Camille: Good morning George.
George: Morning, Camille. I feel like your old dog, Cooper.
Camille: I'm all excited about this. You're all excited about today's topic. Wagging, yeah.
Camille: Well you might be the only one, but who knows? Maybe other people will get super excited. Maybe your excitement will be infused in everybody's ears and they'll get excited.
Camille: Welcome to The Belief Shift. The show that explores. What you really need to know about building a successful small business.
Camille: I'm your host, Camille Rapacz: small business coach and consultant who spent too much of her career working in corporate business performance.
George: And I'm George Drapeau: your co-host and her brother. I'm a leader in the tech world bringing my corporate perspective, but mostly my curiosity.
Camille: Together, we're exploring beliefs about success and how to achieve it. But mostly we're bringing practical solutions so you and your business can thrive.
Camille: So today we are gonna talk about lean or Continuous Performance Improvement. Yeah. Cause I've mentioned it a few times and I thought we finally need to do it.
Camille: So that's what we're gonna do because I wanna explain why it comes up and how it influences how I approach my work. But also there's an aspect to this of, there's parts of lean I don't like, there's things about it I don't like.
Camille: So what, yeah, so I wanna kind of clarify how I have my transformation and my own thinking about what it is, how it works.
Camille: Anyhow, I don't wanna get too far into it. So today I thought I'd let you ask all the questions cuz I know you have all the questions about all this stuff.
George: I do. And I have for a while about you specifically. As we do on this podcast, I want to come at it from an enterprise point of view for myself personally.
George: But actually, let me say this. one of the reasons I've been interested in hearing you talk about lean is because of the angle of continuous improvement. I'm a big fan of the mindset of continuous improvement, but I don't have lean training.
George: When I heard you talk about it, I'm always think, man sounds so interesting.
George: I should really learn about it. And I know that my mindset at work, I tend to take a mindset of look, we have big things to accomplish, is accomplish a small thing and iterate, trust me, it's gonna be fine. That technique again and again is so successful. But I don't really know how strong that relates to lean.
George: I don't necessarily want limit the conversation up, but that's like my background. I think I'm lean adjacent , you know, or lean friendly.
Camille: I do think that what you said in terms of like how you think about work and that lean adjacent, that's where you and I connect on work in general, and that's, yeah, what drew me into Lean in the first place is that same sort of, I have similar approach in thinking to work. That's gonna show up in all of this conversation.
George: Shall I start asking?
Camille: Let's go for it.
George: Okay. What is it?
Camille: Okay. So lean is essentially a methodology for business improvement.
Camille: Yes. It's not leaning off to the site , I mean it could be.
Camille: Is a methodology for business performance improvement. We talk about it in terms of eliminating waste from your business processes in order to improve value for the customer. So it's basically, how do I do more value added activities that the customer values, cuz that's who this business is for and get rid of all the junk that isn't really necessary.
Camille: But has somehow worked its way into our business because that's what we do. It shows up much more cleanly in a manufacturing type of business. Yeah. Yeah. So it was really made most prominent in the US by the Toyota. So you can Google the Toyota Way, and there's a whole book and a series of books, it's the story of how Toyota uses lean in order to improve their entire business performance. But it's really tangible in a manufacturing because you can see process so clearly as opposed to a knowledge worker job.
Camille: So think about building a car, you can measure how long it takes to do every single part of building this car. And you can improve on that process over time. It's very obvious and clear. So that's where it sort of stands out the most.
Camille: But it's a set of principles and tools and methods for building improvement into the work. And that's really the essential idea of it is it's not about I'm gonna come and do improvement to you.
Camille: It's, I'm gonna teach you, the organization, how to do it yourself. So the people doing the work are improving the work. As opposed to a consultant comes in and tells you how to do it better. I
George: have a follow up question. Is there any relationship between Lean and Sheryl Sandberg's Lean-In ideas?
George: No .
Camille: I mean, that's not what she means. She's not talking about lean. But yeah, she's the, they're not related in any way. Okay. Good.
Camille: When the term lean was actually coined, that phrase sort of came about by, these guys that started writing about the lean production system.
Camille: They later said that they regretted really that term because lean really has now come to have very negative connotations. Oh no. Kind of part of the problem. Yeah. Cause it's like, wow, they're running a really lean operation. But as an employee you hear lean is like, oh, that means I'm getting worked to the bone.
Camille: So what you'll see is that most organizations when they adopt lean, they don't even call it that. They call it continuous improvement. Continuous performance improvement is what we called it when I was doing it.
Camille: If you hear that an organization is running really lean, you typically think, oh, that's probably a rough place to work for an employee. Yeah.
George: Okay. I didn't know that. That's fascinating. So how did you learn about it?
Camille: I learned about this in my previous life when I worked for people and didn't work for myself, I had built and was running an enterprise project management office. Doing that for about five years when the organization decided they wanted to adopt Lean.
Camille: So we were really good at executing on projects, but we weren't good at process improvement, the day-to-day stuff. We didn't have a good handle on that. So we'd do these big projects, make these big improvements, but what was happening in between there?
Camille: So they decided to implement lean as a way to do it, we called it continuous of performance improvement or C P I. So I'm gonna use that term from here on out. I'm gonna say C P I.
Camille: C P I. Okay.
Camille: That's what we called it. And that's how I think of it. And so I then built and ran the C P I program for the next like five years after that.
Camille: What happened was when I found out the organization wanted to do it, I decided like, Ooh, what's that all about? And I went and studied and talked to a bunch of people and consultants and tried to understand what it was. And I was like, oh, this is totally what we need.
Camille: It really dials in for me. I loved the challenge of learning about it. I loved the ideas, the underpinnings of it. There was a lot of stuff that I thought was great in there and I was like, this could be really transformative for this organization. I love it. I wanna do it.
Camille: And they let me.
Camille: That's how I did it. That was basically my last job was running the continuous performance improvement program, which was great fun. And I learned a ton of stuff. And then eventually I realized that all these ideals that we had set out to achieve weren't really achievable in our current leadership.
Camille: Or I wasn't even sure if that was it, but we made some really great improvements, but it was hard to see how it was gonna be sustainable.
George: What did you like about it as you started learning about it and implementing?
George: What did you like about the Lean work?
