Using Lean to Achieve the 7 Habits: No. 6 “Synergize”

Covey’s sixth habit falls under the Interdependence imperative. As a reminder, Interdependence demonstrates the ability to cooperatively function in a proactive manner with clients, team members, and individuals associated with your personal life.

Creative Cooperation
Synergizing is the habit of creative cooperation. It is teamwork, open-mindedness and the adventure of finding new solutions to old problems. It’s a process in which people bring all their personal experiences and expertise to the table. It doesn’t just happen on its own. This process combines the strengths of people through positive teamwork, so as to achieve goals that no one could have completed alone.

Communication is a key component here. Lean practitioners utilize a cross functional team for problem solving, including all levels and across all departments. They recognize that a problem can’t be solved and a process can’t be improved without first gathering input from everyone involved. Engaging experts at all levels expands the point of view and prevents problem solving through the narrow view of a looking glass. A synergizing team develops a methodology to address problems and helps organizational leaders implement change.

Case Example
We are currently working with a manufacturer on the company’s use of certain materials, both in production as well as in the front office. The members of the company’s process improvement team have come to realize just how poor communication is between the company’s different departments. Even procedures such as recycling waste contain uncertainty, and each department has its own understanding of what they should be doing with their trash. This communication barrier formed rapidly during the company’s significant growth over the last couple of years without anyone even realizing it. The team is working now to break down the silos between departments in order to better facilitate open communication across the entire company.

This isn’t just an issue with manufacturers’ front offices vs. back offices. We have also seen similar symptoms of communication barriers and silos across many industries. This issue is one of the most common failures we come across in a lean project, and while it may be a tough hurdle for some companies to cross, we have seen repeatedly that once those silos are broken down, opportunities for teamwork and idea sharing take a task one step further by improving it. This goes hand in hand with Covey’s 4th habit “Think Win-Win” for continued growth by collaborating with others across the value stream and not just focusing on your department or silo.

By applying lean methodologies to achieve the sixth habit, you and your company will inevitably become more productive and proactive. In the next article, we’ll discuss the seventh habit which is represented by the Continuous Improvement imperative.

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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