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Kevin Meyer

Quality Insider

Of Meetings, Metrics, and Dishwashing

Some of the best solutions occur when people meet face to face

Published: Monday, October 21, 2013 - 17:18

Last week I started a discussion post in the lean Six Sigma LinkedIn group about Gemba Academy’s latest featured video showing a morning stand-up meeting at my old company, Specialty Silicone Fabricators. I had started the morning meetings years ago. My successor has added some really interesting accountability components that work well to ensure daily discussion and progress.

I’ve been rather amazed at some of the comments to the post. Many suggest that the stand-up meetings are a waste of time, and that technology-oriented solutions should be used instead of in-person meetings with white boards and Post-it notes. I’m not against technology—in fact, I’m one of those geeks who will often stand in line to get the latest. But there’s a place.

I’ve seen many companies start a daily five-minute meeting because they hear it’s great. Then after a couple weeks they change it to every two days or once a week, and it quickly fades into nonexistence. It takes time and discipline to stick with the meeting. Similarly, I’ve seen companies try to transition from hand-writing numbers on a white board to typing numbers into a computer so they can be displayed on electronic boards. Seems to be an improvement, but the learning and understanding that accompany handwriting are lost, and soon they become “just numbers” instead of something meaningful. I recently wrote about the power of writing by hand.

Perhaps one analogy is why and how Zen Buddhism teaches mindfulness—intentional awareness. Sometimes you need to simply slow down and really sense and understand your surroundings. One exercise is washing dishes by hand, taking the time to really feel each dish and understand the movements and process. You notice things like small chips and discolorations in the dishes, which you usually wouldn’t when just loading a dishwasher. Applying such mindfulness leads to improved creativity and focus—exactly what we often need in business environments.

This is similar to the issues that come up during the in-person, five-minute, stand-up meeting. After finishing the regular agenda, almost invariably everyone says they have nothing more to discuss, and then someone mentions something minor. That minor issue turns into a deep discussion of a previously unnoticed underlying problem, leading to awareness and improvement. It happens almost every time. That’s what you capture and act on, which a computerized database with data entered remotely can’t provide.

Don’t forget the value and power of the human element, the manual element, and becoming aware.

First published Oct. 19, 2013, in Evolving Excellence.


About The Author

Kevin Meyer’s picture

Kevin Meyer

Kevin Meyer has more than 25 years of executive leadership experience, primarily in the medical device industry, and has been active in lean manufacturing for more than 20 years serving as director and manager in operations and advanced engineering, and as CEO of a medical device manufacturing company. He consults and speaks at lean events; operates the online knowledgebase, Lean CEO, and the lean training portal, Lean Presentations; and is a partner in GembaAcademy.com, which provides lean training to more than 5,000 companies. Meyer is co-author of Evolving Excellence–Thoughts on Lean Enterprise Leadership (iUniverse Inc., 2007) and writes weekly on a blog of the same name.