Can You Improve the Justice You Show Others by Using CI Tools?

I’ve been able to do this and so can you

The Bushidō code is a combination of 8 different core virtues that directed the samurai on how to live. I have researched these virtues and have adopted and blended them into the context of the time we are now living.

I have also discovered that focusing on these 8 virtues is a pathway to finding Work: Life Harmony for ourselves and living a life with more overall satisfaction.

I will be writing 8 different articles over the next few weeks, one for each virtue: Justice, Courage, Compassion, Respect, Integrity, Honor, Loyalty, & Self-Control. This is Article #1, Justice.

How I define Justice

As a quality professional and Continuous Improvement practitioner, I find myself needing to have conversations with leaders about how much Justice a process has. Often, we don’t take the time to examine our processes from an equity and inclusion perspective, but it’s important to consider.

Seven years ago, when I started to look through this Justice lens, it occurred to me that a lot of people end up becoming victims of their process. And so, it now makes sense that as I look back, to always be thinking about how we can ensure that our processes are equitable.

Fighting for Justice is everyone’s responsibility, but that doesn’t mean that you have to fight alone. It is important to create opportunities for those who need Justice to be able to get it, but not necessarily that you do it for them all of the time.

What I’ve learned about the truth of the matter is that once you understand it and you know it, you can’t unknow it. You now have a responsibility to use that information for good. If you choose not to, you risk ending up living a lie. Like Miyamoto Musashi, a prolific samurai from the 1600s once stated:

“Truth is not what you want it to be; it is what it is, and you must bend to its power, or live a lie.

How can you make Justice a part of your everyday activities?

When we consider how we are showing up as a leader or contributor every day, do we take the time to figure out if there is any Justice present?

In our day-to-day activities, it is vital to think about how the actions you are taking or fail to take will affect the people around you. If we go about our business in a mindset of just trying to get things done all the time, without stopping to ask for others’ opinions, we create a closed system.

In a closed system, we aren’t taking others’ viewpoints or suggestions into consideration during our decision-making processes. We are simply referring to the limited playbook we’ve created over the years and leaving out many other possibilities that exist.

In an open system, we are seeking feedback and ideas from those around us. We need to check in with them on how a process feels to them and whether they have any suggestions for improvement. We understand that we must collaborate with our teams not simply direct them.

Without seeking this information directly, it is unlikely it will be shared with you. Most organizations reward employees for just getting shit done, not for thinking outside of the box and providing different insights on how something can be better. The Industrial Age methodology of business that was formed out of the Industrial Revolution is still the predominant operational model at work today.

So how can we transition out of this mindset and move toward a more just and equitable workplace? Glad you asked, my answer: Continuous Improvement tools.

What CI Tools lend themselves well to Justice?

This isn’t as simple as just saying “Ok everyone, we are going to start using Lean Six Sigma to solve all of our problems.”

There is a lot more to it than that. We need to bring our thinking brains to work, be ok with variability in people’s opinions and ideas, and find a way to blend them together to find a solution that works for everyone.

I have found a few different tools to be quite helpful in highlighting the idea of Justice in the way we work and interact with our teams. Here are 5 suggestions you can take and implement today.

  1. Leader Standard Work: In essence, this is getting clear on what activities you need to do each day to be an effective leader of yourself first, and your team second. This methodology helps you become a student of your calendar and not a victim of circumstance. It allows you to consider the activities you are doing and helps you focus on the important things and make sure that you are making time for your team. If you’d like to see an example of the journal I created to help individuals figure this out, check out my SDCA Journal.
  2. Fist of Five: This is a helpful tool in understanding how supportive people are of a plan or idea before you start discussing the steps forward. Simply ask everyone to raise their hand with the number of fingers representing their support (0=No support, 5=Highly supportive). This can be a great tool to do before a Fishbone exercise-See #5.
  3. Day In A Life Of (DAILO): Using this methodology can give you valuable insight into what challenges and obstacles your team is experiencing by following them around for the day. If possible, roll your sleeves up and do the work to experience what they are experiencing (think of the show Undercover Boss). It is important that you approach this activity with a shoshin mindset.
  4. Gemba Walks: Gemba is a Japanese word that can be interpreted as where the work happens. So a gemba walk would be to go to where the work happens. Taking regular and predictable visits out to where the work happens is vital in having your finger on the pulse of the business. These should be scheduled on your Leader Standard Work plan and something you use for the purpose of learning and not for the purpose of checking up on people. This is to learn about how to improve processes not to catch people not doing their jobs. Using the same shoshin mindset as #3 in this activity is vital to its success.
  5. Fishbone Analysis: Utilizing a brainstorming tool such as the fishbone can help you include your team in an analysis of what might be causing a particular effect that you are seeing. Draw a giant fishbone on a whiteboard or craft paper like the diagram. Have everyone brainstorm all of the different possibilities that could be causing the problem you are experiencing. Pro-tip: Have everyone do this exercise before you start talking about what might be happening to avoid groupthink and help people let their creativity come out.
Fishbone Diagram — Image created by Author

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to using CI Tools to help build more Justice into the work that we are doing. If you have any other ideas or tools you’ve used in this manner, I’d love to hear them, drop a comment or send me a direct message.

If you’d like to learn more about Justice or the other 7 virtues of the Bushidō code check out my book Always Improving: Lessons from the samurai.

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