as leaders.

2. Humility Is At The Core Of Respect For People

Let’s clear one thing up here really quickly: humility is not about having low self-esteem. In fact, it actually has nothing to do with the value you place on yourself, but everything to do with the value you place on others.

Humility is not low self-esteem, but rather high others-esteem.

The ability to esteem others highly is a requirement for any culture of respect for people. Proud people don’t honor, protect, or celebrate other people very well. But humble people do.

If you want to transform a culture or increase the culture of respect within an organization, just start considering what it looks like for you to be more humble. Then take action on the things you can do to display humility and to elevate others.

3. Only The Humble Can Change

You are going to make mistakes in lean. It is completely unavoidable. Hopefully, you are making mistakes every day (otherwise you’re not trying or understanding lean). But when you make a mistake, it’s actually humility that makes it possible for you to change.

Humble people readily accept change because they’ve got nothing to prove. It’s actually ego that’s in the way between us and transformation.

To Be Humble Or Become Humbled

Each one of us has two choices. We can either choose to be more humble today and begin embracing change in our lives. Or we can resist and put off change until a later day when we’re no longer able to avoid the consequences of our actions–that’s what it’s like to become humbled.

It’s a lot better (and less painful) to cultivate a life of humility than to press on without heeding wisdom and other indicators to change.

Lean represents a massive and never-ending transformation process in the life or an organization and any lean thinker. If you’re going to perform well and be continuously transformed, you’ve got to have humility 😉 .