What Your #Mother Can Teach You About #Lean

Posted on May 12, 2013 | in 5S, Lean Tools, Personal, Problem Solving, Quality, Respect For People, Root Cause Analysis, Safety | by
Chad Mom Mother's Day

Happy Mother’s Day! Chad & his mom in Charleston, South Carolina in 2008

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out in the world – if it wasn’t for your mother, you wouldn’t be here to read this.

It’s an understatement that my mom is the glue that holds the family together. In my years she’s certainly been a jack-of-all-trades – fixing, coaching, teaching, preparing, managing, disciplining, facilitating, transporting, listening, everything.

While I hadn’t really thought of her in the past as a “Lean thinker” maybe I should reconsider. What can my mom possibly teach me about Lean?

Strategic thinking

Early on in our development, she was thinking about how short-term decisions could impact the long-term results for me and my siblings – schools to attend, classes to choose, activities, after-school supervision, and so on.

Cross-training and versatility

As previously mentioned, she certainly continues to operate as a jack-of-all-trades and seeks to solve problems by any means necessary. She might not have known about root cause analysis or the fishbone diagram, but her reasoning was always solid.

Use the right tool for the job

She is not particularly mechanically inclined but she is a stickler for following the instructions, which means using the proper tool and not improvising. I don’t recall a project she ever left unfinished, especially as a result of not having the right tool to begin with.

Activity and task balancing

She had to manage her schedule as it fit the family’s needs and duties – dropping off and picking up from our many activities like basketball practice or rehearsals or marching band competitions, shopping for food and clothing, cooking meals, cleaning everything, yet still having the time to spend with us directly.

The importance of cleanliness and organization

No matter how much 5S training I’ve had or provided, no one (me included) can keep a house clean and organized (yet also warm and functional) like my mom. Maybe it should be her providing the 5S training

Early development and support, and teaching by example

While I don’t remember these activities specifically, our mom worked with us at a very early age on basic learning activities like hand-eye coordination, phonics, communication, mathematics, and interpersonal relations (er, sharing our toys with one another). The earlier those teachings are accepted and adopted by the learners, the faster the benefits from doing so are reaped (reading early, faster comprehension, accelerated absorption of facts).

Visual management

Mom would measure our heights in a door frame and draw pencil lines with names/dates to measure our growth over time.

Rewarding good behavior

It wasn’t particularly often that she had to punish bad behavior, but when we did well (good grades on report cards, finishing chores, and the like) we were rewarded with candy or allowances.

People aren’t interchangeable parts

None of us were ever treated just like the other siblings. Rewards were different, as were punishments. Our chosen activities were different. Clearly our personalities were different. In order to achieve the expected end results we all had to be handled in different manners.

Doing what’s right versus what’s most popular

Chad Olan Mills

Believe it or not, we weren’t ever particularly big fans of the studio portrait sittings. However, we needed photos to send to family so despite our protests (read: crying) we complied (eventually). Now we can look back and laugh.

Also, it’s cliche, but she was a stickler for not letting us ruin our dinner by splurging on after-school treats.

Time studies

When our mom would drive us to school we could watch the clock and based on elapsed time displayed by the time we passed certain landmarks on our trips we could tell if we were ahead or behind schedule and if we would be late or on time.

Safety first

Mom would always show us the proper and safe way to do things, and reacted with excellent quality first aid when we didn’t follow her lead.

This list could go on and on…but in the end, she’s a Lean thinker and she might not even know it.

Happy Mother’s Day!

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