By Kevin Meyer
Last week I started a discussion post in the Lean Six Sigma LinkedIn group on Gemba Academy's latest featured video showing the morning executive standup meeting at my old company, Specialty Silicone. I had started the morning meetings years ago, and my successor has added some really interesting daily accountability components to it. The meeting works very well to ensure daily discussion and progress.
I've been rather amazed at some of the comments to the post in a lean-oriented group, with many suggesting that the stand up meetings are a waste of time, or that technology-oriented solutions should be used instead of in-person meetings with whiteboards and Post-It notes. I'm not against technology – in fact I'm one of those geeks that will often stand in line to get the latest. But there's a place.
I've seen many companies start the daily five minute meeting because they hear it is great, then after a couple weeks they change it to every two days or once a week. It immediately fades away into non-existence. It takes time and discipline to stick with it.
Similarly I've seen many companies try to transition from handwriting numbers on a whiteboard to typing numbers into a computer so they are displayed on electronic boards. Seems to be an improvement, but the learning and understanding that accompanies handwriting goes away, 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.
That's very similar to the issues that come up in an in-person five minute standup meeting. After finishing the regular agenda, almost invariably everyone says they have nothing more to discuss, then someone mentions something minor. That minor issue turns into a deep discussion of a previously unnoticed underlying problem, leading to awareness and improvement. Almost every time. That's what you capture and act on, which a computerized database with data entered remotely wouldn't provide.
Don't forget the value and power of the human element, the manual element, and becoming aware.