Posted by: Knightbird | February 20, 2015

“It is not easy to get away from tradition?

“It is not easy to get away from tradition? That is why all our new operations are always directed by men who have had no previous knowledge of the subject and therefore have not had a chance to get on really familiar terms with the impossible. We call in technical experts to aid whenever their aid seems necessary, but no operation is ever directed by a technician, for always he knows far too many things that can’t be done. Our invariable reply to ‘It can’t be done’ is ‘Go do it.’”

Today and Tomorrow (1926)

Henry Ford

I learned of this passage while reading John Black’s book on “Lean Production: Implementing a World-Class System.” I learned its truthfulness from 10 years of advocacy on implementing Lean Thinking in Alaska.

While I taught business, advised business leaders and served on a board of directors, I literally had no CEO experience when I started in my first position 12 years ago. Executives who worked their way through the ranks had learned in systems that they adopted and implemented. Most of the leaders I encounter in Alaska have not had operations experience, and rely on hiring people to make their decisions for them. I was fortunate to be with a small organization and able to spend time in Kaizen and operations improvement events. And I was not restricted in my thinking to specific processes. I advocate for Lean implementation in every nook and cranny for the organization I directed. We applied Lean Thinking to healthcare, records management, IT, HR, finance, grant writing—literally any process we could identify as a process. And as long as the politicians on board let us, we delivered incredible improvements.

I have not cared much for consultants. I invested in one, who I came to admire greatly. But his tenure with us was limited by budget and our desire to learn. Once we had a base of knowledge, we didn’t need technicians. We grew our own.

What is my message? The first lesson is to learn from the words of really accomplished people like Henry Ford. The second lesson is to stop limiting yourself by your current knowledge. Break free of the chains of tradition that are holding you back. Lean the philosophy of Lean Thinking, and practice the tools. What you believe is impossible might become possible. Stealing a phrase from Nike—“Just do it.”

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