• Bill Greider

The World-Famous Vincenzo Pentangelli and Your Lean Journey

The Godfather is probably one of my all time favorite flicks. In fact, one of my prized possessions is a 3 box set my wife bought me for Christmas years ago.

If you have watched the movies a few dozen times, you will remember the scene where ex-capo Francesco Pentangelli was determined to testify in front of a senate sub-committee that Michael Corleone conspired to murder Police Captain McClusky and Virgil Solozzo. Frank figured life in witness protection as a lean consultant might be better than looking over his shoulder the rest of his life. Long story short, Michael arranged for Frank to catch a glimpse of his brother Vincenzo from the old country on his way into the hearing, and suddenly he plead the fifth like crazy instead of singing like a canary.

Which brings me to my point and what this all has to do with kaizen.

Especially early on in your journey (Green Mile), if you are doing things right, the people who actually do the value-added work will have an idea to go after some waste in a really silly process. Although it is silly, that process has been something that has been done forever. Although it is silly, someone is convinced that that silly process is the holy grail, not to be messed with, and will defend it with their life. It is so silly, however, that any new employee who may have worked in a hot dog stand knows it is ridiculously silly. (I am NOT making fun of this process, because trust me, we had some of these in my own company). The 8 wastes looks like a crime scene in this silly process.

Well if you are doing a good job and you use temporary self-directed work teams using A3 thinking to challenge everything, eventually Silly Process will find it's way on the A3 board. The A3 that nobody ever thought would ever come to life, because although silly, it is the way things have always been done.

Remember that A3 thinking is about small, reversible experiments (we can always go back, right?!?!) . With that in mind, as that brave A3 leader is thinking through who she might need on her team, I might recommend Francesco's brother from the old country, Vincenzo. That is, a Senior leader, or the head of quality, or the King of all Engineers to be on the team. For one purpose. So the people who are defending the SP will at least show up and at least listen. I always explain to "Vincenzo" that his only role is to show up, which signals to everyone that this A3 is important. Vincenzo doesn't even need to talk, and he definitely shouldn't direct the direction of the DMAIC with his influence. Nemawashi is the goal....proceed slowly, consider many options, gain agreement, then implement rapidly. It might be difficult to consider many options once the other team members get wind of what Vincenzo might want to do. Again, Vincenzo's only role is to make sure the team doesn't get bogged down with what worked yesterday. Remember, the processes that got you to today probably aren't the ones that will get you to tomorrow. Trust the A3 team to leverage diversity and gain agreement, and go through the DMAIC and arrive at something better than the SP.

Once you've done a few dozen improvements using A3, you'll find you don't need Vincenzo any more. People will trust the process of A3 and not feel the need to defend any silly process.

In mafia-speak, a "friend of ours" means the person we are referring to is "made". A "friend of mine" means the person is an outsider, or not "made". In my book, anyone of the several thousand people I know who have led an improvement is a friend of ours!

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