Plastic Surgeon Maxwell Maltz: "New Routines Take 21 Days!!"
"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit" (Aristotle)
Have you ever thought about just how pre-programmed and just how deeply ingrained our daily routines really are? Much of our comfort and sense of security is tied to how predictable our lives are. Agita & even disease (dis-ease) can result with a sense of not being in control. For the most part, our routines serve us well and are probably why we have attained our lot in life. Other routines can be very destructive, especially substance abuse.
Think I'm off base? Most of us get up at pretty much the same time every morning, eat pretty much the same foods at the same time, exercise at the same time of day, drive the same way to work, sit in the same chair eating dinner or watching TV, sleep almost the same number of hours every night, etc., etc. adnauseam.
One of the most important pieces of advice I ever got when I decided that my manufacturing company needed to become a LEAN manufacturing company was really quite simple. My sensei at the time told me if my routines at work remain unchanged, then we will fail. People will not change the way they think and behave unless they SEE me change the way I thought and behaved! You've heard the adage "if you do the same things over and over and expect different results, that is the definition of insanity.
If, according to our friend Aristotle, excellence is not an act but a habit, then I figured I'd better develop some new habits. Quickly, since we were losing money at the time.
Plastic Surgeon Maxwell Maltz, in his 1960 blockbuster book, Psycho-Cybernetics stated that it takes at least 21 days for a new behavior to become a habit (something you do automatically without thinking). Other studies show the magic number is 66 days. (makes you wonder what happens if you quit on day 65?).
Well, we have to start somewhere, right? GEMBA walks, huddles, asking about improvement activity and A3 closings can be thought of as new routines in your life. Resolve to make these 4 things your "leader standard work". GEMBA walks have 1 purpose, and that is to go learn the truth by going to where the work is done and asking open ended questions (humble inquiry). Huddles are also about understanding the truth, what the problems are, from the people who actually DO the value-added work. Again, I need to practice humble inquiry. Just by spending 10 minutes each day asking people about the improvements they are working on ("would you SHOW" me what you're doing?"-even virtually), people will realize improvement activity is IMPORTANT. A3 closings are where leaders have a chance to encourage and express gratitude to the people who are helping make your company better (A3 teams).
Resolve to do those 4 things like church. Come HELL or HIGH WATER. People want to understand what is important to their boss. By seeing new routines/habits from their leaders, you are giving people the green light to challenge their own behaviors and routines. Keep in mind that in a "lean company", managers have only one job.......develop people.
Can you do those 4 things for 2 days in a row? 5? 10? 21 like Max said?