Always a great believer in process -I think it could have saved the lives of so many musicians, plus eliminate so much frustration in those who live wondering why don't they achieve more-, I keep on refining my own production line and doing my best to understand better every day the intricacies of how I work; a fractal learning that never ends and never fails to bring amazing new insights. It is always fascinating to see how, the moment you apply a disciplined approach to the right problem, things start to grow; how something that started being hard refines, becomes easier and also improves its quality, just by applying the slow and steady lens of continuous improvement.
For the people who don't believe in this structured approach ("we're making songs here, not cars!"), process can often feel like micromanagement, and, truth be told, I sometimes have a personal tendency to micromanage and I've fallen into that trap more than once. Being fundamentally self taught in productivity matters (and also, given the traditional lack of interest they attract in my field, often forced to adapt instead of adopt), with no direct feedback, reference or sensei at hand, I for sure fell during the first stages of my journey in the so-called "random access lean". It's only natural; when both types of efforts, the good and the micromanaging ones, are equally labelled externally as "silly", how do you manage to split the waters?
(To that you have to add, during the first period, a certain well know "dazzling effect" that people who connect with Lean experience when they first discover it. When you learn about these techniques, and the way they can turn everything into a sort of fascinating dance, it's like the solidification of a certain "there must be a better way" intuition that you've been carrying around for years, so awwrr, you throw yourself confidently into the ocean armed with your brand new laser gun. I think this period is a tender and legitimate Lean infancy, it has its value as good practice, and it's great fun too, just observing how you can apply your 5S or your value stream mapping or create a kanban or kamisibai board for this or that task and, wow, look, it works here too, it improves too...)
It is also well known, however, that at the end of this charm phase very often lurks the ghost of disenchantment; once you've trained yourself in the new shiny tools (and they don't take long to understand, because their whole point is being simple), once they start to lose their novelty halo, there is a certain tendency to plateau in your development: continuous improvement does not continue anymore, you enter in "yeah I know that" mode. In the end, it's the reappearance of the same problem you used to have, only at a higher level; again, you realize that you can do anything but you cannot do everything. Again the ocean remains true to itself, unboilable.
The exit from these rabbit holes finally comes, if it ever comes, through a deceptively simple word: purpose. What do we exist for, as organization or entity? What are we trying to achieve and why? What difference do we want to make? What's the world we want? (Like Deming said, "We are here to make a new world").
Once you make conscious, hone and craft that definition of purpose, you have the guiding light, the True North that will separate the wheat from the chaff; and you enter the mature transition from "what can I change?" to "what do I need to change?" To reach the next objective. And which objective you choose so you stay true to your guiding star, your purpose.
Purpose is something you design, customize for yourself, and you have to give some periodical thought to it, water and prune it like a plant. Without periodical, deliberate care, the daily fires, the unimportant-but-urgent crap, can take you away and alienate you for months.
You create your purpose with the things you love, and although it's a steady point of reference, I don't think it has to be 100% immobile; you complement it as you learn and mature, you refine it with what you find after so many trials and tribulations. Someone compared it to the work a sculptor does; you take away the unnecessary, and leave only what really counts; something that, now that I think of it, is the very essence of Lean...
I have a guitar and I'm gonna use it