Home > The Lean Post> If You Want to Lead, Make Your Vision Actionable

If You Want to Lead, Make Your Vision Actionable

by Hollie Jensen
May 30, 2014

If You Want to Lead, Make Your Vision Actionable

by Hollie Jensen
May 30, 2014 | Comments (5)

Vision and mission. We all know they are basic foundations of building an effective team. Sometimes we think we’re clear about them, we check a box for each, and we move on. We may think, “Ok, we have a vision and mission, so now we can get to the actual work to be done.” But a vision that makes clear a compelling future, one that brings all levels of the organization together, one that creates momentum and buy-in across all parts of the organization, is actually quite hard to develop.

So how do you create a powerful vision your whole organization will work hard to achieve? And how does a genuinely compelling vision make a difference?

Take this vision for example: “Lean is the way we lead and work”. What does this even mean? Can you visualize this? How does the work of any one person in the organization connect to it? With this particular “vision,” I can’t answer any of these questions. It’s too vague and there’s nothing compelling about it because it doesn’t tell us anything. It’s also a missed opportunity to unite staff members around a common purpose they can understand.

By comparison, consider this vision: “I can visually see every employee at all levels actively problem solving.” Do you know what that means? Can you visualize it? Can you get a feel for how everyone’s work in the organization might connect to it? Notice, this vision is specific and compelling. Who doesn’t want to actively solve problems and have their team members do the same? It’s something you can actually visualize, and it’s also aspirational. People can connect with it, rally toward it, and find meaning in it. This vision helps people connect what they do every day to the future of the organization.

Now, let’s consider the likely results from the these two approaches?

With the first vision—how do we make Lean the way we lead and work—there are no clear next steps. People will spend years trying to figure this out, just to discover there wasn’t a shared understanding in the first place. I doubt much progress around the real work and goals of the organization, if any, will be made. 

With the second vision – every employee problem solving– the goal state is obvious. You can ask yourself what the current state is (is every employee problem solving today?), and then ask why/why not. If they are problem solving actively, great, how do you sustain those activities and behaviors and that kind of organizational culture? If people aren’t problem solving, why not? What are the barriers? Do they understand what problem solving really means? Do they have the tools and knowledge to do so? Do they have the support do so?  Once you know these things, then you can think about ways to close that gap. If we want to talk continuous improvement, one path is far clearer. 

And just as a human being, which journey would you want to be on? Whether or you’re leading a team or leading yourself, being a visionary should never mean being vague.

Hollie Jensen is currently developing and implementing a Lean Fellowship and Leadership program with the State of Washington. Learn more about the State of Washington's lean activities here.

The views expressed in this post do not necessarily represent the views or policies of The Lean Enterprise Institute.
Keywords:  culture,  leadership,  Transformation
Search Posts:
Integrating Visual Management (2-day)
Joe Murli & Mark Hamel
Managing to Learn: The Use of the A3 Management Process
David Verble, Eric Ethington, Ernie Richardson, John Y. Shook, Mark Reich & Tracey Richardson
Gemba Walks, 2nd Edition
By Jim Womack
Was this post... Click all that apply
HELPFUL INTERESTING INSPIRING ACCURATE
31 people say YES
36 people say YES
34 people say YES
21 people say YES
Related Posts
5 Comments | Post a Comment
kevin kobett May 30, 2014
3 People AGREE with this comment

Every employee problem solving is a long range goal. It is not going to happen until the educational system and parents teach children how to solve real-life problems.

Our goal should be 100% participation. With 100% participation, children will have lean role models to learn from. The first step is to collect as many stories of achievement as possible from all employees. I would expect this would be a very small percentage of employees (<10%). These stories are written to highlight how the problem was discovered. The first lean step we expect from all employees is to identify problems. If you solve the problem, fantastic! If not, we will share your problem with all employees. With our "never give up culture" and teamwork these problems will eventually be solved.

You spend years doing the same thing. All of a sudden someone expects you to start solving problems. You are so entrenched in your routine, it will be difficult to change. Sharing problems will bring countless new perspectives to each problem.

Reply »

Hollie Jensen June 03, 2014
Kevin, I agree.  I think much more focus on problem solving in schools is critical and missing.  However, I also believe we can learn and adjust our thinking as adults and build our problem solving muscle.  It would be easier to have been approaching our work from this perspective all along, but it doesn't mean we can't learn and adjust now.  When you learn a better way, you can change your behavior.  Thank you for sharing your thoughts and engaging in this discussion

Reply »

kevin kobett June 04, 2014

It is easy to train children. All you need to do is tell lean stories. When they grow up, they will think lean is a normal work activity. This storytelling could happen at home or in school. You must attend English class, so your sample reading might as well be something that will help you prosper in your future career.

You seem to be in a position to make this happen in Washington. Here is a sample for high school students.

"One summer, paint was peeling off gym floors at an abnormally high rate. Lab work is basically comparing bad product to good product. Comparing the bottom of paint peelings to the bottom of paint still adhering to the floor was impossible. This problem did not appear to be solvable.

Finally, we noticed red paint never peeled off customers’ gym floors. This gave us the ability to compare good paint to bad paint. The lab’s paint adhesion test was inaccurate. Red paint did not always adhere to wood in the lab. We needed a substrate that would give accurate and consistent results. We applied red paint to everything we could get our hands on: steel, glass, ceramic tile, aluminum, concrete, etc. 

Red paint always adhered to glass. The colors that peeled did not adhere. Our adhesion test was used to add the necessary amount of very expensive bonding agent to the paints that peeled. Our adhesion test became the new Quality Assurance adherence procedure and was shared with paint manufacturers. Our customers’ biggest problem went away. They received quality product at the lowest possible price."

Reply »

Jeff Smith June 02, 2014
1 Person AGREES with this comment
great post - right on targe

Reply »

Hollie Jensen June 03, 2014
Thanks Jeff

Reply »

Search Posts:
Integrating Visual Management (2-day)
Joe Murli & Mark Hamel
Managing to Learn: The Use of the A3 Management Process
David Verble, Eric Ethington, Ernie Richardson, John Y. Shook, Mark Reich & Tracey Richardson
Gemba Walks, 2nd Edition
By Jim Womack
Accountability: Not What You Think it is...
Are We "Doing Lean" All Wrong?
Ask Art: How Are Lean Teams Different?