The Fundamental Constants

Gravity and the speed of light – these are a few of the classic fundamental constants in the world of physics. They are universal and constant. They are known and measurable.

My evolving hypothesis: There are specific fundamental constants that an individual must possess/nurture/practice in order to lead a successful management system transformation. They are universal and constant. They are known and measurable.

What’s the problem? The problem is that a persistent and significant gap exists in the “lean” implementation arena. We know it’s there. We see the effects of it daily.

The gap is the space between traditional leadership styles/behaviors and the thinking/personal requirements, i.e. the fundamental constants required for leading a lean transformation.

Here are the five fundamental constants. As I continue to learn, these may morph, grow or shrink over time. As of today, when I encounter a leader that has closed the gap referenced above, these five are present and active:

Willingness – We must start with willingness; willingness to change; willingness to learn; willingness to thinking differently

Humility – Having perfect awareness of one’s own limits; knowing what you don’t know and seeking to learn the truth of others

Curiosity – From knower to learner; allowing ideas, experiments, solutions to emerge from the community itself rather than trying to impose them upon

Discipline – Self-discipline; training oneself for personal improvement; the correction or regulation of oneself for the sake of improvement

Perseverance – To continue trying to do something even though it is difficult; continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failures, and opposition

In my next five postings, I’ll dive a little deeper into each of these.

In spirit of learning, I would love to hear your thoughts. Agree? Disagree? What am I missing?


6 thoughts on “The Fundamental Constants

  1. Karl, I think you covered the landscape with those leadership fundamentals. Curiosity has always driven my leadership style and my appetite for change. Authenticity (humility) is what I look for in leaders. Are they self-aware? Mixing in discipline and perseverance is a good counter point to curiosity, which can lead one down many paths if you’re not disciplined. Thanks for your thoughts. . – Darryl

    1. Darryl, Thanks much for the reflections. I like the call out on authenticity – nice add to the list. For me it calls out “truthfulness” which I think actually balances with humility; i.e. a leader who speaks their truth knowing that there is always more to learn from those around them. Thanks Darryl! – Karl

  2. These resonate and while sound “simple” are a high bar to try and reach. I think the first one, willingness, requires a continuing curiousity and ability to be OPEN, and look forward to reflecting and reading more. Thanks! Susie McDoanld

    1. Susie, Thank you for the read and comment. I agree with you on the high bar – there are many a day that I don’t reach it. I started the fundamentals with Willingness, because without it I think “Let’s do a lean implementation” is a non-starter. But the other fundamentals must be present as well – as you point out…curiosity, openness, reflection, etc. Thanks for sharing. – Karl

  3. Karl,
    don’t forget death and taxes as two of the fundamental constants of human existence. But all joking aside, these 5 leadership constants really resonate with me. I find I have the most challenge with Discipline and Perseverance. There might be a 6th for you to consider, that I think might be different but related to curiosity and humility – something related to empathy, and respect for people. A willingness to take a compassionate lens. Without that, it might all become a purely intellectual exercise, and I think a leader needs to connect with people’s hearts, not just their minds, to have the greatest impact and lead the cultural change needed to shift to Lean thinking.

    1. Eleanor, Excellent addition to the fundamentals (besides the death & taxes!). I am pulling forward respect for people, true listening, etc as underpinnings for a couple of the fundamentals, but have not called out the “compassionate lens”. I have posting in draft, a book review on “The Compassionate Samurai”, that speaks to this directly. Need to weave it into the fundamentals. Thank you. – Karl

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