Standards can really save your neck!


How do you survive doing something with very high stakes at which you absolutely suck?

We’ve just had our fifth Lean Summit here in France with fantastic speakers, a fantastic audience, fantastic support team (I love you guys) and, if I’m to believe what I’m told, a great atmosphere and feeling of community. The weak link in all of this is the summit host.

I’m a writer. My name it is Sam Hall. I hate public speaking and frankly, I’m really not that good at it.

And a slow learner.

This is the fifth time I host the summit and I’d gone by so far with the greatest hosting advice I ever received: make them clap. I learned to make the audience welcome the speaker on stage with applause, make sure the speech ends in applause AND applaud again speakers as they walk of stage before presenting the next speaker. Applause makes everyone happy.

This year, I tried to apply lean thinking to my own hosting practice and realized that “make them clap” is a good start for a standard, but pretty shallow.(The other trick I’d learned is to stand up and get closer and closer to the stage to give a visual signal to the speaker time was up)

So I scoured the Internet for some hosting advice, some of it absolutely eye-opening, and some great advice. From various sources I’ve put together the following standard:

  1. Thank them
  2. Praise their results
  3. Ask for a seminal moment in their journey
  4. Take three questions from the audience
  5. Ask for one last take away for the audience
  6. Thank them some more
  7. Drama is good (so relax when sparks fly)

Capture d’écran 2016-04-09 à 12.02.07

Trying to maintain a standard in a live situation where you’re inexperienced is daunting, but it tells us a lot about what standards really are in lean thinking:

  • Standards are the flag up the hill we’re trying to reach through one hard kaizen step after the other
  • Standards are not the stone beneath the PDCA wheel to stop it rolling back (who ever came up with that silly image)

Hard to know whether having a standard made me a better host, but guess what:

  1. Having a standard makes you far more confident, which is half the battle won
  2. Following the standard focuses you more on the work, in this case, the speaker, rather than your own anxieties
  3. And it keeps the mind working at where you can’t hold the standard and why?

Whether that was part of it or not, only time will tell, but we’ve had our best summit so far, so, yay!

I doubt you can ever become good at something that doesn’t fulfill you and you don’t like but at least you can show up and give it your best. Standards do not imprison you, they’re a lifeline! They liberate you to take the plunge into the gawping void, like Australian rappelling.


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