From the CEO: What Thanksgiving dinner can teach us about lean generations

AME | November 20, 2020



The U.S. Thanksgiving is a chance for families and friends to get together to break bread and spend time with one another. In many families, these celebrations include multiple generations sharing laughs, stories and sometimes a political argument or two.

It’s not hard to conjure up a Norman Rockwell-like image of a family at Thanksgiving. There’s grandma and grandpa at the heads of the table. Mom or dad are carving the turkey. Perhaps an aunt is passing the stuffing around. The young children are confined to the kids’ table in the corner, while cousin Jennifer — who just turned 13 — has finally ascended to the adult table.

If we look closely, Thanksgiving is as much about showing gratitude as it is about generational sharing.

While COVID-19 has (again) altered many of our plans for this year’s celebration, it should not deter our commitment to sharing gratitude and to thinking about the cross-generational event that Thanksgiving is.

Applying this to the lean community and AME, I think about those who brought the idea of a continuous improvement journey to North America. Trendsetters like David Hogg, an AME Hall of Famer who pioneered the idea of creating lean consortia and who’s ATJ Hogg Blogg and newsletter have been a must-read for those who want to learn about lean no matter where they are on their journey.

There are the second wave lean practitioners at our metaphorical Thanksgiving table. Leaders who have been in the thick of it for years and who have fully embraced AME’s share, learn and grow mission by spreading continuous improvement to the next generation both in their own companies and other organizations. These are the folks who lead AME Consortia, run workshops, present at our conferences, facilitate tours, have frank conversations during our coffee breaks, and share their knowledge through Target Online and AME events.

Next, there are those who are just coming into their own. Those who have seen examples from the older generations and are applying the lessons learned at hospitals, plants, offices and other facilities — all with their own spin. These are AME’s Emerging Leader Program participants and those who are starting to realize the power that lean and agile thinking can have on their organizations

And, finally, there are those with the promise of tomorrow. As AME begins to build student chapters and continues to support programs like Manufacturing Day, the next generation are just beginning to learn about operational excellence and lean principles. They are in apprenticeship programs, learning trades or getting their first taste of business education. These individuals will make up the future of manufacturing, health care and other industries.

Thanksgiving is an opportunity to give thanks, but I also encourage you to take some time to think about generations in your personal and professional families. What can you learn from the older generations and your peer group? How can you help inspire the next generation? No matter where you are on your journey, AME is here to help you take the next step or share your wisdom. Don’t hesitate to reach out to me.

For those in the U.S., please have a wonderful Thanksgiving. If you are an AME member, a volunteer, a staff member or any other contributor to our community, please accept my heartfelt gratitude for all that you do to help AME and our lean family. In observation of the holiday, AME’s office will be closed next Thursday and Friday. That also means that I will not be sending a weekly message next Friday.

As always, please stay safe and keep looking out for one another.