Wise (wo)men mend ways – Taiichi Ohno

August 7, 2011 § 2 Comments

As I prepare for my talk at agile 2011 I am re-reading Workplace Management by Taiichi Ohno and what a pleasure it is to re-read this book.

The first chapter talks about being wrong and accepting when you are wrong. Taiichi Ohno goes on to say:

Engineers in particular tend to hold on tightly to things they have said or to their ideas. Engineers are often said to be inflexible or stubborn but i think it is important for them to quickly correct themselves, just as the wise mend their ways. If you think “What I said was mistaken” you should clearly say “I was wrong”. Without this attitude your subordinates and the people on the gemba will not do things for you.

How refreshing is that attitude. In our current work culture though we are taught not to accept when we are wrong. We say and pay lip service to the idea of accepting when one is wrong.

But time and again we notice executives, engineers etc adhere to what they have said. How many times have we noticed an executive say that they would like to see some metric and keep asking for that metric even when it was proven that metric was wrong. Engineers go thru reviews at the end of the year where they are told how many times they were right and how many times they were wrong. Got forbid if they accepted they were wrong, they can say bye bye to the bonus.

The measures employed by organizations create individuals that are rigid in there belief, even when they know they are wrong. I don’t think it is there fault, but that of a system that scoffs at them when they accept they were wrong. Once they are burned by being honest they realize there is no point and start to calcify in there thinking.

Now I am no Confucius who inspired this thinking for Taiichi Ohno. I have been guilty of adhering to my rigid ideas as well. But with every opportunity I try and mend my ways and learn to say when I was wrong. Obviously I learn when I was wrong by trying my suggestions. So heres hoping to becoming wiser.


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