Dahi handi and kaizen

What has Kaizen™  or Operational Excellence to do with Janmashtami? Whenever we say Janmashtami the fact that comes to our mind is Dahi-handi (Butter-pot), which is the soul of the celebration of Janmaashtami. It is filled with joy and excitement just like any other festival. For those who have never witnessed it – the experience is breath-taking. One can term it a sport or celebration, there is a lot to learn from this. Let us read the first sentence again now.

Few Corporate lessons we can learn are:

  • Bottom most tier bears the maximum load
  • Strategy & Execution goes hand in hand
  • Unity & team work are the key
  • Only one, not all can be on top
  • Higher the tier, higher the risk
  • Guy on the top has the cream (prize for the risk taken)

A pot filled with butter (and money) is hung at a particular height. The team, generally called as Govindas, has to form a human-pyramid to reach the pot and break it. The team breaks the pot gets the prize. Once the goal is defined, the next is work on the strategies to achieve that goal.

The key is in deciding the right mix of Govindas or team-members. This is pivotal because, the pyramid is composed of multiple tiers and each tier is equally important in reaching the top and breaking the pot. The base is often composed of strong people so as to anchor the pyramid. They form the foundation of this pyramid. Additional tiers of Govindas or team members get added based on the height of the pot.

Team is Agile & Self-motivated:

The goal is common and there is enough clarity on the goal – breaking the pot. This clarity in the goal brings the team together. Coming together is to align the entire team to the pot. An important factor to be noted here is, all the Govindas are not really familiar with each other. They may be friends but the number of Govindas required for the pyramid will vary based on the height of hanging pot. Hence, most Govindas or team members do not have fixed roles – they adapt in line with the challenge ahead of them. They should be agile enough to adapt to the role assigned as to steer clear the unknown territory (the height and the team strength and the members).

Although the pyramid has a leader, on the Gemba or on the field, there is no single leader who directs and drives the team towards the goal. The entire team has to act as leaders when situation arises and has to take decisions that would facilitate the team in reaching their goal. This means, the entire team has to be self-motivated and self-driven and committed towards the goal.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have such self-driven, self-motivated teams that need no monitoring – within our corporate environments? Precisely, with Daily Kaizens, the Kaizen change Management model is preparing such self-motivated and self-driven teams who see, resolve the problems observed and sustain the improvements made. Slowly, they will become proactive too by anticipating the problems and nipping them before arising. 

Practising Quick PDCA cycles:

Another lesson from this exercise is to learn how the pyramid fights it’s way to reach the goal. It is too difficult as water (at times laced with turmeric and salt) is splashed over the Govindas of the pyramid from all directions. Collapsing of pyramid do happen quite frequently. After many such collapses, the team reaches the goal. After every collapse, the team comes together, discusses on what went wrong and what needs to be done ahead. Each layer has to protect themselves and also the layers above them. Faster the PDCA cycles, quicker the team reaches the goal. Such quick PDCA cycles among the team members generate a spirit of improvement (Kaizen™).

Understanding & Alignment:

We have seen that Govindas do not have any fixed roles. The strength of the team and its members keep varying with respect to the height of the pot. Under such circumstances, among the Govindas or team members, there has to be understanding and alignment. This will happen only when they have trust among each other. For example, the strongest members are moved towards the base of the pyramid – the lightest, most nimble member is allocated the role of the person at the top and so on.

In a traditional environment, delegation of work among the teams does not always happen according to the need of the hour but various factors like status, proximity to leaders, time spent in the company, etc decides it. In a team, the best individual performer is not important. The one who plays key role, however small it might be, in the success of the team is important. An open team environment that encourages people to voice opinions and concerns, often helps in facilitating this. Daily KaizenÔ  meetings facilitate this. Daily tier meetings enable team members to come out in open regarding the concerns, causes & countermeasures. Real time feedback across the tiers enables faster escalation and problem resolving in real time do happen. 

Hansei or Reflection:

Standing in a pyramid is a bigger challenge for the Govindas as the water splashed on them makes it slippery and at times irritating too. However, the team members do not give up so easily. Even if they fall or collapse, they do not give up. They get up quickly and come up with another strategy as to reach the goal. They do not lose their heart whenever they encounter failures. They motivate each other, encourage each other, share tips among themselves based on the reflections they do – analysing their past performance and deriving on what to do.

Every manager lends his supporting arm – to have a team like this one! A team that in the face of stiff challenges tries out various approaches but never gives up. Let us all be the Govindas of our organization.  If you think about it, it will not only help the organization – but will also make you a better person just as KaizenÔ  does.

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