Camille: What I loved about it is there's so many good intentions in it, huh? And so one of the things I actually loved about it was I loved the idea of pursuing perfection or continuously striving for excellence. However you like to think about this.
Camille: But this pursuit of excellence, this pursuit of perfection, that's really what you were trying to do, and you were continuously improving on your path to that end. So that really grabbed me right away. And then I also loved that the intention for it, how you were going to get to this level of perfection or excellence, it was really focused on people.
Camille: So it was intended to make work better for the people that perform the work. By having those people do the improvement work. Not by having a consultant come in and say, here's how you should run your process better. But by asking the people running those processes, Hey, how do you think we should do this better?
Camille: And having them design their own work. Like talk about a fabulous way to get engagement and create a fulfilling job for people. Basically looking at them as like, you're the expert at that work, so you make it better. And I love that part.
Camille: I always have this approach to people in general that I think that they have more potential than most people don't give them enough credit for. We don't give 'em enough credit for having the level of potential that I think they have, and that they're not achieving that potential because nobody has given them the opportunity to put it on display. Doing continuous performance improvement and having people engage in their own improvement of their process was a way to put that on display, say, let their potential come out.
Camille: I also loved the scientific method part. Putting some logic into this stuff. There's so much emotion and tension and drama that can show up in work. And I love that it was like, but we could also use the scientific method and stop arguing.
Camille: We could also be data driven and thoughtful and run experiments and test things out and see what's actually gonna work better instead of sitting at this table and arguing about whether your idea or my idea is better. We could be like, well let's find out. Let's run a thoughtful experiment. Let's test it.
Camille: I loved that idea too, where it kind of took out some of the drama that can show up when you're trying to do improvement work. Yeah. Cuz everybody's full of ideas. It's you spend a lot of time arguing about them as opposed to testing 'em out.
Camille: I see. And then, Customer focused. This is also what I think draws me to applying it for a small business, is it's pretty easy to forget about what's actually best for them? How do I serve them best? We're so busy building this business that's about us, and we sometimes forget what's right for the customer.
Camille: And so delivering value to that customer with as little waste as possible was the whole point of C P I. And it's always waste from the customer's perspective. Is what I'm doing, value added for them or not? And in what way do I need to do that? So you're constantly asking your customer, like, how would you like us to do this process? How would you like this to go?
Camille: So how many times do you have these companies that you know, the customer service is horrendous? I have so many examples, how are we getting treated like this when I've given you my money? , , I bought a thing and you're treating me like I am nothing.
Camille: So yeah. Not customer focused, and you have this bad experience. So I love that customer focus.
Camille: Again, it sort of gets back to, there's two ideas here that connect for me. One is that it's about the people doing the work and it's about the people that I'm serving as customers.
Camille: So it all comes down to people.
Camille: I also love that it has this component of aligning the organization from top to bottom on priorities. And so instead of pretending like only the mucky mucks at the top need to know what the strategy and direction is of the business, it says, no, everybody needs to know. We are all gonna row in the same direction.
Camille: And that means the strategy goes from top down to the bottom and all the way through.
Camille: And then focusing on leaders as coaches and that servant leadership approach.
Camille: It centers around designing work around people and not people around work.
Camille: Yeah, it's a human centered approach to running a business. Yeah, it's beautiful. And that's ultimately, I think, what I loved about it.
George: I'm gonna make a comment here about what I see in the software industry and that comment is kind of a background to my next question for you. So I work in the software industry and there have been several generations of software development methodologies.
George: The one that I was raised in back in the 1700's is called the waterfall methodology. And it really came outta the military industrial complex. Fully, specifying everything because they were writing software to launch spaceships with people in them.
George: They cannot fail. And so they were very, very careful to get things absolutely right, and it was okay if it took years, it was fine. They could not kill somebody.
George: Without the whole history lesson, modern software world generally thinks about things differently. First to market is the goal. You don't have to get things right.
George: There's this computer science term about eventual consistency where you can get something close to right and then fix it later, sort of. And so the dominant software methodology these days is agile. Agile methodology.
George: And I think Agile and Lean are cousins. They're not the same thing, but I think they're cousins.
George: I'm in one of the best software companies on the planet, and most of our engineering is not using Agile development methods yet. We're not.
George: Why not? This stuff is so good and people use it, love it. If Lean has so many good intentions, then why aren't we all doing that?
Camille: I have thoughts, but I also often am asking myself the same question. Why do we not do this better way of working? Why do we get so stubborn and stuck in our old ways of doing things?
Camille: So that's one of my answers. We are stubborn humans and we get stuck in our old ways of doing things and we don't like change. Yeah. Some of it's that. This is the way we've always done it, is a huge thing for us to overcome as people.
Camille: I also think that C P I, some of these things can be difficult to execute well. And by that I mean, we talk about this all the time, this idea that we really want a quick fix,
Camille: yeah. And what we do, even if we decide, okay, we're gonna adopt whether it's Agile or C P I or any of these methodologies, anything that we think will be a better way to approach the work. Mm-hmm, we lack the patience to do it well.
Camille: I mean, you've seen this, we're like, oh, wow. We sort of slammed that in there because we need it to work.
Camille: I want this hammer to get that nail in in one pop, yeah. I don't wanna take time to figure out how to do this well. So I think at the heart of it, it's essentially that, and it requires your leader, your leaders or leader, to be committed to this is the way we will do work. Yeah. And to hold everybody to it.
Camille: If the leader of a team is not committed to, we're gonna do software development the agile way. Why would they do it? They're not gonna do it on their own. They need the support of a leader who says, yes, I'm okay with you taking time to learn this.
Camille: Yes, I'm okay with you changing how we do this. I'm okay with the fact that that will probably slow down our output for a while while we make this transition. Mm-hmm. There's all sorts of ramifications to this, right. Who's gonna say that?
Camille: It requires us to also be thinking long term. And in business, we're often so focused on the returns of right now or this quarter, it's hard to think like, two years from now, this is gonna make a huge difference. Oh man. That's a very difficult thing for us to do in business, especially a big business that has, financial returns and a board of directors and stockholders and all that stuff. I'm feeling triggered right now.
Camille: Yeah. So ultimately, like this runs counter to how most business works today.
Camille: But most business, let's take the Amazon example. Okay. Are they making a buttload of money? Sure. Yeah. Do you think that all their employees are happy? No. I mean, absolutely not. Ha have you seen one news article that is like, wow, these are Amazon employees in this warehouse, they're killing it.
