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Welcome to Merge's Monthly Mega Minute – a bite-sized, yet substantial and practical, nugget of information that you can use immediately to enhance your professional and personal success.

Operating lean – hindrance or opportunity?

There have been higher-than-normal temperatures in Western Canada over the last few weeks and a result, the water levels are falling in some of the ponds and smaller lakes in our part of the world. I got a first-hand look when I went on a day-hike this past weekend. I was at this same pond at this time last fall, and the water levels a year ago were significantly higher than they were last weekend. So much so that, what struck me immediately was the contrast between then and now.

The surface of this one specific pool when I was there last September was smooth like glass. This time though, the water had dropped to a level where I could now see the garbage, trash and other debris at the bottom of the pond. I am pretty certain that the trash wasn't new, it's likely been there for years. But I couldn't see it before because there was more than enough water to completely cover the junk and litter at the bottom. This time though, the lower water levels laid bare the problems at the bottom of the lake.

Which, if you think about it, is not necessarily a bad thing. Before, no one (or at least not many people) knew the trash existed. Now, because it is visible, more people are aware of the problem, and those you care enough can choose to do something about it. In fact, in conversation with a few of the locals, I discovered that there is a plan afoot to conduct a shoreline cleanup sometime in the next few weeks.

One can draw a strong parallel between this situation and the workplace. Many organizations today are “operating lean” – conducting business with minimal staff levels and fewer resources. Usually, this is portrayed as a negative. But what if we were to look at this as an opportunity to identify the trash at the bottom of the lake. When we “operate lean”, it lays bare the problems and issues with our processes, products and services. It is an opportunity for us to identify the inefficient or unproductive activities we have engaged in for years, invisible in the past because staffing levels and resources were higher. But just identifying the trash isn't enough. If we are to truly take advantage of this opportunity, then we need to also step forward and cleanup the junk and litter that is now fully exposed. We need to do a shoreline cleanup – to eliminate and streamline the inefficient and unproductive tasks that are now laid bare to the world.

Well, what do you think? Operating lean – hindrance or opportunity? I would love to hear your perspective. Please share your thoughts on the blog at: www.turningmanagersintoleaders.com/blog.


Leading change — four more instalments in our continuing video series

Our popular video series on tips for leading change in your organization continues. Since our last Mega Minute, Merge has published four more specific strategies on how you can successfully bring your employees on board when you are implementing significant organizational change.



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Turning Managers into Leaders


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