Cricket picI’m guessing very few have asked that question before. Conscience is a judgment of reason by which we recognize the quality of an act before, during or after we do it. It’s really not Jiminy Cricket, although his quote, “A conscience is that still small voice that people won’t listen to,” isn’t too far off the mark.

So, what’s a lean conscience and who should have one? Well, a lean conscience is a judgment of reason by which we can tell whether we’re living lean principles (respect for the individual, humility, flow, pull, scientific thinking, integration of improvement with work, etc.). Lean leaders and practitioners should have a lean conscience.

Of course, with “ownership” (of a conscience) comes responsibility. Traditionally, there are three obligations people have when it comes to their conscience.

1. Act on it. If our conscience is well formed (see #2, below), we should act on our lean conscience. How many times do lean leaders walk by a process in which people are not working in accordance with standard work or there are defects and it’s business as usual (jidoka?…later, man) or perhaps there’s a situation where we could have coached someone so that they could have solved the problem, instead we “gave” them the answer because we didn’t have the patience, or…you get the point.

2. Form it. It’s possible to have an improperly formed lean conscience. Maybe there are some significant holes in the understanding of lean principles, systems or tools. Big gaps can cause big problems. Who hasn’t encountered issues when people who are supposed to know better are “serial batchers?” We are obligated to keep on studying and learning by doing so that we can continue to form and inform our lean conscience.

3. Don’t act if there is uncertainty. Well, maybe we should disregard this one. This does not mean that we should throw caution to the wind, but we need to be experimentalists, not with lean principles themselves, but in the application of the systems and tools within our own particular value streams. Of course, when in doubt, getting started, and/or when there is some real business risk, get a sensei.

So, here’s a call for some hansei (reflection). How’s your lean conscience? Does it bother you? Do you need to form it some more?

Related Post: Everyone Is Special, But Lean Principles Are Universal!