Originally published on Mark Graban’s Lean Blog in 2007.

Extraversion or introversion. How do those personality traits figure into a Lean implementation? I have seen very event driven implementations of Lean. There are Kaizen blitzes, Value Stream Mappings, 6S events, and others. I think it is safe to say that extraverts have an easier time with all the typical Lean activities that require extensive interpersonal interaction. As an event goes on, the extravert can maintain a constant energy level and becomes more animated as the group gets more involved.

A refresher on introversion and extraversion can be found at Wikipedia:

Most people believe that an extravert is a person who is friendly and outgoing. While that may be true, that is not the true meaning of extraversion. Basically, an extravert is a person who is energized by being around other people. This is the opposite of an introvert who is energized by being alone.

I’ve heard many reasons why Lean won’t work. Although we are familiar with how to overcome many of these objections, the apprehension may have nothing to do with facts and everything to do with implementation. People have a funny way of creating seemingly logical arguments to validate feelings. If you are trying to implement Lean in an environment full of people that cherish their independence and “alone time,” consider modifying your implementation to appeal to the introvert lifestyle.

As a subject matter expert on being an introvert, I offer the following pointers for appealing to people like me:

  1. Reduce the number of events and create tools that can be performed individually or in small private groups.
  2. Focus on rules and principles. The underlying theory of Lean will captivate an introvert. Much more appealing is a discussion about the Four Rules or a discussion about the Five Principles (Value, Value Stream, Flow, Pull, Perfection). The 8 Wastes are cool, but they are only corollaries to the underlying philosophy.
  3. Spread out events so that some people can recharge between sessions. I led a Kaizen that met one day a week for a couple hours for many weeks. Not typical, but it really helped everyone in the room stay focused for the short time we met. Nobody ever snapped from fatigue and we got a lot of stuff done.
  4. Make your introverts into your Lean research staff. People like me enjoy the opportunity to apply rules and principles in new ways. As we sit in our office, we will research best practices and use them in combination with Lean principles to craft new ways of being Lean.

An organization that uses some of these tips will really help guys and gals like me warm up to Lean and see how it can positively affect the company.

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