The year is half is gone! Before we know it, we will be decorating for the holidays and preparing to bring in a new year. So, where did the year go and how can we reclaim it? We can’t. As the proverb goes, “Time and tide wait for no man.”
Instead, we can capitalize on the extra hours of “stay home” orders or cancelled events by getting organized and doing something constructive. Since the industrialization of the modern world we have all been busy. Busy making things, making money, trying to make money, enjoying the money that we made by going places and doing things…lots of things. Then abruptly, that all ended. We were called into the corner for a time out. Many people thought that this time out would be short and our busy schedules would return. Well, here we are mid-year and it does not look as though our busy schedules will resume anytime soon and I’m glad.
My days were always filled with responding to emails, lunches, phone calls, conferences, webinars, and meetings. To tell the truth, aside from a few weeks of pause in the work schedule due to the pandemic, that has not changed much. Except now, many of my in-person meetings are now held virtually and I eat alone at my desk while working on a report of some kind. My evenings and weekend schedule is what’s changed dramatically. Three to four days a week, I used to have community and business engagements, or dinner with friends. COVID19 put all of those activities on pause.
This quiet time has given me time to reflect, to hone my existing skills, and to learn new ones. During this time, I learned how to share my screen on Zoom and chat with my team members on Google Hangouts. I became a certified life coach and ramped up my consulting business.
Just as I had gotten into the new groove of things, the death of George Floyd ignited a storm of emotions that led to protests, angst and anger around the world. After taking a few days to gather my thoughts and unpack my feelings, I took my anger and angst, and used it to constructively educate and empower my circle of influence. I facilitated listening sessions, helped executives find their voices so that they could authentically speak to their staff and communities about racism. I developed a mantra that helped me to stay calm and focused. "Give the grace, space and time for others to find their voice and make a change."
As a black woman in a mostly white male dominated space, my experience in the workplace, in the boardroom and in the community is not only different than my white colleagues, it is hard to explain. It can be articulated, but it can only be somewhat FELT when it hits close to home. So I needed to tell my story and ask other black leaders to tell theirs, so that those who know us and work with us, get a sense of what it's like to walk in our skin. It's a hard thing to ask and some were simply to overcome to do it and I understand that. We shouldn't have to explain, but I recognized that until we reach people with a relational experience, it doesn't quite resonate with them. As I was working with a group of business leaders trying to write statements of racial solidarity, a word crossed my mind - "Kaizen."
Kaizen is a Japanese term, which means “change for the better” or "continuous improvement." We Kaizen our backroom operations, our manufacturing operations, and even our office operations. The process involves finding a place for everything and going through the process several times to find the most efficient way to complete a task. It’s a team effort and everyone’s suggestions are considered. This method is very inclusive and the value of going through the process is that the team learns to listen to each other and to work together towards less waste and a higher level of productivity.
Industrial engineer Taiichi Ohno, the father of the Toyota Production System, noticed that there is an 80% loss in every process and the value of the process is less than 20% (https://www.kanbanchi.com/what-is-kaizen).
I certainly hope that we take this time to weed out the wasted and senseless arguments, and hone in on the 20% of valuable dialogue and action that will get us to a higher level of productivity.
It's a perfect time to make a change for better.