Camille: No, they're getting worked to the bone. That would be an example of, wow, they're running a really lean operation. And that's where I would be like, oh, lean in the worst way. Let's not even use that term, because that is not how lean is intended to work. The way that those warehouses operate, that's not lean by the definition of what we're talking about here by a lean manufacturing. That's not what that is, yeah. People would not be that miserable.
Camille: So I think this idea that it's a long-term commitment and we don't have the patience for that kind of stuff. It really does require also, depending on how big you're going with this, it's a cultural transformation. That's why leadership has to be on board with it. And at the end of the day, this sounds horrible, but sometimes I think it's easier for businesses to not treat people with the level of respect that doing the work in this way in a continuous performance improvement or lean way would actually require.
George: I mentor somebody in our engineering organization, which means that most of the time he's teaching me a bunch of stuff. He's a very interesting guy. He came from several startups where they had done cloud first agile development, and part of his job is to recruit other engineering groups at our company to shift from old methodology to agile methodology.
George: And, you know, you gave me a question that I had not asked him before, and that is at the leadership level, when he goes and talks to these other groups, where does the resistance come? Because I could tell you one thing that developers love is new stuff all the time. New stuff, new tools, new ways of doing things.
George: That's not usually where the resistance is for developers. They're like, ah, new thing, A new toy! A new process as a toy. Absolutely. So it's, you're right, it's not coming from there. It's coming from somewhere higher up. And I wonder where he's seen resistance. I'm gonna go ask him. I will come back to you privately and tell you what I find out.
George: Gonna tell you stuff you already know. I'm sure.
Camille: It's probably gonna be a very typical answer if something I've heard before. So I would love you to, to ask that question and let me know what he says because the resistance is usually not at the frontline.
Camille: Sometimes it is, and sometimes it's because if it is at the frontline, it's for this reason, whoever is resisting this new way of doing work is an expert at doing it the way it's done today. Yeah. And they know it, and it's really painful to think about them having to now become an expert in another way of doing it.
Camille: And that incompetent feeling you have as you're transitioning, they don't wanna do it. Yeah. Okay. They might be too late in their career to wanna do it, there's always those people and I get it. Yeah. Like me too. That's a painful process.
Camille: And I worked my butt off to be an expert at this right now. And now you're telling me it doesn't matter. Kind of sucks.
George: It's interesting. That's where I should be in my career, but I'm not. When people say, well I didn't know you were that old, I thought of you as much younger. I think it's mostly cuz of my mindset, which we happen to share, which we like learning things.
George: I don't mind being the stupid guy cuz it means I'm at the bottom end of an exciting growth curve. I have that mindset. I should be at the mindset we're like, ah, I'm gonna use all my knowledge. I'm not gonna learn anything new. I'm gonna apply everything and I'm gonna be in organizations that are not changing
George: But no, it doesn't interest me.
Camille: When it comes to C P I, because that does require a shift in leadership approach. Yeah. The resistance typically shows up there. It'd be interesting to see if this shows up in when you ask this guy about the resistance, but typically the resistance at the higher level shows up with the leaders that really have gotten where they are because A of their expertise and B, they use power in control. Hmm. And in order for c p I to work, you have to let that power and control go down to the lower levels of the organization. And they don't wanna give that up. They don't trust the frontline workers. Again, it gets back to respect for people.
Camille: They don't have enough trust in those people at the frontline to make those decisions. Even in agile, like they're gonna have to make quick, rapid decisions. Yes. They'd rather see, like, show me your whole plan mapped out that I can approve and then go do the work, as opposed to, oh, you're gonna rapidly make decisions all the time about the next iteration.
Camille: And I don't get to influence that because I'm over here up at this level. Yeah. Yeah. I can't be involved in the work in the day-to-day basis. And them losing that control is really uncomfortable.
George: Yeah. Okay. I'll let you know. Yeah.
George: So we're sort of talking about this, but like where, where do you see things go wrong in the execution of lean?
Camille: Yeah. So the idea of c p i being the employees are improving the work, like I said, so this is the greatest thing about it, like, Hey, you run this process, you tell me how to do this better, you design the work better. That's great. Yeah. Right. We've all probably worked for companies where the consulting company comes in and tells us how we're supposed to do stuff better, and then we're sitting there rolling our eyes like, yeah, we knew that and we've been saying that, but we didn't get to do it.
Camille: Now that you say it, it's all, we're gonna make it happen. Yeah.
Camille: One of the problems in the execution is that employees, while we say we want them to be empowered to improve the work, we don't give them the time to do it. And this gets down to that problem that we all have, that we've talked about on this podcast many times too, which is, I am so busy running the business, I'm so busy doing the work of the business, I don't have time to work on the business.
Camille: And so it's the same inside a company. So if I say to an employee like, Hey, you own this process. You go ahead and and improve it, but I haven't said, and I expect you to spend 10% of your time working on improving process and not delivering to customers, but working on improving the process for customers.
Camille: If I haven't said that, when are they gonna do it? Hmm. Because basically what I've hired them to do is spend 100% of their time delivering to customers or doing whatever their job is, but I haven't also embedded into it, and part of that time means also improving the process.
Camille: So we either ask them to do that improvement work on top of their regular work so they get burned out, or they become resentful cuz they're like, you keep telling me it's like, paying lip service to it.
Camille: You keep telling me that this is what I'm supposed to do, but you're not actually creating a structure that makes it feasible for me to do it. So that's one of the biggest ways I see where execution of lean goes wrong. Yeah. And so they also end up hiring consultants to come and then do the work for you, which is the opposite of what we're trying to do.
Camille: That's no time to work on the process. Yeah.
Camille: Also the idea that the way that we measure improvement Yeah. Is kind of messed up. We tend to measure in either minutes of how long it takes to execute on a process or the dollars. How much money are we gonna spend? And we're rarely measuring either customer or employee satisfaction or employee engagement.
Camille: Every time we would do this work and we'd be like, well, how are we gonna measure the quality of what we're gonna do? Like, how will we know if this is better for our patients? And like, crickets. Really we don't. Like how are we gonna know if it's better for the customer? How are we gonna know if this is better for the employees?
Camille: How are we gonna know if the employees actually like it?
Camille: Like, I guess we'll ask them?
