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Monday, February 10, 2014

Ten Lean Lessons That Building Legos Has Taught Me

My kids enjoy playing with Legos so it is no surprise that they got some new sets for Christmas.  The last few weeks have been fun filled with these little bricks building cars, houses, and other scenes.  As I look at this time together I can’t help but think there are a number of Lean lessons that you can take away from this experience.

  1. Start With the End in Mind
LEGO provides a complete – and exciting – picture of the final product right there on the box. You fall in love with the end result before you even start.

  1. Learn by Doing
You learn by trying yourself. It doesn’t take long with a Lego project to know if you are doing it right.

  1. Power of Visuals
Lego kits come with high quality visual instructions labeled only with letters and numbers that make it easy for anyone to assembly them.  This speed up the build and cuts down on mistakes.

  1. Kitting
Larger Lego set come with multiple bags. These kits organize the build in a specific sequence with the correct pieces at the time you need them. That “grouping” allowed them the ability to focus on the things they needed to do and not get overwhelmed. This makes the project manageable and adds rewards along the way.

  1. One Piece Flow
You can't rush the build — and half the fun of getting a Lego set is building it! Large sets can be very overwhelming, too, and require patience. Just build one piece at a time.

  1. Mistake Proofing
When things don’t match or don’t line up, it’s obvious. Failure is not a loss. I was not afraid to make mistakes when I was building and every mistake I made was an opportunity to learn what not to do the next time.

  1. Personal Accomplishment
There is always a sense of accomplishment that you feel the first time you get that new Lego kit assembled into whatever it is supposed to be and hold it up in front of the box, admiring how it looks exactly like the picture.

  1. If You Can Dream It, You Can Do It
Dreams are the means to a desired end. With the Lego bricks in hand you can build whatever you want; there are no limits. You can do anything that you can dream of.

  1. Keep it Simple
You build small, simple pieces that are easy to understand and then you assemble them in a variety of complex ways to accomplish a particular goal. When faced with a challenge that seems overwhelmingly complicated at first break it down until you can understand the pieces, then watch how they fit together - suddenly almost anything seems doable.

  1. Patience.
Building with Lego bricks is a slow progression that takes patience, especially when you have a large number of loose blocks to sort through while you are building.

Time has taught me that you can learn valuable lessons from almost any experience. Legos are more than building blocks, they teach essential leadership skills. I believe that to be a successful Lean leader you need to focus on these lessons. I am happy to be spending quality time with my kids and learning such valuable lessons. And more importantly think of the lessons they are learning from this experience.

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  1. Hi Tim,

    I believe # 10 Patience is a very important lesson to live by. So many times if you don't have the patience then you can't complete the other 9 lessons you described. Without patience, the vision of "end game" is or becomes out of focus.

    I like your thoughts!

    P.S. It's ok to still play with lego's when your kids grow up!

    1. Jon, You are correct. Many corporate executives do not understand this when learning new things and changing the culture that patience is needed. In the drive for results we can lose sight. But the journey to excellence is a long one and patience is important. Having fun makes all of this easier.