Last week I had the joy of speaking and giving a workshop at ELEC2017 in Nijmegen, the Netherlands. The majority of attendees were from different countries across Europe and spoke many different languages. Hearing people speak in so many diverse languages reminded me of when, in my late twenties, I spent the year living in Taiwan. During that year, I met students from across Europe, all who could speak not only the language of their home country, the languages of their neighboring countries, and English…but were, as well, working on learning to speak Mandarin Chinese! What struck me then – and again at ELEC2017 – was how being able to speak and understand a common language creates connection and community!
Listening carefully to the community of coaches, practitioners and educators gathered together at ELEC2017, I heard a common thread among the different voices and different languages. And that thread had to do with a concern about the future. The future of what we now call “lean”. Was “lean” failing? Was “lean” simply being misunderstood and misinterpreted? Was “lean” going to last? And, what was “lean” anyway? Were we all using the same definition? Were we sure?
Which brings me to the main topic of this reflection.
Being at ELEC2017 solidified my feeling that we, as a group of human beings, the “lean” community included, are at a crossroads, a junction. A time to redefine what is really important, where we’re going and how we’re going to get there. And at that junction, thinking carefully about the words we use, whatever language we speak, is extremely important, because, in many ways, words create the world.
What different type of world would be created if we used the world ‘people’ to refer to those who purchase our products and services, instead of customers? Or if we used the words like ‘team-members’ instead of ‘human resources’ to refer to those who serve them? If we used organic words like “grow”, “blossom”, “develop”, instead of mechanistic words like “move the needle”, “target”, and “drive”?
During the panel discussion on the future of “lean” we created a ‘cloud’ of words that we felt would be most impactful as we, in the “lean” community look to the future. Words that stood out were:
Words that reference the ‘human’ side of the work that we do.
At the conference, I handed out my ‘Love and Kindness’ buttons. Everywhere I go, I leave these buttons, along with small slips of paper saying things like, ‘practice kindness’ and ‘practice love’ and ‘plant kindness, grow love’. The buttons are reminders that no matter who we are, what we believe, or what language we speak, if we treat each other with love and kindness, then the world will turn out fine! Professor Jannes Slomp, who organized the conference, said that they are the start of a movement.
And I agree. They are a start of a movement. The movement beyond “lean”. Beyond “lean” as a set of tools, often with an association (right or wrong) for cost-cutting and eliminating people. A movement to create ways of working together that aren’t just about being efficient and effective, but are human, caring, kind and compassionate. A movement for businesses not just to generate short-term profits, but to create long-term solutions to real-world problems such as poverty, homelessness, hunger, discrimination and the environment.
For all of you who were at the conference (and all of you who weren’t) here is my question:
What shall we call this new way of working, this new way of creating? What word (or words) should we use to describe this new movement? Because words matter! As I said earlier, they create the world we all are going to live in now and for the future.
Love, kindness, creativity, caring and compassion. We can have them in the world of business too! It’s the movement I’m starting. And I’m looking forward to having you join and to seeing what we can create together!
ELEC2017 was an absolutely wonderful gathering!
Thanks to all the organizers, participants and speakers! It was a joy and pleasure to meet and spend time with you all. Thank you for inspiring me!