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What My 8 Year-Old Daughter Taught Me About Lean

I was a bit humbled over the weekend. As a small business, Velaction outsources some of what we do, but for the things that change rapidly, we have developed internal capabilities. It lets us be more flexible, nimble, and cost-effective when we need to update something on our site, or want to get a new product developed quickly.

So, Velaction has a small photo studio—lightbox and lighting, tripod, nice camera, and a remote to get the shake out of the images. I wanted to get an image of Velaction’s upcoming DVDs, so I tried taking a few pictures myself. I just couldn’t get them to look right. DVD cases don’t line up very well when stacked. I even tried making them uneven, or putting them in a bit of a helix. No luck.

In the end, I was thinking I’d have to get it done by a pro to make sure it would look good. But I was saved by my 8 year-old daughter. She asked if she could try, and I said sure, not expecting much. Turns out, though, her picture was far better than mine were.

So what is the point of this article? Well, I have an MBA, graduated from West Point, and have years of Lean experience. I have built up a great site that is becoming more and more well-known. And my 8 year old daughter took the best picture. She set up the DVD cases. She mounted the camera and arranged the lighting. All I did was download the picture.

Over the last year or so, we’ve been going on ‘photo walks’ together. We even went to the zoo to let her develop (Note: pun intended) her photographic skills.

So she was trained in the basic functionality of the camera, but it was all just general knowledge. I hadn’t anticipated that she’d want to apply those skills to a real problem.

So my message to managers out there: Don’t assume that you know more than the people working for you. Give them some training, and then some authority to try things out. Your team will surprise you with what they are capable of accomplishing.

By the way. My daughter would love to hear what you think of her picture…


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Share Your Thoughts    |3 comments|


  • Hi Jeff,

    What a great lesson and you got a great photo out of the experience as well. This illustrates the value of getting one’s team involved as you noted. It’s striking though that you have been investing in your daughter’s skills as a photographer for a year and when you least expect it she has a big win. That illustrates the value in making continued investments in one’s team on a regular basis. Thanks for being humble enough to share this lesson too.


    • Jeff Hajek says:

      Chris and Evan,

      I find that I learn a lot from watching how my kids see the world. I am also always amazed at their can-do beliefs. They haven’t yet learned about what isn’t expected to work, so they haven’t yet learned not to try things. Funny how often adults don’t even try things in the first place.

      Thanks for the comments.

  • Evan Durant says:


    Great lesson. As a father I’m learning everyday about what kids have to teach us about lean and about life in general. They’re a never-ending source of wonder and inspiration.

    Love the photo!

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