Growing Your Integrity

Integrity is defined as the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles. Integrity is reflected in the alignment of actions, words, and thoughts. Everyone including those with strong integrity struggles with this alignment. If you decide to be a person of integrity, nothing changes unless you can live those ideals.

We encounter the conflict and challenges to our integrity throughout our life. Partly because life is full of decisions, and we do not know the outcome of making choices until they are made. And, of course, we all make mistakes.

We may consider George Washington, William Wilberforce  or Mother Teresa as people with integrity, but they still faced difficult decisions and failures as often as you or I. It is certain that viewed their own integrity differently than the rest of the world viewed it. We cannot know the depth of the internal struggles they faced.

It is exactly for this reason that regardless of how others perceive our integrity, we must always be working to improve it. We should always check our alignment between our thoughts, our words, and our actions. We should always be grounded in our values. It is not something you can do just five days a week, or only on the weekend. It is a full time commitment.

I find that as I have aged, living with integrity has become easier. No longer am I as easily swayed by the activities around me. I am much stronger in knowing my values, and I am not afraid to live them. I know I am strongest when I am who I am, no matter where I am, or who I am with.

We all must continuously guard and grow our integrity. If not, we risk losing it.

Observe and Discover

“You see, but you do not observe. The distinction is clear.”, said Arthur Conan Doyle. There is a difference between seeing and observing. Observing with intent can lead to great discoveries.

I have led or participated in hundreds of kaizen workshops. The first step in almost all of them is to observe the work. We would go to the location the work was being done, and spend time observing. It was much more than just watching.

With practice and training you can learn how to observe work. To observe a manufacturing operation, I start with blank paper and write down all the motions the worker made. It would include each movement in the smallest detail, such as the estimated distances for each reach with their hand, or each step with their foot.

Depending on the cycle time of the process, observing and documenting the work could be done in minutes. If your observation was correct, then afterwards you could recreate the motions without equipment or material. You could demonstrate the work in a conference room.

This documented work became the baseline for improvement. understanding the work unlocked the ability to discover improvements. It became possible to evaluate changes, evaluate combining and dividing the movements differently between different workers, and evaluate the elimination of wasted movements.

Observation is the key to discovery. We were trained to observe, and then we were trained to discover improvements. It sounds simple, but practice led to advanced skills.

What could you observe today that could potentially lead to a great discovery?

Evaluating Expertise and Character

No one characteristic defines success, but we should consider expertise and character. Some people find success through their expertise. Others find success by utilizing great character and relying on others for expertise. Which do you utilize best?

This is obviously not a right or wrong question. We need both character and expertise to succeed. You alone can’t be successful. It requires the help of other people. Even when it feels like you are working on a project by yourself, you are probably getting help from sources such as books, videos, research data, or online searches. Many times we forget to be thankful for all that help.

Our work is impacted by our character. Our character is embedded in what we do. It exists the results of the work, and also in how the results impact others. The things we value will be visible in our output and our actions.

When we take time to reflect on our successes or our challenges, the scale between expertise and character can give us new insight. What would improve your results over the next week? Should you invest more time in your character or your expertise?

Comfort and Safety?

I grew up without seat belts, air bags, and bicycle helmets. Cars did not have backup cameras and sensors. In my youth, we were anything but safe. I rode my bike on busy streets with no bike path. I talked with strangers. I drank water directly from the garden hose. I built many unsafe and unstable tree houses. My friends and I used to play war games. We did not have paint ball guns. We used BB guns, and I am amazed no one lost an eye.

The world has changed since then. We have a new level of safety and comfort. That is great, but our life’s purpose is not safety and comfort.

Life is not without risk. Each day we face struggles that change us, and challenge us. We long to be safe, secure, and comfortable. Yet, we grow because of risk. We don’t improve through comfort. We improve through the trials of our lives.

Let’s examine purpose. First eliminate safety. Then eliminate comfort. Then eliminate the pursuit of personal possessions. Now define purpose. Hopefully you have uncovered more important pursuits.

Think about our daily routines. We want comfort, safety, and possessions that make life livable. Those things can be a goal, but each day we will grow if we include the pursuit of a bigger purpose. Get uncomfortable. You will survive.