Camille: Was this like revolutionary idea.
Camille: So these things are often missing. And so when you're focusing on improvement, and if all you're doing is trying to get numbers, what will happen is you need to deliver on what's the ROI of doing lean or continuous performance improvement? Okay.
Camille: And this was always a struggle because out of the gate it's really hard to measure because these measurements of employee satisfaction or engagement or customer satisfaction, this is long-term measurement stuff. You're not measuring the change over days, but you can measure minutes and dollars in shorter time periods.
Camille: Yeah. So again, it gets back to the, we don't have the patience for this long-term effect and we wanna see results right now. And if we don't see them, then we say, well, it's not working.
George: So two things, going back to the Toyota Way manufacturing floor, it seems to me that giving the control to the line workers, you're doing that to reduce minutes and dollars, but because you're giving control to the leaf nodes, they are happier. Do you have to, they have to measure employee satisfaction in order to call it success?
George: I'm not, I'm kind of a weird way of asking a question here, you know?
Camille: Yes. And you do, because you can easily get your, you know, frontline staff can be driven to like, oh, well that's great, chip away more minutes, chip away more minutes. Yeah. But there is a point of diminishing returns, we're like, wow, we've chipped away so much now that now we feel like this is, this is hard to sustain.
Camille: I can't sustain this level of running this process. Yeah. So yeah, now I feel anxious that I have to sort of meet this level of performance and we haven't really designed the process well to do it. You still have to measure it to make sure that what you're driving them to improve, they aren't feeling pressured to create levels of improvement, that actually you're taking 'em outside of their comfort zone.
Camille: Yeah. Okay. You want them to challenge themselves. You want them to challenge their ability to create performance, and ultimately what they're doing is trying to design a process that's better for them. But you should never assume that that's naturally what they're doing. Okay. I mean, if you have the perfect, perfect culture, But nobody has that.
Camille: No. No.
George: My other question is, I remember you telling me a story once about doing a time in motion study, walking a cancer patient through the chemo procedure and you're walking through every room they had to go through and how long they spent everywhere and kind of presenting that to people cuz they had not seen that before.
George: And to me, looking at that and slicing time out of that, that's clearly value to the customer and is totally quantitative. What am I missing about that?
Camille: Here's where this process bumps up against.
Camille: Okay. Who's right in knowing what's best in that process? The physician, or the patient?
George: Well, I know the patient is right to want to spend less time waiting, but they don't really know how to redesign where they go, I don't think. But the physician, no single physician would know either, would they?
George: Because it's a whole chain of things I gotta do.
Camille: Right. So one of the best things about how you would approach process improvements in this methodology is, all of the players would be in the room. So all the trade-offs are happening at one time.
Camille: Awesome. Yeah, that sounds fun. So it's not . Yes. And so one of the challenges you have, so this was in healthcare, obviously we're talking about this working for a cancer center. And the physicians of course in healthcare are like, they're it.
Camille: They know all the stuff. They're right about all the stuff.
Camille: Every industry has their version of this.
Camille: They're the smarty pants in the room and whatever they say is like, that's how things are supposed to run.
Camille: The only people who could actually push back on any set process or way of doing things was a patient, nobody else in that room, even their nurses who they trusted and they valued, they'd be like, Nope, but it has to be this way.
Camille: But a patient could come up and say, but what if, and they would present something and then that doctor would actually listen. So that is actually one of the best interesting ways to make that happen.
Camille: Think about what it takes to execute that. Yeah. How hard is it to pull a doctor, to pull anybody off of their frontline duties into a conference room, get a customer also in that conference room, get all the other players in that process, in that conference room, and map out a new process together?
Camille: Now, when we did it, It was incredible. Like the outcome of that was amazing what we were, you actually did it. We actually did it. We redesigned a very specific cancer clinic, but we redesigned the space, so the flow of the patient was different, redesigned all of their processes beginning to end the whole kitten caboodle.
Camille: It was called our model line. So it was basically the example of if we were completely to reinvent how we took care of patients, what would it look like? And so it was basically the idea was zero waiting time and maximizing all the points of value that they required in the process. Yeah. Which is touch points with their physician or their wow ma or.
Camille: We go and there's like, there's this huge space of waiting room for patients to wait in. Yeah. What if we only needed half this space? Think about how many more patient rooms we could have, how many more patients we could serve. We could hire another doctor and see more patients here if we had less waiting room. Why do we have all this waiting room? Oh, cuz we're bad at our processes. Wow. Wow.
Camille: That's what we were really focused on. And we had do it with patients in the process, helping us redesign it so they could tell us what their experience is and then they could also tell us where they're like, oh, I'm okay with if you guys need to do this, this, or this.
Camille: , I understand that I have to wait for some stuff, like I'm willing to wait for this, this, or this. Right. Yeah. I'm not willing to wait and absolutely have no idea why I'm doing that or what I'm waiting for. Or feeling like, I guess you guys are slow today. There's a communication level to it too, but, so it's inspiring.
Camille: You know, it's such a, this is, again, what I love about it is when you do it right. Yeah. It's incredible. Like it's everything you hope that you could do in the world, which is let's bring all the right people into the room, have a conversation using a scientific thinking framework of, well, what if we do this? What if we do that? Well, let's test it out.
Camille: We would mock 'em up, let's mock it up and run the process and see if it's gonna work before we go actually go live with this thing. Yeah. Yeah. We test things out, work out the kinks, figure out what we were missing, and like it just makes sense.
Camille: It is logical to do it. However you can imagine the resistance to leaders up the line when you're like, Hey, I need to pull all these people offline for two days to go redesign this work.
George: It's got so much potential.
Camille: It does. And I think too, , you know, we're okay with people coming offline and sending them to a conference for a week, but heaven forbid I try to put them in a conference room and improve the processes inside this company for a week.
Camille: I was fortunate that I had a lot of support to actually do that. So I got to experience all the value of pulling teams offline and putting them in a room to redesign process and all the amazing outcomes of that. But I think it getting back to , where do we go wrong? Yeah. Not a lot of organizations are willing to do that.
George: I wanna put a pin in this, when I'm thinking now is I think that the people who are listening to this podcast are really, we're looking at small business owners. And so I wonder how this is gonna reach them and what would you say to them before we keep going,? The relevance of lean and to them?
