Learning for Success in Unexpected Places

Outstanding performance is one of the keys to personal and professional success that I discuss in Straight Talk for Success and 42 Rules to Jumpstart Your Professional Success.  If you want to become an outstanding performer you need to do three things.  1) Stay on top of your game by becoming a lifelong learner.  2) Set high goals.  Do whatever it takes to achieve them.  3) Get organized.  Manage your time, life and stress well.

Looking outside of your traditional box is one way to become a lifelong learner.  Recently, I had the opportunity to read a great book by Jeff Hajek, Whaddaya Mean I Gotta Be Lean?  Lean is a term that is most often used in manufacturing.  It is a tool for continuously improving work systems.

At first glance you might think, “Why is this guy writing about Lean?  I’m interested in creating a successful career and life.”

I’m writing about lean because learning about lean, and applying some of its tools can help you become more productive and better able to reach the goals you set for yourself.  Lean tools can help improve your productivity – just like they help improve the productivity of companies around the world.

That’s why reading a book that at first glance you might overlook — like Whaddaya Mean I Gotta Be Lean? — is important.  See for yourself.  On page 51, Jeff says…

"In short, lean does more with less.  It eliminates waste so employees can focus more on productive work…In addition, lean companies generally have quicker delivery times and higher quality levels…”

If you’re serious about becoming an outstanding performer, you will want to do more with less, eliminate waste, and deliver higher quality work products quicker.  Right?  I know that I strive for this.

Jeff goes on to explain how wasted activity makes you less productive.  He refers to Taiichi Ohno’s “Seven Wastes”

1. Defects
2. Overprocessing
3. Transportation
4. Motion
5. Time
6. Inventory
7. Overproduction

You’ll have to read Jeff’s book or another book on Lean to get a complete understanding of these principles.  However, from even a cursory glance, I bet you can see how they — especially defects, transportation, motion and time – can be a drag on your personal productivity.

For example, I am often guilty of poor time and motion management.  Things often take longer than they should – mostly because I don’t spend enough time getting everything lined up before I start a project.  Does this ever happen to you?

I found Chapter 11 of Whaddaya Mean I Gotta Be Lean? “Be a Pro at Projects” to be particularly helpful.  I think you will too.  After all, your performance on big projects often is the key to getting identified as a high performer, someone not only to keep, but to promote.  In these days of massive layoffs this is really important.

The common sense point here is simple.  Successful people are outstanding performers.  Outstanding performers are lifelong learners.  They learn in areas that at first glance might be outside of their area of interest.  Jeff Hajek’s book Whaddaya Mean I Gotta Be Lean? is a good example of a body of knowledge that at first might seem to not apply to creating a successful life and career.  However, on further inspection, the ideas and insights inside can help anyone become more productive, and achieve high goals.  Learning can be found in lots of unlikely places.  You just have to be open to it, and know where to look.

That’s my take on finding opportunities for learning in places you might overlook.  What’s yours?  Please leave a comment sharing your thoughts with us.  As always, thanks for reading.


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