Something deep inside of almost every person tells us that it is good to improve. It is better to move forward than it is to move backward. It is better to move faster than slower. Personal contribution to a relentless pursuit of perfection is perhaps the most exhilarating thing that can happen to an individual, followed closely by being recognized for that contribution.
I love being a part of an organization that has its roots in recognition. Recently, we substantially raised the bar for what is required to receive a Shingo Prize to include an evaluation of the culture. Many very experienced Lean leaders, when first exposed to this much higher standard, strongly advised against what we were attempting to do. They said, “The standard is too high; no one will be able to meet it. Your expectations are far greater than almost any organization is capable of performing.” This was exactly what we wanted to hear.
We knew that something had to shake business out of the wasteful cycles of program- and tool-oriented improvement initiatives that have become commonplace. In my role as executive director of The Shingo Prize for Operational Excellence (named for Japanese industrial engineer Shigeo Shingo who distinguished himself as one of the world’s thought leaders in building operational excellence), I have observed firsthand the many failed improvement programs that have come and mostly gone in most organizations all over the world. “flavor of the month” is the universal descriptor ...