Camille: Yeah. The problem that I'm describing definitely applies in small business, which is that your business is running already so lean, I'm air quoting in, in the thin is what you mean, yes. You, you're so thin. Yes. Everything is like there's no margin for error in, there's, there's no room for anything in this business.
Camille: So you're already have such a tight ship that you're running Yeah. That you don't have time to make anything better. And it's not a tight ship, as in like everything's running effectively and efficiently. You have tons of efficiencies in your inefficiencies in your business. Yeah. They do like, they creep their way in.
Camille: It's not cuz you aren't good at your job. Processes, left to their own devices, waste in that process works its way in. Inefficiency works its way in, it shows up. Yeah. There's always chaos and waste and stuff waiting to jump in on us and take over our processes and our work.
Camille: So that's happening. And if you're running things too lean, if you're running your operations such that people don't have time to even think about how to make their work better, don't have time to reflect as we've talked about on wow, why did that happen and how could I prevent that from happening later?
Camille: If all they have time to do is barely show up and fight a fire, you're never gonna be able to do fire, prevent. . And that's the problem of all business. I am showing up and fighting fires and reacting to what's in front of me.
Camille: And it's really hard to have a long-term perspective and take time to do that. And that's really what this work requires.
George: I see. If I were to look at the news or big companies, would there be examples that I might know about that were either successes or failures of lean, famous examples?
Camille: There's a few examples that I think about all the time. So my own experience, the company that I worked for when we did our continuous performance improvement program, we had a lot of successes. We actually were able to do a lot of things that other companies hadn't been able to do in terms of doing some really innovative process design and redesigning space, doing lots of really cool stuff.
Camille: So we had a lot of support, but there were always, we always still had the naysayers. We still had leaders who weren't on board . Yeah. But we still were able to work through it. But at the end of the day when the top leader left, and when I left, it pretty much all dissipated.
Camille: It's so leader dependent. Wow, it's so easy to fall back to the old way of doing things. This is where I have trouble with this whole thing because it's so hard to sustain it.
Camille: When I was working in healthcare was my last job, and one of the big companies that we would follow as a best example of a, a lean or a continuous improvement organization was called Theta Care.
Camille: It was incredible what they were doing. And everybody was on board. Their frontline teams were super engaged and it was really a lovely thing to see how they were doing all of that work. But then they had a change in leadership and I would don't wanna say they dissolved their program, but that's what it looked like from the outside.
Camille: The story that they tell of what really happened. And it's hard to, no, I don't know anybody inside of Theta Care to know exactly what happened. Oh, lovely happened. But what they talk about is that they got caught in the problem of, we kept implementing more lean program across the organization by hiring more lean consultants internally.
Camille: So they had a team of lean consultants. That's what I ran, I ran an office that had lean consultants that would go out and run these workshops for improvement and, stand up daily management systems and do all this great stuff for the organization. And they basically said, we were so dependent on that, we weren't really doing the true essence of lean or continuous improvement, because we were dependent on other people and not the people who do the processes to do it. They hadn't got to that level. And I thought, you know, if they couldn't get to that level, Who can?
Camille: This gets back to, that means a nurse in that company would have to have some percentage of their job time Yeah. Dedicated to doing improvement work. Yeah. And they weren't able to crack that. Wow. And I don't know if they have by now figured that out, but that was their big transition was they were like, they've been doing this forever, at least a decade.
Camille: Wow. And they finally were like, we gotta get rid of all of our lean consultants because this isn't how this is supposed to work. Interesting. Yeah. So I think that story's really interesting.
Camille: Also, Boeing was a big lean manufacturing company. I toured there, so I toured Theta Care, I toured Boeing.
Camille: That was another thing. You would go tour these locations to see how they were doing it. It was really cool to see. Yeah, I bet.
Camille: And we toured Boeing and they had this great sort of like laboratory where these guys would come up with these different ways of creating different tools and solutions for different problems they had as they were building the airplanes.
Camille: It was all centered around quality. So there's a huge quality component to C P I when you're improving process, it's all about top level quality. And so that was why it was huge for manufacturing. You can imagine for Boeing. Yeah. And then I don't know the story of this is what I wanted to look up and I didn't have time of exactly what it was probably a leadership transition where Boeing stops doing lean basically.
Camille: And it's after that you start to hear, I don't know if you remember hearing all these stories of quality issues with Boeing airplanes.
Camille: And after that, some people in truly have spoken out and said, look, they decimated our quality program. What they mean is they decimated the lean program, the continuous performance improvement program.
Camille: It's an unfortunate story. I mean, from the outside, you only know so much about what happens. Yeah. But essentially, the trend of what I see in these stories is it's really hard to sustain that way of working because it's so counter to how work is typically done.
Camille: Hmm. And so somebody new comes in and doesn't understand it. It's easier for them to be like, no, we're not gonna do that anymore. They got hired because of their expertise to run the business a certain way. And it's not that.
George: It sounds like a personality cult. Like you get somebody at the top who really believes in it and things happen.
George: If that person leaves, then the structure falls away. That can't be. That can't be.
Camille: It's what I see over and over again. Wow. And it's also, it's also often looked at as something that's like sort of disposable. So like it's a nice to have in the company. I see. So this see is the story of you know, a couple other companies that I've worked with.
Camille: I'm not gonna name names, but there's a couple other big, big companies that I've worked with local, here in the Seattle area.
Camille: They had lean programs that they started and then when things sort of went sour and they had to cut staff, they had to do some layoffs, that was like the first program to go, wow.
Camille: Oh, we're not gonna do that anymore. Huh, which is exactly the point at which they do need that program. Like you need to elevate the performance of your company right now because you're hurting. And the reason you need to lay people off is because you have all of this waste in your processes, but you're not getting rid of the waste.
Camille: You got rid of the people. There's this idea if we lay the people off, the people who are left will find a better way to do it.
Camille: No, they won't. They don't have time.
Camille: Yeah. They're scrambling to keep their heads above water.
Camille: They don't have time to do the improvement work, but we think we're gonna like force it out of them. And that's not what happens. So the first thing that goes in that process for them is quality.
George: At the beginning of this, you said that Lean is really about elimination of waste. And so what I heard is like the first thing that go is the waste elimination department.
George: We've got too much waste, so we're gonna eliminate the waste elimination department.
George: Wait, what?
