Point to Ponder: How many people does it take to change a diaper?
Depends. In some parts of the world: Zero because kids do not wear/have diapers. In most places: One. In big corporations: Many. And when I was in charge of watching a kid: only Three (LEAN).
Story Line: Managing a Diaper Change. The Lessons in Leadership Part 1.
Several years ago on a weekend afternoon my wife asked me to take care of our grandson while she was going to run some errands. Knowing full well that I was not well versed in the kids affairs, and being aware that I was in a management position in a large corporation, she assigned two of her teenage nephews to assist (keep an eye) me.
I turned on the TV to keep the kid busy while going through some work emails. After about an hour of tranquility, I noticed that the kid was acting uneasy. Noticing my efforts and motivational talk to calm him down were not working, the older nephew Jesli came to rescue. Now Jesli has four brothers and each one had helped their parents take care of the younger ones so he had experience in this area.
Jesli informed me that the kid’s diaper was wet and needed to be changed. Recognizing the crisis, I told Jesli “We should change it.” Jesli, though still young and not having worked in the corporate world, seemed to understand the language of the management, i.e. “We” meant “He”. And for full disclosure (even if you say ‘Shame on me’), I had never changed the diaper ever in my life; mine or some one else’s. So I welcomed Jesli’s pro-activeness and the demonstration of our value: Assume Responsibility.
As a good leader I felt compelled to provide help to Jesli with resources and asked his younger brother Jomari (the supply change expert) to bring a new diaper along with other supplies needed for the process.
While I was supervising the process I was continuously offering some tips and tricks to Jesli about proper alignment of diaper to the body, wiping and cleaning, and the management of disposable items. Now Jesli had heard that the uncle was some “manager” in a big company so he decided not to dispute any of my instructions (even though he had the experience changing many diapers before) thinking that having worked for one of the largest companies in the world, The Uncle might know something better.
Soon after my wife came home she noticed that the diaper was leaking. Instead of focusing on 5W and 1H method of problem solving, she went straight to the bottom line “Who changed the Diaper?”
Jesli, just like a good employee at work, took one for the team and said, “I am sorry Po. Tita I will be more careful next time.”
After listening to a lecture on paying attention to details, things got better and tranquility prevailed again in the home.
Reflection: I have often reflected on this experience and shared this story with many friends at work and home. Instead of giving instructions to Jesli about something I did not know anything about (no experience in doing before, not even book knowledge), I should have trusted him to do the job which I myself had assigned to him. Also it would be good for me to learn the process that, despite having raised two good children, I had never done and now can be useful on my two (soon to be three) grandsons.
Reminded me of An Ancient Chinese Wisdom: Three mistakes a manager must avoid
- Having good people and not know them
- Knowing good people and not use them
- Using good people and not trust them.
And fourth one from this semi-wise man: Giving instructions about something you don’t know anything about.