Posted by: Knightbird | November 8, 2011

They Just Don’t Get It

After my presentation on Lean Management for Tribal Governments at the NCAI Convention in Portland, OR, an attendee asked me for my business card. She said it was for a colleague from another tribe where they were experiencing difficulties. As for her own tribe, they had a good executive who keep things moving so they were doing just fine. In other words, they liked my presentation because it was good entertainment but nothing they could learn anything from.

Most organizations I hear from are excited to achieve 2 – 3% in gains annually. One organization I am aware of has in their strategy teaching customer service to their employees. Another wants to increase revenue by 3%. Others want to “fix” a particular department. The executives blindly state that the organization is doing well if they achieve these small targets. In the meantime, employees go about hiding (or failing to see) the many problems and defects that occur in the organization. If the problems or defects surface, the employees know that they are at risk for losing their job if the defect is in their work sphere. You hear lots of excuses. It’s so and so’s fault. We didn’t have enough employees to cover that function because someone was sick or went on leave. We don’t have the right equipment. They point to the budget request they have made and was rejected as proof they don’t have the resources to do the job.

Learning to see the waste in an organization is a skill that can be taught, but not to a closed mind.


  1. Unfortunately convincing someone to embark on a lean journey is a lot like getting a drunk to sober up. No one wakes up and thinks, “I’m feeling good, my marriage is good, the job is OK and I’m financially in good shape – I think I’ll join AA”. It usually takes hitting rock bottom in one or more of those areas to get the drunk to see how much they need to change.

    Likewise, few organizations commit to a radical transformation in culture, thinking and management unless they are in serious trouble and they have tried all of the quick, easy fixes and failed.

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