A Leader Reads [#100Days]

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Join me as I focus a leadership lens on fantasy books and series. Current Series: The Wheel of Time, by Robert Jordan (and Brandon Sanderson) Contact me: s10473@protonmail.com

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The Dragon Reborn - Chapter 13 [#100Days, Day 85]

What Does 'Good' Look Like?

    It was a stark, windowless room, like all those in the novices' quarters, small and square and painted white, with pegs on one wall for hanging her belongings, the bed built beside a second, and a tiny shelf on a third, where in other days she had kept a few books borrowed from the Tower library.  A washstand and a three-legged stool completed the furnishings.  The floorboards were almost white from scrubbing.  She had done that task, on hands and knees, every day she had lived there, in addition to her other chores and lessons.  Novices lived simply, whether they were innkeepers' daughters of the Daughter-Heir of Andor.

Egwene, The Dragon Reborn, p. 121

Previously, I've mentioned the need for leaders to have a keen eye for detail.  Part of developing that trait involves contrast.  With a room of minimal furnishings, it's easy for Egwene to notice if she'll pass the next inspection, just as it's easy for any Aes Sedai to evaluate Egwene's effectiveness at her chores.  "A place for every thing and a thing for every place" is a phrase often used in the 5S program.  A dedicated, obvious, easily understood inventory management system provides a number of advantages:

  • Makes it extremely obvious when items are missing, which in turn,
  • Eliminates time wasted by people looking for items (tools, material, parts, etc) and
  • Prevents overspending on continual purchase of these "high-use" items, which in turn,
  • Reduces over-inventory, which also
  • Reduces storage costs

    All of this means that the resource that matters the most, the people, are spending more time accomplishing tasks supporting the aims of the organization, instead of shuffling around trying to find "stuff".  Providing contrast, or defining what "good looks like," allows leaders to spot tiny problems before they become large, unmanageable ones.  An engine room on a ship, for instance, should be one of the cleanest areas around.  It seems counter-intuitive, but a brightly lit and spotless engine room as the benchmark for "good", means that anyone, even the newest sailor aboard, can walk around and quickly spot a leak and raise the issue.  By comparison, a dark, oily engine room will hide all those small indicators that precede large problems: oil leaks, water leaks, fuel leaks, frayed wiring.  It's similar for aircraft repair; tool control is a tremendously important program: aircraft don't fly well with wrenches left in engines.  To solve this and present the standard definition of "good", hangers are also well lit, with tools marked and generally kept in shadow-boxes, so that any tool not in its designated outline at the end of a shift is a red flag for immediate action. 


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