"It's the way we've always done it.” We hear those words occasionally around our home and at work. My question is – “Why?” Why are we doing it the way we've always done it? If it's because it just makes sense to keep doing it that way, that's great. If it's because no one told us not to keep doing it that way, that’s not good.
Continuous improvement is something we are all familiar with; we hear it among management and we understand it's some kind of project that management is working on. We send people to Kaizen events although some of us aren't even sure on what the word "kaizen" means. We send people for Six Sigma training and for further education to better understand processes, to implement more processes, and to analyze existing processes. But, what does this really mean? To the guy running the sweeper every day, what does this really mean to him? Does our sending one person to an informative training session of anything make any difference to him and the course of his day? So, we have eight people with the knowledge of how to make our work lives better. How is it being brought back to the rest of us? I have also heard this statement around my home and at work - "Can someone please just make a decision?" Said in frustration by those of us in charge of our flocks at home and at work, we want to know why can't someone, anyone, just make a damned decision? Even if it's wrong!
Here is what I know and what I have learned. To change a culture, we have to get inside of the beast. We have to figure out what people need, how they think, what matters to them; then we have to teach them. We have to present this education in a way they can not only understand but find their place in it. We have to build them up and give them the courage to turn everything they thought they knew upside down. To see where improvements can be made and to try something different. To make decisions, even if they're wrong. We need to give them the tools they need to not only get on board, but to be the drivers. Things roll downhill! Change has to start from the top and it has to roll down to the rest of us. We need to see where we matter. We need to understand that every single one of us is a crucial part of the team and our ideas matter. Who better to make suggestions and offer advice on how to better grind castings than the employee grinding the castings? Building and empowering your team is how to change the culture.
Note: Kaizen is a Japanese word meaning "good change". :-)