Camille: Yes. That's exactly it.
Camille: And every time it happens, I'm always like, oh my God. They don't even understand what this can do for them . And so they're getting rid of it.
George: Cause I'm gonna short you now. Yeah.
Camille: I think there's a lack of understanding of how it would work. Something that you said I think is part of the reason why I struggle with it so much is there is sort of this cult of personality. This special way of thinking about work and doing the work.
Camille: Yeah, and you're either in or you're out. And there's never enough people who are in.
George: I see.
George: So like, why didn't you stay along that path? Why didn't you choose another organization, or become explicitly a lean consultant?
Camille: When I quit that job, I really did think about it. I thought, you know what? I love this work. I'm gonna find another company to go do this for.
Camille: Plenty of people need directors of Lean or C P I. I'll go do that. But the more that I thought about it and when I had time away from it, I had a different perspective on it.
Camille: I realized that I had constantly been pushing and beating my head up against this wall with leadership and I guess I was kind of tired because I realized that what most organizations are looking for is they want the results of LEAN.
Camille: This gets back to you when we talk about focusing on process over outcomes. Yeah. Organizations really focus on the outcomes. And they want the results of Lean, which is this lovely, well oiled machine that doesn't have any waste in it that's leading to higher profits. But they lack the patience and persistence to actually do that thing.
Camille: So they shortcut it and some organizations want it to look like they're doing it the right way by having this lean facade, but they're not actually doing lean. But it's there and they're like, yeah, we're doing it. It's like you're not actually doing it. Huh. I didn't wanna do that anymore.
Camille: So here's what I was imagining. Company's gonna hire me to come in and do lean consulting. They want me to do some improvement workshops. Maybe they'll want me to do leadership development, which by the way, is the most essential part of creating a continuous improvement organization.
Camille: Fascinating. But most of the time they're gonna hire you to come in and do this work. They're gonna want some specific improvement results that really doesn't have anything to do with creating a culture of continuous improvement. And they're kind of paying it lip service. And I didn't wanna do that anymore.
Camille: Yeah. I didn't wanna be the person who was teaching frontline leaders and workers about this fabulous new way of working that was really only going to exist when I was in the room. And when I left the room, it was gonna be a different type of leadership. Cuz I had experienced that a lot in the past and I didn't wanna do it anymore because I felt Not hypocritical.
Camille: I don't know what word I'm looking for. It felt icky. I'll use a really technical term. It felt icky to like know that there was all this potential for work being better for people. Can you spell that word going to experience? I C K. Yeah. Look it up for yourself. Okay.
George: Icky. Okay. Well, so that makes sense.
George: I'm sorry. That's really, really a true shame.
George: Ultimately you exited a lean function. Why does it keep it coming up for us then?
Camille: The essential underpinnings of lean, one, they really align with how I think about work. And so when I discovered continuous performance improvement or lean as a framework and a methodology.
Camille: Like, it connected for me. And it actually gave me , oh, this is the language. These are the tools I see. Huh. This is the way I like to think about work. So it really already dialed in for me with the way that I like to view work in the first place and to the things that I see as essential to creating a high performance business, that isn't centered around making a bunch of money, but is also about doing good by all the humans.
Camille: Those underpinnings really speak to me. So now my perspective is, well, if I focus on these key components that are really critical to making that happen, then that's really all that matters. You don't have to do all the stuff, and I think this is where we can get caught up is the pursuit of perfection can actually apply in a negative way, to adopting lean or continuous performance improvement.
Camille: Cuz we're like, oh, if we don't do all the things then we're not really doing it. Hmm, you don't have to do all the things. You don't have to get full on technical with this. You can adopt this way of working and thinking in this general approach. And it's a huge benefit. You don't have to do well. There's so much technical stuff in there.
Camille: And if we think we have to teach everybody, for example, how to do an A three problem solving framework or how to, do these detailed process mappings and some of the stuff that's in there, it's like, We don't have to do all of that stuff to get value from this. Yeah. So yeah, I think that's why it keeps coming up is it really lines up with how I already think about stuff.
George: You reminded me of something from a job I had in the mid nineties. I worked for this 40 person multimedia hardware and software company and we were one company within a group of 30 larger companies and all 30 companies were compelled to follow the ISO 9,000 standard. Hmm. Which is a big standard for compliance and stuff.
George: I took some training, learned about the ISO 9,000 stuff. We had a consultant and we started implementing all this stuff.
George: What you think about is, write down what you do. Document what you do. Something is better than nothing. Start with something. The mindset of writing it down was it begins like I would go to different people say, don't worry about 500 pages.
George: Like here's a big outline that can help you fill out answers. But if you don't wanna use the outline, sit with me. I'll ask you some questions. You talk about what you're doing, we'll write a little bit down. And when we put it all together, believe me, we'll have something pretty cool.
George: I did that. We got our stamp. And then with that kind of thing, you're never done. Our founder's like, oh, we passed ISO 9,000. We're done with that. We can figure it.
George: It's like, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. We got our stamped because we're showing that we're documenting and improving.
George: I mean, it was, the mindset changed the same kind of thing long time ago. And people were over rotated on, I have to do all of this right now, or it's a fair, it's like, no.
George: And this leads me to a question for you in this podcast, dear sister, this podcast is The Belief Shift, and something I hear you say all the time is like, look, I've got eight belief shifts.
George: You don't have to do all eight. Within one belief shift, you're always saying, do what you can or make small changes.
George: is lean stuff what caused you to create the belief shift? How are they related?
Camille: I do think that lean, continuous performance improvement. It is now the underpinnings of how I think about what I do. So even thinking about the belief shifts, I was thinking about what are these key components and how do they line up?
Camille: So yeah, this idea of micro moves, do these small things. Don't try to do all the things. Because when we try to do all the things, we either get overwhelmed or we freeze up. And for me it ties back to this is what continuous improvement is actually about. It's about small, tiny, little incremental changes.
Camille: So I'll give you an example that I would see on a manufacturing line. We went to Herman Miller and watched them build that. What? I don't know. No, you did not. Yes, we did. It was very cool. And they showed us how they had all of their boards tracking the timing and it's a beautiful, clean line of watching them make a chair.
Camille: So you'd watch the beginning, all the parts show up, and by the time it got to the end of line, there's a chair. It was literally a production light of making a chair. Oh, that's so cool. And what you would watch is they would tell you notice that this tool, that this person needs to do this job, it used to sit down here in this tray.
