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A Bad Employee Attitude Resonates Throughout an Organization

As I was packing to get ready for a training session, I came across a new dilemma. I recently switched back to using an electric razor. As I was contemplating where to pack it, it brought me back to a time, years ago, when I was a young lieutenant in the army. I had an electric razor packed up in my kit bag thrown on the floor of my tank.

While we were off in the middle of an exercise, the tank started developing this intense vibration. You could actually feel it in the walls of the 70-ton vehicle. My crew immediately went into diagnostics mode and tried to figure out what was wrong. As we homed in on the source of the problem, we also closed in on my kit bag. It turned out that the little 8-ounce device had switched on, and was resonating throughout the entire steel structure of the tank.

Needless to say, despite my rank, I got an earful from the far more experienced sergeant on my crew. From then on, I simply reversed the batteries, and the problem never recurred-root cause analysis at its best!

But now, I am extremely gun-shy about the same thing happening while I am passing through airport security, since my razor is rechargeable and has no batteries I can take out. I’d hate to be the guy on the news who caused a terminal to be evacuated because of a buzzing suitcase.

The related lesson for Lean is an important one. It has to do with how a very small input can resonate throughout an organization with very large effect.

I am specifically talking about how a bad employee attitude can quickly sour an organization. Now, there is a small number of people who are going to have a bad attitude no matter what. They are the ones who get intensely angry about all the taxes they have to pay when they win the lottery.

The majority of employee attitude problems related to Lean, though, are avoidable. Many of the complaints employees have are valid. And most of those can be resolved with a little creativity.

It doesn’t take much to derail a Lean implementation, especially in its infancy. Leaders should pay special attention to any complaints they hear, as there are probably far more that they don’t hear. When leaders deal with these problems fairly and without judgment, employees will be more likely to address them with their boss. And that resonating sound of discord will die down.


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Share Your Thoughts    |2 comments|


  • Jeff Hajek says:

    I switched as a cost saving measure. I got tired of paying $6 a blade, or whatever they cost now.

    It all comes back to respect for people. Show people that they matter and that they are important to the organization, and they will commit to doing amazing things.

    Thanks for the comment, Mark.

  • Mark Welch says:

    Jeff, have you thought about going back to a blade?

    Seriously, I agree with you on the response to the bad attitudes. As a leader in these situations, nothing is stronger than listening, patience, and nonjudgment (well at least not OUTWARD nonjudgment). I once observed an O.R. nurse with more venom than a cobra launch into a CEO who was driving lean. The CEO responded with the nature of a seasoned pastor. In the end his coolness prevailed. Lean marched on…

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