Having grown up in rural Maine as the son of a deer hunter, November (rifle season for whitetail) was often highly anticipated. Endless amounts of preparation went into making sure everything was ready – rifles sighted in and cleaned, boots waterproofed, oil changed in the four-wheeler. Perhaps the most important preparation step was making sure that your clothing didn’t smell like a human. In our house, this was always Deer Hunting Preparedness Rule #1. The clothing I speak of was our blaze orange gear – hats, coats, vests – and was always washed with non-perfume soap then kept in our barn for 2 weeks to ensure any human scent was gone.
The removal of the scent was for the deer; the orange color was for other hunters. This color was the universal “don’t shoot” visual control for anyone in the woods signifying that you, in fact, were not a deer. In other words – it was a way to not get shot.
Invariably, however, every season would reveal the news that someone had been shot in a hunting accident. Sometimes, it was just that – an accident – but other times, it would be because someone ignorant to the situation would decide to go for a walk in the woods without any orange on. Why people decided to do this was always a hotly-debated topic at hunters’ breakfasts, but in the end the generally accepted rule of thumb was this: Don’t go hiking in the woods in November. To do so was taking a risk that you just didn’t need to take.
So often in business, we make this same mistake and don’t even think twice about it. We go into a manufacturing cell or an office area half-cocked thinking we know everything there is to know when in reality, there’s a lot more going on that we aren’t aware of. We ignore queues that we shouldn’t (Hey – why were all the guys at the corner store wearing orange this morning?) and succumb to our own tunnel vision. We get hung up on our primary goal- increasing team productivity, fixing a quality problem, implementing Lean into a value stream… and end up ignoring those things going on around us that can (and will) undermine the directive and eventually lead to failure.
When you are considering implementing Lean into an area or are planning a project that involves change, take the time and investigate what the current situation is. Get a temperature of the people who work there everyday. Are they on board with this new idea? Do they even know that something is happening? You’re going to need their support in order to be successful, so ask lots of questions. Only after you’ve gotten a lay of the land should you then start talking about what’s next and how best to implement it. To approach change in any other way is to be going hiking in November.
New England Lean Consulting is a full service Lean partner serving Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island. We offer comprehensive Training programs as well as direct Consulting services. Contact us at www.newenglandlean.com for more information.