Camille: And they were like, why can't we hang it up here with a little cord. Mm-hmm. . So instead of having to reach all the way down here, it's right here where my hand already is and then I grab it. How much time did that save them? Seconds. Not having to reach down here, but being here. So one, it's better for them cuz Less movement.
Camille: Yeah. Repetitive motion in that job is a problem. Yeah. What else? They saved seconds. But that's what they were doing all the time. They were chipping off seconds in this process.
Camille: These micro improvements, We're helping everybody. It was helping the company cuz like, oh those microseconds, if you're doing that all over the place all the time, you're really honing in on this process of how quickly you can build a chair.
Camille: But also you're making it much easier for this human who doesn't. I mean, cuz you know, in the beginning it would start with, I have to walk across the room to get a thing and come back. Yeah. They had gotten it to the point of, instead of the tool being here, I'm gonna put it up. That's awesome. Cause they were so good at it.
Camille: Yeah. That's what I'm talking about. How can you make these little micro move improvements all the time? And it's showing up in your day all the time. Like, why do I make it so hard for myself to do that? Yeah. If I put that thing right there, it'll be much easier. Mm-hmm. I can reach it right here, or I can do this thing.
Camille: You can do this in all of your work. So yes, it's absolutely embedded in that idea that I come to all the time of do the small stuff.
Camille: You achieving high performance, we talked about this a few episodes ago, you thinking you have to take massive action or do these extreme measures in order to have a high performing business is a fallacy.
Camille: It's more about consistency of small improvement than it is about massive changes. Yeah. That's actually where the magic comes in.
George: I mean, I think your story there about Herman Miller really takes at home.
George: Can we keep going with this thought then? How this aligns with how you think about working business and you're already talking about it.
George: Can you say more about that?
Camille: Yeah, so continuous improvement, obviously, like it makes sense. The other part part,
George: well, the way you say it, yeah.
George: it sounds great.
Camille: Let's do that. Also, it sounds. Doable. Like, oh, that I could do that. Why couldn't I do that? Right. Why couldn't you? Yeah.
Camille: And for a small business owner, guess what? That whole problem of, I don't have time to do the improvement work that we talk about the employees and the frontline them not having, you are in control of your time.
Camille: You get to decide if you're gonna spend five minutes a day, and it could be five minutes a day, doing work on the business, doing work on a process. Mm-hmm. , you do get to choose that.
Camille: Sometimes I get a little , maybe impatient. When I hear business, I don't have time. I wanna like poke 'em. Be like you do, you're choosing not to have time. You're choosing not to do that work.
Camille: That's why I say micro move because you're letting it overwhelm you instead of focusing. So, but other aspects I would say metrics is a big one. You can't improve what you don't measure. Metrics is a huge part of C P I, you're constantly ga gathering data.
Camille: So that's another essential part that I love that dialing in on it cuz you can improve stuff all day, but it's a waste of time if you don't know if it actually fixed the thing that you wanted to fix. Yeah. If it actually made your business better. I see lots of business owners doing quote unquote improvement in their business, but they don't really know if it helped.
Camille: Another aspect of this, so this is one that I find really challenging for lots of business owners, which is people in general, I should say systems thinking.
Camille: So systems thinking is the idea that you're not focusing on what's in front of you, but you're thinking about how that is playing out in other aspects.
Camille: So your business is a system. It's got all of these necessary parts from marketing to accounting, to your actual business model, the products, the services, the clients.
Camille: They all have to exist in order for your business to exist. You have to think about all the pieces.
Camille: Yeah. And systems thinking is a big component in continuous performance improvement. So thinking about the whole system is essential.
Camille: I would say scientific thinking again. Run experiments. Run experiments. Like stop thinking about, I have to have the right answer cuz it's impossible.
Camille: It's impossible for you to know if any given decision in your business is the right decision. You can be making some really smart guesses. You could be really well informed decisions, but this is the, I don't have control over the outcomes.
Camille: What I do have control over is running experiments to test whether A or B would be the right way to go.
Camille: So what it does is instead of you winging it back to belief shifts, instead of be like, ah, let's try some stuff or spaghetti on the wall. Let's try some stuff. Come up with a hypothesis, which is, I think if I do this, then that thing will happen.
Camille: And then test it out, and then take all your judgment out of it of whether you are good or a bad business owner and start running experiments to find out what the best way is to run your business, because that's really the only way to know. Yeah. Yeah. So I love the scientific thinking because it takes some of that drama and that emotion of, am I good or bad at this?
Camille: And instead says, oh, I need to test some stuff out, and then I will get smarter at this by doing that. Okay. It also forces foundation building, which I think is an easy step to skip as you're trying to build your business.
Camille: So we talk about building the foundations for a high performance business is, do I have a solid strategy? Do I have a way to execute on these goals? Do I understand the direction that I'm going ? Do I have all these essentials in place for my business or did I skip all of that and start selling to people without any idea of what direction I'm going or what I'm doing with this?
Camille: So building solid foundations for your business. Yeah. If you don't, say, this is how things are supposed to go. . And if I don't say what that is, like, I think this is what I want my business to do this year. If you don't know what that is, then when you get to the actual outcome of the year, you don't know what the gap is.
Camille: So I expected this to happen, but this other thing happened. Now I have a gap defined. It was gonna be this, but it turned out to be this. That gap is basically your opportunity to improve. Okay. I can actually look at the gap and do something about it.
Camille: If I don't say what was supposed to happen. I can't really do anything with that. Right. Well, this other thing happened. I'm not really sure. How do I make it better? Cuz I didn't say what was supposed to happen. Having those foundations is important.
Camille: And then the last part here is really my favorite. I'll combine these two ideas.
Camille: So learning organization. Mm-hmm. All of this stuff is based on being a learning organization. Scientific method, that's about learning. Metrics, that's also about learning.
Camille: Continuous improvement is literally this rapid cycles of learning. So adopting this learning mindset, this gets to our belief shift of curiosity over judgment or self-criticism. Be curious and learn stuff, but learn using the scientific method so that you actually have data.
Camille: And then leadership behaviors and culture. So this is my favorite one, and it's really the biggest part of it, and I think is the hardest thing for even small business owners to grab onto. Especially if you're like, oh, have a small team, or I don't have much of a team.
