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  • Writer's pictureBill Greider

Lean is the community garden!

I have come to the conclusion that a lean strategy really is like building a garden. Winter in New England is almost done and my focus has shifted to a few months from now when I can till the soil and plant my Spring vegetable and flower gardens.

Once the seeds and seedlings are planted, my garden pretty much becomes a standard list of daily tasks. Weeding, feeding, picking and watering. Repeat. Until October. Your garden forces you to load level (heijunka). My garden is huge, but I hardly ever spend more than an hour or so per day (usually first thing in the morning) in it. On Monday I may tend to the tomatoes. Tuesday eggplant, Wednesday the corn, Thursday the peppers, etc. If I miss a day, I need to double up. If I totally neglect it for a week, I'm stuck doing a 3 day kaizan event on the weekend to get it back in shape. A bad assumption would be that once planted, all I need to do is wait for great results. (a very good friend of mine plants his garden, then golfs until October, and he wonders why his garden looks like a rain forest come July?)

Why bother? I am sometimes reminded that if you add up the time and supplies, each of my peppers costs me $59. I am also reminded by my golfing friend that some grocery stores are even open 24 hours. For me, there is nothing like the taste of fresh vegetables....picked, washed, and served. There is nothing like bringing a bag of hot peppers to my clients, and watching their face turn purple as they bite into a ghost chili pepper. Or handing out pumpkins in October to every kid I know. Or outsmarting the rabbits and deer looking to poach. There is also the PEACE that comes with a quiet, warm June morning with nothing but the dignity and order of nature. (think of it as 5S of a cluttered mind). I doubt my family members and good friends would ever question the fact that my garden is very important to me.

Now consider your lean strategy. Seeds have been planted, and you are now looking at a standard list of daily tasks. The good news is that it is a community garden. The gardeners cannot be solely the lean champion, or the lean department. This garden needs to be tended by every single manager or leader in the company. Many hands make for light work! If there are a small handful of people tending the garden, don't expect a great harvest. The more leaders you have who are willing to REGULARLY ROUTINELY set foot in the garden and get their hands into the soil, the better and faster the harvest. Being in the garden, even for 30 minutes per day, adds up to 120 hours of tending over the course of a calendar year....per leader. Go find out what is slowing them down. Help them put together an A3 team for a project they are leading. Show them how to do root cause using fishbone. Help them rehearse their closing presentation. Take before pictures for them. Trust me, like my garden, you won't realize how to help until you start helping. Trust me, LEAN will never be important to them until they are sure it is important to YOU.

I have the honor of working with some incredible lean champions and leaders. When the rat race starts getting out of control, or they feel stress from whatever, do you know what re-energizes them? Their half hour out in the garden (at GEMBA)!

PS. And the picture? That is how our garden starts!

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