The kanban is kicking me back to reality

X — Isn’t the kanban a pain?

Me — It sure can be… Like right now : there’s a kanban card publish a new article on the very top of my own board. And I haven’t got any at hand : I was too busy skiing last week during a well deserved holiday.

Back from the Alps

X — But it’s not just you, I’ve always felt it was too difficult for anyone : it’s like being pinned to the wall and not being able to escape.

Me — My sensei would say it’s the entire point. And he would add « make sure you pull the andon cord: it’s there precisely for that moment ».

X — But I guess that being your own boss, you don’t have any andon cord to look out to. And you can’t rely on a team leader ready to help you out either.

Me — Obviously. I’m back to WWSD - aka What Would Sensei Do. First don’t let the customer down, ever : just do what you have to do, stop complaining and write the article. Then think hard and through about how you can avoid the pain next time.

X — And…

Me — Well, someone is reading the aforementioned article (ie. this one). And it was written on the spot in less than 60 minutes. Maybe I can let my stock go down to 0 from time to time and feel the adrenaline. Maybe I can prepare rough drafts to rely on and feel the serenity. It’s all about tradeoffs.

Building psychological safety to make great teams

When Google published the result of its Project Aristotle back in 2016 on what made great teams, a concept stood out : psychological safety. That’s when "team members feel safe to take risks and be vulnerable in front of each other". It was the number one factor in their original paper.

After the successful NUMI experiment, Toyota decided to build its own plant in the US in the early 1980’s, Georgetown - Kentucky was chosen and a group of mentors (ie. senseis) was sent from Japan to teach, train and guide the newly recruited management team.

Steven R. Leuschel went back to this group of American employees in order to gather their views 30 years later for his PhD. The book Sensei Secrets: Mentoring at Toyota Georgetown was the end result. And guess what: it’s the notion of protection that stands out.

Sensei Secrets: Mentoring at Toyota Georgetown
Sensei Secrets: Mentoring at Toyota Georgetown

Monday morning, we unload the dolly at 5 a.m., the trial started at 7, by this time I've been up like 48 hours and I was covered with black soot and grime. So [my sensei] comes in, and I walk up to his desk and he is sitting there, writing like he always does, and I said, "Kaz, I got the dolly in."

He said, "How did it go?"

I said, "It was a piece of shit."

And he just kind of started grinning.

I said, "You knew that when you signed it off."

He said, "Yeah."

At this point, Jeff thought he was going to get screamed at or even fired because his mistake cost a few thousand dollars. The conversation contined:

He said, "You knew that is was a piece of crap, yet you let me do it anyway?"

Kas said, "Will you ever do that again?"

"Hell no!"

Kas smiled. "Cheap lesson."

Sensei Secrets: Mentoring at Toyota Georgetown
Sensei Secrets: Mentoring at Toyota Georgetown
All these stories of protection showed an unanticipated them of the research: the extent to which the Japanese senseis protected the Americans from negative emotional experiences, from fear of failure, and from the negative consequences of failure.

If it’s not a path to psychological safety, I don’t know what is!

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