Key Point: Japanese companies famous for quality and lean systems have this great management ethos about applying the FIVE ACTUALS. The essence of this leadership principle is that you need to go to where the work is actually being done to REALLY understand what’s going on. It is a simple and straightforward concept, but too many leaders get lost in meetings, emails and spread sheets. They embrace a different management principle: “Lost in translation.” Which leader are you? An “actual” leader or “distant” leader?
I heard a great story today about the President and CEO of the Canadian airline WestJet. The storyteller was on a flight from Toronto to Calgary. As the flight begins to take off, Gregg Saretsky (WestJet’s número uno boss), takes the audio system, introduces himself and welcomes all 130 passengers. During the flight he helps flight attendants serve the passengers, and even pick up all the trash. He then says hello to all the people on the plane. He thanks them and asks for any input on how WestJet can get better. He concludes the trip by hosting a contest for all the passengers. The person closest to guessing the weight of the airplane fully loaded wins a free trip to anywhere WestJet flies. Wow. When the passengers and entire flight crew landed, they exited as raving fans. So what was the benefit for the CEO? He captured all the learning from applying the five actuals. Like Saretsky, you can be an “actual” leader regardless of where you work and what role you have. If you aspire to actually becoming one, apply the following.
- Actually get out of your office/cube, go down to the floor or where the work is being done, and talk to the employees there. It’s extremely important to do this and find where there’s waste, inefficiency and identify/encourage the people doing things well.
- Actually observe the processes in action. Don’t listen to somebody else and have him or her tell you how processes are working. You really need to watch it yourself, because unfortunately in others transferring the message you’ll be surprised what gets lost in translation.
- Actually engage the people doing the work. They’re the experts and know the answers if you ask them and genuinely listen.
- Actually collect data on what’s going on with the processes. Observe what the situation is and what the problems are. Use the metrics as evidence.
- Actually understand how value is being delivered from a customer point of view! Challenge the processes.
If you apply the above you will be actually in touch. When people working with or for us think we don’t actually know what is really going on, they lose faith and become less engaged. If you don’t know or care what’s actually going on, why should they care?
Actually in the Triangle,