Lean and the 7 Habits: No. 2: “Begin with the End in Mind”

This post is part of a series discussing how you can apply lean principles to achieve the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Previously, we discussed habit 1:

1. Be Proactive

This week, we’ll discuss Covey’s 2nd habit, Begin with the End in Mind.

Developing independence requires growing and improving enough to move from dependence to a state of freethinking and individualism. In order to effectively obtain the benefits of independence, you must surround yourself around efforts to (1.) Be Proactive, (2.) Begin With the End in Mind, and (3.) Put First Things First.

Covey’s second habit is based on imagination–the ability to envision in your mind what you cannot at present see with your eyes. Adopting this mindset allows you to envision what you want in the future so you know concretely what to make a reality.

Through lean, we are taught to begin our thinking with the end in mind. Adopting a mental goal-setting strategy each day for each task enables a clear vision of what you expect to achieve. This strategy also helps with setting consistent expectations and holding yourself or your team accountable. The project scope and timeline to reach the goal must be realistic. The “voice of the customer” will establish goals. Setting not only an end goal, but also milestones throughout a process, then managing time according to these milestones, is key.

In all of our lean projects, we implement standards for steps within a process to set expectations, build in toll gates for quality checkpoints, and lay out the steps required to reach the goal. One example where we have seen significant success within months of implementation is with an engineering firm that we worked with last year. The firm’s team developed standards around their improved process that serves as a quick check to be used by all employees. Each standard developed represents a phase within the firm’s engineering process, from pre-design to construction, and it outlines the expected steps to be taken and defines who within the company should be responsible for those steps. These standards also look to the project’s “mission statement” throughout each phase to ensure all work performed valued by the “customer”, who, in this case, is the firm’s client, permitting and regulatory agencies, and the firm itself. These standards keep the firm’s employees on a straight path to achieve the goals set with the firm’s customers, with quality check points built in within each phase of the process. What is even more impressive is that a survey of the company’s employees hired after implementation of these standards showed that they know what is expected of them and how to set the goals for their roles of providing quality service to their customers.

A quote by French writer Antoine de Saint-Exupery, “A goal without a plan is just a wish,” rings true here. Implementing Covey’s second habit of beginning with the end in mind, along with the lean principles that help you achieve that habit, will only improve your effectiveness.

About the Authors

Mike Sibley and Katie Davis are passionate about creating thorough and sustainable systems to help organizations become Lean Enterprises. In addition to writing and speaking on Lean Six Sigma, Mike and Katie work directly with an organization’s members to evaluate an existing process and identify solutions that eliminate waste, as well as build efficiency and quality into the process. Mike and Katie have applied these approaches for manufacturing, construction, professional services, and governmental entities.


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