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What is your boss like? Is he or she demanding or easy-going? Does s/he listen well or is mostly ‘deaf’ to you? Is s/he wise or immature, open-minded or prejudiced, creative or unimaginative?

These pairs of characteristics are just five of the sixteen pairs I used in a research study at the Toyota manufacturing plant in Durban thirty-two years ago. I had a total of 406 questionnaires completed by people from the first-line supervision level all the way to top management. Then I asked top management to tell me which departments were ‘good’ (I’ll call the best X) and which ‘less satisfactory’ (Y).

Comparing the responses from X and Y, I reported at the time that “Y’s poorer sense of participation and of being informed (feedback) pervades this summary, with evidence of less stability (constructive pressure) and perseverance (patience).” Further statistical analysis lead to this statement: “Y bosses are perceived as less demanding and more impatient than those of X. Hence ‘demanding patience’ is seen as an attribute of the more satisfactory bosses.”

To be perfectly clear, the research showed the bosses in the better area to be both more demanding and more patient. What do you think? Does this finding accord with your experience or instinct?

In recent months, I have found myself repeatedly reminded of this research finding of all those years ago. In situation after situation I have seen in myself and in others the need to be both uncompromising about ‘requirements’ and patient about making progress towards meeting those requirements. (As my Japanese sensei reminds me, “Requirement is requirement – not negotiable; from customer!”)

The Lean Institute Africa last month received a letter from the National Department of Health commending our efforts over the years to improve healthcare delivery through continuous improvement, and encouraging us to persevere, particularly in support of implementing the National Health Insurance plans. This too made me reflect on ‘demanding patience’: we need to hold to clear outcome requirements and be patient as we learn how to achieve them. So does the Minister of Health and all who work in public and private health care.

But let me know how this concept ‘lands’ for you. How does it accord with your gut and practice?

Best wishes for your lean journey.