You will soon occupy positions with increasing levels of responsibility. It is my hope that you will develop a passion for Lean management, learn it well, and practice it well. Lean is a better mental and physical fit for your generation than the previous generation, who could see only cost reduction and layoffs and were otherwise blind to the wide-ranging benefits of Lean management.
You have no doubt discovered that most of today’s senior managers are not living up to your expectations. They remain mired in wasteful organizational politics and make tons of mistakes. They expect you to be like them in thought, temperament, and sacrifice. They want to tell you what to do rather than let you think for yourself. Conformance is not you.
Your 20 watts of brainpower can be spent doing the same tired, 100 year-old routines, or you can use your 20 watts of incredible brainpower to make meaningful improvements in people’s lives and livelihoods. It is called a “free lunch,” and its the only lunch that is free as far as I know. With just 20 watts of brainpower, you can take anything that is zero-sum (win-lose) and turn it into non-zero-sum (win-win).
For too many decades we have idolized business leaders with the wrong mindset, the wrong focus, the wrong priorities, and the wrong leadership capabilities. They have set the bar low for you, so you have no choice but to do better – much better. You must move the practice of management and leadership forward. You must have as your goal to make people lives better; to make people’s lives brighter. You must quickly take us forward to the day when the people who do actual value-creating work are respected and well compensated. And you must do your part to restore the health and vitality of the middle class.
While Lean may be a good fit for you, learning Lean will be just as difficult as it was for prior generations. Nearly everything that looks easy is much harder to do than one realizes: comedy, art, writing, sport, music, and leadership. Simple things are easy to mess up. It will take lots of daily practice just to gain the basic skills and mindset.
You have the opportunity to take Lean from a niche management practice into the mainstream, to make life better for millions of people. You can turn conventional management into the niche management practice. You have a huge cache of information about Lean to learn from that did not exist just 30 years ago – audio, books, videos, etc. And you have a workplace where you can freely experiment and learn. The job of improvement is coming to you, to create a better future. No more Fake Lean.
Learn from the older generation of Lean leaders. Carefully study our work. Learn from it. Then, start bugging us for our wisdom and insights. We won’t be around forever, so ask while you can. Be persistent. Do good and have fun.