Camille: Think about it as I'm gonna lead my business versus run my business. That's how I would have you think about it. Yeah. It's not about whether you have people reporting to you. And the reason I love this one, the most is because in all of my work doing C P I, the best outcomes and the most satisfying work that I ever did, and the biggest achievements that we ever had in that work came from leadership.
Camille: It didn't come from a project, or a plan, or a process, or a strategy. It came out of leadership excellence and moves that we made in leader. And that's why I think ultimately that's the most essential part of it.
Camille: Those were the transformational moments, and that's the part that really matters. So if you start leading your business instead of running your business, you then start thinking strategically.
Camille: You start to think a few moves ahead instead of what's in front of you. And that planning for the future is actually what elevates you to a high performing business as opposed to surviving the day-to-day. That's my spiel.
George: So if you don't mind, I wanna wrap with an overall question that I have. I've heard you talk about Lean for a while. I've heard about Lean from other people as well. I'm gonna ask you naively, really, do you think lean principles can apply to small business?
George: Is it relevant enough to matter?
Camille: Yes. I think if you take the two, the and that's it. That's it. Thank you very much. Tip waiter.
Camille: Here's what I would say about that. So there is a lot that if you started to learn about lean or continuous performance improvement, there's a lot that you can learn by, say, reading the Toyota Way or studying any of these, books or case studies. You could learn a lot about how that applies to running a high performance business.
Camille: Okay? But you don't need to do that.
Camille: All you really need to do is listen to this podcast.
George: Needs to be said. Needs to be said.
Camille: Needs to be said. Because all we're really talking about is all the stuff that I said. Taking a scientific approach to the work, becoming a systems thinker.
Camille: Adopting a learning mindset in your work. And considered more leading than doing in your business.
Camille: If you take those essentials and start applying them, that will elevate you above other businesses. Like you have no idea. And if that's already a way that you think, don't let go of that. Because most other business owners out there aren't really thinking in this way. Huh? Yeah.
Camille: So when we talk about high performance and we feel resistance to it, it's for people who aren't dialing in on these concepts. It's not clicking for them and making sense. But it can. I've coached tons of people who are like, I don't get this.
Camille: And then as we start to go through it, that light bulb goes off and they're like, oh, I totally get this now. So for some people, this is making sense to them. Everything I'm talking about, they're like, yep, yep, yep. I already think that way.
Camille: Other people are like, I don't get it. I'm not sure how, is this better? Am I already doing this? That requires a little bit of coaching to dial it in for them. And then there's always gonna be those people who are like, no, it's none of, that's for me. And that's fine too. You can go run your business how you wanna run it.
Camille: This is, yeah, the way I like to think about running business that I think gives you high performance. And yes, it absolutely applies for any size business, even a solopreneur is still equally as important.
Camille: It applies to any type of business also. So this was another big struggle when we would talk about bringing lean or continuous performance improvement in, is this for manufacturing?
Camille: No, it's not. And you can see why: scientific approach, systems, thinking, learning... All of those things make sense for any business. It requires you to commit to doing it.
George: Also, the focus on customer value, which is said toward the top of course. I mean, that's primary for any small business. Even more so like in large enterprises, you can sort of get away with not thinking about the customer for a while cause they're so huge and you have billions of dollars of buffer.
George: At a individual level. You cannot, right. You can't.
Camille: Yes. At the heart of this, like I said before, if you care about having a very human centered type of business mm-hmm. , both for the people that work in or for, or support your business. Even you're a b2b, you're a business selling to other businesses, those are humans on the other end.
Camille: If you care about that and doing right by them, this is absolutely the way that you wanna think about running your business. If that's as important as how much money your business makes.
Camille: If you're only in it for the money, then maybe you don't need to do that. You can go do Amazon's thing. I don't know why I pick on Amazon, but there's so prominent those stories. Right. Yeah.
Camille: But yes, I think that human-centered part of it, that's one of the huge components of this. And I heard the story the other day. They were talking to one of their clients, who had this marketing process and she'd has all these things showing up and she didn't know if you know, people were showing up to her sales page, but she wasn't getting their convert and she didn't really know why. And so she asked her, well, have you talked to any of those people?
Camille: She was like, no. I was like, well, do you have their email or their phone number or something? And she was like, well, I do. She's like, well call some of 'em and find out why they didn't buy. And it was this revelatory idea like, oh, I guess, I guess I could do that.
Camille: These are the small changes we're talking about of find out what your customers care about and what they need. She got like, I don't know, 10 more sales out of that by calling people. Because they were like, oh yeah, I was totally excited, but I got distracted, or I have this question, and then they bought, wow. That was kind of a micro move of improvement for her, like, do this one extra step.
Camille: That's the mindset under all of this that can change how your business runs.
George: That's awesome.
Camille: There's so many other things we can talk about here, but no. Okay. I'm gonna leave it there and say, yeah, I think we have said it all, everything that we need to say.
Camille: If people have questions, if they wanna know more about anything let us know. The best way to do that is go to the belief shift.com and leave us a voice message, a little widget where you can click and leave us a quick voice message.
Camille: So if you have questions or if you've had experience with this and you wanna share your story, we'd love to hear that. You had experience with lean or , continuous performance improvement.
Camille: Or if you're still curious, if you're like, I still don't get, how I do this in my small business. Doesn't make any sense to me. What do you mean by this? Ask those questions and we're happy to address them on the pod. So love to hear from you there. . That's kind of all I have to say about that.
George: I loved hearing more about your background.
Camille: My choice going forward is I don't really wanna talk about lean or continuous performance improvement the way that it's standardly talked about and applied out in the world.
Camille: I've decided to take these key principles and things that matter to me, that I have seen be most effective and work them in. So, you might not hear the language as much, but you'll see the themes showing up. There will be little parts of it, like when we talk about PDCA, or plan do check adjust, that'll work its way in.
Camille: So there's some little parts of it Yeah. That are gonna work its way in. Talk about value streams and value add for customers.
Camille: I'm basically leaning out, lean and putting it into my own framework. That's what we're gonna do.
George: That's awesome. Thank you.
Camille: Thank you for all the great questions, George. I really appreciate it. This was really fun. Thanks everybody for listening. We'll be back in your ears next week.
George: See ya everybody.