Focus on the positives – opportunities –  not problems

  • Reward and recognize identified opportunities

Many times in our daily work we find things that are not correct, for lack of a better term, they are screwed up.  Many managers jump on this and look to blamer to judge those who have made it this way or those who have allowed this to persist.  It is human nature and we all want to complain about it rather than do the heavy lifting to correct it.  Sorry, but this too is the wrong way to view it.  I had a boss that sat in a presentation one day after we had been working in the GEMBA – on the shop floor with a cross-functional group of six people for five days during a Kaizen event.

There are some very standard and predictable phases of teaming that always take place during these events. They are:

  • Storming
  • Norming
  • Forming
  • Performing

Frankly, in this particular event we never made it past the storming stage and the week was a disaster from my perspective.  We ended up finding more wrong than we could handle, and the scope of the project was far too large for us to be successful.  The end result was us standing in front of the company during our report out and admitting to the company that we never got past the current state assessment and here are all the issues with current state!  Our results worksheet showed us going backwards and our recommendation was to give it one to two more weeks of time with the same group because we really had not accomplished anything in our minds.

The company sat in utter disbelief, mouths wide open, looking at us and at my boss, who was also the president of the company and a professional at Kaizen, to see how he would respond.  I too was curious since this, in my mind, was a huge waste of time and money and ultimately nothing but a failure – with my name on it.  His response was the following:  He clapped his hands, he smiled and he said to the whole company: “now we are getting somewhere!  This group openly admitted we have tons of opportunities, and they now understand how to work the problem.  We are going to let them focus on this for the next two weeks and I look forward to the report out!” He celebrated the identified opportunities and he demonstrated a commitment to the process.

If you do not fully understand current state and if you do not have a baseline, you cannot Kaizen – i.e. make good change.

He later coached me that, next time, let’s “fail faster and move forward faster,” but none the less he taught us all a huge lesson.  The “problems” are not problems, they OPPORTUNITIES that need to be identified and celebrated – then we can make positive change.



The previous was but a portion of the chapter that Chris wrote for the forthcoming ebook from the Manufacturers Alliance later this year.

Check out the Manufacturers Alliance association at

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