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?

Learning the Tools of Our Trade

Recently a friend of mine was worried that he was not going to meet  important project requirements for his job. I helped him break down major tasks and had him define how much time each task needed. Our discussion took less than ten minutes. Afterwards, he was relieved that accomplishing the project on time seemed very achievable.

Then I suggested that he add the defined tasks to his schedule so he could make sure he allocated the time needed. Because for many people there is a  gap between knowing what to do, and taking the time to do it.

He responded, “I don’t use a calendar to schedule my day! It takes too much time. I need to be flexible to work on whatever is most important at the moment.” It became evident why this important project with a fixed deadline caused my friend anxiety.

Last week, I was ill. I had caught a summer cold that took me out of commission for a couple of days. I needed to revise my work calendar. But because I had a plan, I knew what actions could be delayed and what needed to be done as scheduled. When a deadline can’t be moved, I like the necessary actions to be in my schedule.

I find it interesting that some people view a schedule as being too restrictive, and other people view a schedule as necessary to enable flexibility. The schedule is not the difference, it is how we use it.

Isn’t this true of all tools? A tool is only as good as our ability to use it!

Courage Keeps Us Moving Forward

The decision to move forward is a personal decision we are capable of making. Many times it is not the first option we think about. Thomas Edison said, “Be courageous! I have lived a long time. I have seen history repeat itself again and again. I have seen many depressions in business. Always America has come out stronger and more prosperous. Be as brave as your fathers before you. Have faith! Go forward!”

We tend to fear moving forward. When times are good, we get comfortable. When times are bad, we would like to go back to when times were more comfortable. In reality, the best course of action is always forward regardless if times are good or bad.

The battle to move forward is within us. It is not an external battle. Courage to change allows us to have a greater tomorrow. For me, I work to win this battle every day. I constantly review habits and routines revealing what to keep, what to drop, and what to change.  What is your method to overcome fear and move forward?