More Than a Journey?

During any given week, I lose count of the number of times I hear a reference to an organization or a particular leader that has just embarked upon “The Lean Journey” or started “The Journey” a few years ago or has “apparently abandoned The Journey” or some other rumor or factoid about “The Journey”. And in the back of my mind, every time I hear such a reference, a persistent little voice, murmurs: “it’s more than a journey”.

The other day I caved to the nagging murmur and looked up Webster 4Dictionary’s view on “journey” and found it defined as “an act of traveling from one place to another”. There you go, the voice was right. True transformation of your leadership thinking & practices along with complete redesign of your management systems is far more complex and arduous than the simple act of traveling along!

Maybe it’s more of an adventure than a journey? Looking up “adventure” I found the following: “an unusual and exciting, typically hazardous, experience or activity; engage in hazardous and exciting activity, especially the exploration of unknown territory”. Hmm…not going to argue that there is plenty of adventure to be had throughout the implementation and operationalization of lean based management systems, but this still falls short of what it really is…

Decided to look up “exploration” and found “the action of traveling in or through an unfamiliar area in order to learn about it”. Unfamiliar indeed. The principles of continuous improvement and respect for people continue to be absent or at best “out of reach” of many a successful leader by traditional definitions.

Still not satisfied and with the little voice still mumbling away, I went back to the beginning and looked up “journey” in other references. It was in a dusty old dictionary that I found what I was looking for. It filled the gap that the other definitions were missing. It shut the little voice up. It spoke the core of what is necessary and often missing at every level of the organization as it attempts to transform to a lean based system.

It defined a journey as “a long and often difficult process of personal change and development”.


6 thoughts on “More Than a Journey?

  1. Karl!

    Speaking of journeys, I was getting ready for a presentation and ended up paging through our journey – you realize we are just about at the 10 year mark (!). Do you think it’s time for a review of the last 10 years? USNews recently did one with me and others around Health Information Technology ( – maybe a companion one on this work, and of course you and I know that what is discussed in the USNews article is intimately co-mingled with what happened through our journey….

  2. While I appreciate the journey metaphor, it implies a destination. My experience of Lean leadership is more along the lines of a daily practice – like playing music, or practicing a martial art. I may have a specific goal for improvement and learning, but it really is not about getting somewhere for me, rather all about getting better. So the final definition of journey you offer definitely resonates more for me.

    1. Eleanor, Appreciate your thoughts on this one. I agree that it’s never like you will “arrive” on this one. The more I practice, more opportunity I see for improvement. – Karl

  3. Your post reminded me of Rick Woods comment “words matter”. The whole industry is certainly on an adventurous journey. Hope all is well. – Darryl

    1. Darryl, Thanks for the comment. On this adventurous healthcare journey, the words do matter followed closely by the actions! Thanks, Karl

Comments are closed.