We are used to the elimination of waste in flows of material and information, but what about people?
The concept of being “in flow” is an ancient one with probably the I-Ching being the first written record about 2,500 years ago. More recently Mihaly Csikszentmihaly wrote Finding Flow, the psychology of engagement with everyday life. The basic message of the studies that the book is based on is that the more you are truly engaged with the things that you do in your life, the happier you will be. What the book doesn’t tell you is how to get there.
My belief is that if our organisations as a whole are totally in flow – material, information and people – then they, and all their members, will prosper.
Much has been written about “Just in time” and latterly “Lean” and their application to flows of information and material. It can be said that we know how to do that. Some organisations may lag others, but the expertise is out there. For people however, the picture is entirely different. Much has been written about “success”, but since so few people seem to have attained it, there must be something missing. And there is. Much!
Here is my chronological list of the 7 Muda of people:
1. Unresolved negative emotions.
Stuff happens to us on life’s journey and the unconscious mind represses things that might harm us until we are ready to deal with them. For may people they end up feeling blocked and unable to move on. In helping people to find their flow, this is where to start. The Taoists and Buddhists know that letting go is the first step. If you can’t let go, this is where you first need help otherwise everything else will be wasted or at best temporary.
2. Limiting beliefs
Another result of imprinting from life is the decisions we make either consciously or unconsciously about ourselves that severely limit our capability. Negations and comparatives are good indicators of limiting beliefs. The second step is to let go of our self-imposed limits. Again, many people are unable to do this without help, but becoming aware is a the first part of letting go.
3. Negative attitude and lack of an open mind
We may also have negative views about the outside world. We may perceive the glass to be half empty and yet we know that optimistic people live longer, happier lives. Remember that “I know” are the 2 most expensive words in the universe. We give clues about our view of the world in everything we say and do. Having completed steps 1 and 2 above may significantly improve your view of the world. Becoming open-minded may be another choice you have to make.
4. Lack of alignment with true purpose
One can be forgiven for thinking organisations want everyone to become more “rounded”. All that happens is people become more stooped, more stressed and more unhappy. If you have the right people on the bus, they need to be sitting in the right seats. If you are in the wrong organisation you may need to choose to leave. If you are in the right organisation, but in the wrong place, it is time to tell someone.
5. No clear plan
Having ditched your baggage and having found your true purpose, you need to plan how you are going to achieve it. You need to have that plan in front of you every day. The first step in planning is to determine a clear goal. Again, if you are in the right seat on the right bus, there should be a lot in common between your goals and your organisation’s goals.
6. Wasting time
Having got as far as a plan, the question is how much time are you investing to implement it and to achieve your goals. Until people complete a truly detailed time analysis, just like they would to analysis an operation in a factory, they never discover just how much time they waste. Even just writing down what you’ve done, every half hour, can make a big difference – provided you are honest. Having cut out the self-sabotage factors earlier in the process, you should do quite well at this exercise. If not, you may need to go through some of the previous steps again to access deeper layers of your personal onion.
7. Inability to get on with others
Many people get promoted because they are good at their technical job. They then have to deal with people! Many technically good people have low emotional intelligence. Making them managers takes them out of flow without giving them the new skills they need. Their lack of managerial skill also upsets all their sub-ordinates. The sum is that you have lost a good technician and everyone else now performs at a lower level because they are upset. The good news is that not only can you measure emotional intelligence, you can also improve it. You can now have technicians that are happy, and happy with others. Without the leverage that comes of working with others, life is much more difficult, and therefore wasteful, than it needs to be.
Most organisations come nowhere near the achievement of the Total Flow state. What would happen if they did? By using the right tools and techniques with the right people in the right sequence it is possible to bring your entire organisation into flow and thereby into sustainable prosperity.