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Are You Aiming for True North?


June 27, 2014


Ever have a moment like this…you’ve learned something new and are applying it on the job and you’re thinking “I’ve got this. Yeah, I totally understand this.” But, then, you stop and reflect on what you’ve done and, suddenly, it looks strange. Doubt creeps in. You start to wonder: Am I doing this right?

It happens. Especially when you’re new to Lean.

When you’re implementing Lean Learning (or any Lean process, for that matter), it’s easy to get disoriented. Lean is a new and very different way of thinking about…well…just about everything. It takes time to master the concepts, principles and tools and apply them in the right sequence. And when you’re under the pressure of work demands, it’s easy to say: I’ll use Lean on my NEXT project. This one really doesn’t need it.

Luckily, there’s a great resource to help you find your way when you’re adrift in uncharted waters. It’s a Lean concept called “True North.”

Getting Yourself Back on Track

True North refers to a set of simple principles that, like a compass, will guide you through the murk and confusion of a Lean change.

This is especially important in the beginning when your end goal may still be elusive and you’re asking yourself: What’s this Lean thing going to look like anyway, when we’re done?

True North is your “when in doubt, do…” guidance.

In Lean operations and healthcare, True North typically revolves around principles like these:

  • Create customer value
  • Aim for perfection
  • Have respect for people
  • Continuously improve

In Lean Learning, True North lies in what we call the Four Pillars:

  • Learner Focus
  • Speed
  • Simplicity
  • Aiming for Mistake-free Performance

So, next time you find yourself at sea, all you need to do is stop and ask:

  • Is my training solution learner-focused?
  • Is it fast?
  • Is it simple?
  • Will it result in mistake-free performance?

If the answers are “no” or “I’m not sure,” then all you need to do is use your Lean tools—Gemba walks, learnscape mapping, SMART goals, etc.—to move in the right direction.

Everyone On the Same Page

True North is also a great way to align everyone in your Training and Learning organization, giving them a common purpose and a clear vision of what they’re trying to achieve.

And if your organization is implementing Lean in other areas such as operations, the True North of Lean Learning will meld perfectly with their efforts to create value, aim for perfection and continuously improve in a culture of respect for people.

The Lean Learning Bottom Line

Can you get to True North perfectly? Probably not right away, but reaching for it causes us to stretch and achieve well beyond what we think we can do today. Let True North guide you as a compass would, always pointing you in the right direction and getting you back on track when you drift off course.

Let’s ride!

Todd Hudson, Head Maverick


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