“Optimistic Humanism” needs “No Blame”

I just saw a 3 minute video of Steve Jobs talking about “Optimistic Humanism.” In the video he is talking about Quality and the role that it should play in a business and acknowledged by customers. His initial point in the video is that “the Japanese don’t talk about quality in any of their ads. Why?” he asks. But when you ask any American consumer who delivers the best quality and they will almost all say, “the Japanese.”

This is a significant observation because it points to the next point of his little discussion. He notes that there is a wonderful expectation that all businesses should have and that is respect of the people and the contributions that they will make. He noted that there was a humanistic characteristic of that position. To tell the world that you expect the people to deliver if given the opportunity is certainly optimistic about people. He called it “Optimistic Humanism.”

The key however is creating that environment. And that is where “No Blame” comes in.

People will deliver if they know that there is no reprisal for contributing an idea that disrupts the status quo. We call this “change without reprisal.” In Steve Jobs words, it would be “optimistic humanism.”

We have worked with that principle for over 30 years and, believe me, it is the cornerstone of all the work that I have done over those 30 years.

For me, it started early one morning in the first class that I ever taught on the Toyota Production System. After about 15 minutes, I asked the class if anyone had ideas for “muda (Japanese)” or waste that existed in their company. One gentleman in the front raised his hand and before saying anything, glanced to the back of the room, saw that there were no managers hiding in the back and immediately put his two ideas into play.

That told me something that has remained to this day, change is impossible if there is any fear of reprisal. There need to be an “optimistic humanism” in play to make the change happen. And we created that environment with “No Blame.” And in the process put over 10,000 ideas with a target of 50 to 1 into play.

Thank you.   Len Bertain

I can be reached at len@ewaronwaste.com or 510-520-8011.

About Tribal Knowledge Series

In a career spanning over 30 years, Len Bertain has coached over 150 CEO’s to help them understand and correct inefficiencies and lost profits in their business. He created the well-known “War on Waste” program, a preeminent Lean Business tool, to guide leadership teams through the process. He is an author of four books on the War on Waste and a frequent speaker to CEO groups. Since its inception, the War on Waste program has generated over $1 Billion in first-year profits from over 10,000 ideas, all generated by client company employees. The companies involved in the War on Waste have been as small as 10 people with Fortune 100 companies at the other extreme. His books include: How to Win the War on Waste in 90 Days, The War on Waste Paradox, War on Waste Innovation, and The Tribal Knowledge Paradigm. Len's Bookstore In 1994, he founded the Institute for Productivity and, in 1999, CEO University, both based in San Francisco, CA. He holds a Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Nevada and a B.S. in Physics and Math from St. Mary’s College of California. He lives in California with his wife and has 3 grown sons and 9 grandchildren.
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