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Friday, June 13, 2014

Lean Quote: Listen, Listen, Listen

On Fridays I will post a Lean related Quote. Throughout our lifetimes many people touch our lives and leave us with words of wisdom. These can both be a source of new learning and also a point to pause and reflect upon lessons we have learned. Within Lean active learning is an important aspect on this journey because without learning we can not improve.

"My first message is: Listen, Listen, Listen to the people who do the work.— H. Ross Perot

Listening is an essential part of good communication. Effective communication is not a top-down, one-way exercise, but involves listening and demonstrating an inclination to act in response.

Many managers, however, are so wrapped up in our own ideas that they rarely take the time to listen to others. Their subordinates know this and, consequently, rarely share their ideas with them. But it doesn't have to be this way. And it doesn't necessarily require a lot of time. Some time, yes. But not as much as you might think.

Good listening means being willing to stop working computer, close a door, stop reading your email, or only answer emergency calls. Give the speaker your full attention, and let them know they are getting your full attention.

Go to the Gemba, where the actual work occurs. You can't genuinely listen if you aren't there. Go to where the action is happening and seek the facts. Lean implementation takes place on the floor, not in the office.

Do you do most of the talking? Be open to communication and ask your employees questions. People generally know the right answers if they have the opportunity to produce them. When an employee brings you a problem to solve, ask, "what do you think you should do to solve this problem?" Or, ask, "what action steps do you recommend?" Employees can demonstrate what they know and grow in the process.

Bottom line, the time it takes you to listen to the ideas of others is not only worth it - the success of your enterprise depends on it. Choose not to listen and you will end up frantically spending a lot more time down the road asking people for their ideas about how to save your business from imminent collapse. By that time, however, it will be too late. Your workforce will have already tuned you out.

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