Posted by: Knightbird | May 9, 2012

Advocating for Lean

I am attending the annual Tribal Self Governance Conference in New Orleans. Our primary goal is to advocate for increasing our tribal right to govern ourselves. I participate actively in the debates, discussions and legislative education and information forums to help achieve this goal. But I also advocate for American Indians and Alaska Natives to take that right of self governance and provide the most value laden service they can to their tribal members, and that can, in my mind, be achieved only if we adopt lean management as our system.
So I take the opportunities I can to advocate. As I have said before, the Indian Health Service has expressed no interest in even discussing lean management. Even when I state a solid argument for a strategic initiative that could reduce the cost of health care by half in the future. The plan I wrote up also points a direction for decreasing negative behaviors, our prison population, domestic violence and others. It also holds the potential for creating more happiness. Still, there isn’t even a hint of interest by the IHS. The employees of the IHS that I talk to are intrigued, but unfortunately the reward system at IHS does not reward innovation or creativity. It rewards bureaucratic competence.
I also talk to numerous tribal leaders about the benefits of lean. It is here that I get more interest, often from the younger leaders. I regularly invite them to visit Chugachmiut to see for themselves. And they are inevitably impressed. When I turn the discussion over to my employees, the leader sees for themselves the enthusiasm for lean. I recently invited an Anchorage School Board member to visit and she had the opportunity to sit in on an ideation event to discuss training and operating shared services with out Villages. While she was impressed, there is a closed minded Superintendent sitting at the top of the organization. Superintendents achieve that status through the development of good political skills, and it is extremely unlikely for one to want to rock the education boat. Still, I was pleased someone from the district showed interest. (I did invite 2 other board members but never heard from them).
I have been able to explain lean to 4 participants at this meeting, and one is interested. She will visit later this month. The other was shocked. Her world was challenged, and it showed on her face. Her point to me was the competence of a leader that I knew was not competent, but was a good politician and kept board politicians happy.
Why do I do this? Because we have tribal members who are suffering. The have taken a huge dose of historical trauma and transferred it intergenerationally from parent to child through the concept of adverse childhood experiences. Only though great management can we develop the resources and ideas to change this problem.

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