Continuous improvement in organisations starts with continuous learning and growth at an individual level, which is why personal development is important. Indeed, proceeding to achieve sustainable Operational Excellence calls for constant learning, honest reflection and harnessing the full potential of our people to routinely remove constraints, solve problems and find a better way. Fujio Cho, Former Chairman of Toyota Motor Corporation put it vividly when he said “First we build people, then we build cars”, a notion which is enshrined in the Toyota Way and which remains a cornerstone of Toyota’s thinking and practices.
More broadly, personal development is a natural consequence of observing the principle of Respect for Every Individual which is the foundation of Lean Thinking. We know that when people feel respected, they give not only their hands but also their minds and their hearts. Respect for every individual is manifested when organizations structure themselves to value each individual as a person (not just those who are useful to us!) and nourish their potential. Great leaders see people for what they can become tomorrow, not just what they offer today.
We are all accountable for our own personal development of course, but this does not get leaders off the hook. Leaders should take responsibility and make development of their people a priority, and have a key role in encouraging, supporting, challenging and enabling their people to grow in capability. A key part of this is providing timely feedback, in keeping with the PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, Act) cycle. They should also have the humility to accept the need for their own learning and development, and therefore act as role models in this regard. And vitally, leaders should create a supportive and ‘psychologically safe’ environment where it’s OK to make mistakes: learning from mistakes is often the best way to secure meaningful improvements, therefore it’s crucially important not to let blame and personal consequences lead to the covering up of defects, accidents, lack of knowledge, errors or even ‘near misses’.
We at Catalyst specialise in helping organisations unlock their potential and become the best they can be, and believe this is made possible by unlocking the potential in individuals and how they collaborate with others. We do this through our renowned training programmes of course, but also through coaching and mentoring of leaders and practitioners because we know that the most powerful learning is gained by real experience, through application in different situations, failing fast, reflecting on mistakes and feedback, and going again. As Richard Branson said:
“You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over.”
So, let’s all recommit to our own personal development!