The previous post, Breaking Symmetry, illustrated how business is an unnatural process when it is asymmetrical and how learning from nature can help to restore symmetry.

chronic_stressPart of the unnatural process, and a big reason to want to restore symmetry, is the negative effect that asymmetry has on people’s health – employees, but suppliers as well. Asymmetry creates chronic stress work environments in which the stress level is high for prolonged periods of time or even indefinitely.

Acute stress is different. It is a high level of stress for a short period of time. That means, responding to the occasional firefight, as we all must do. This is what humans have evolved to handle. We have not evolved to handle chronic stress – high levels of stress all the time. The negative health effects are many and varied, and have the totally unwanted effect of accelerating aging. Nobody should die sooner because of work.

Chronic stress is bad for business because it is bad for people. In particular, workers under under chronic stress conditions can’t think clearly, make poor decisions (to eliminate pain in the short-term), and are less engaged and less creative when it comes to problem-solving.

In Lean, we need to think and make good decisions. That’s why businesses with broken symmetry that adopt Lean will always fail with Lean. That is their destiny. Their brand of Lean is a series of short-term, disconnected activities, invariably poorly done – such as gemba walks, value stream mapping, A3 problem solving, kaizen “events,” etc. – designed to feed the asymmetry and zer0-sum (win-lose) outcomes that leaders know well and understand, rather use Lean management system to restore symmetry and achieve non-zero-sum (win-win) outcomes.

It is not management’s job to create chronic stress. It is pushed onto employees (and suppliers). There is no pull for it, so why do it?

Yet, leaders are the first to complain about the high cost of healthcare, and slowly transfer health insurance and related costs from company to employee. Unfortunately, they cannot see workplace factors that impact human health because they accept broken symmetry as the normal condition and have no vision or imagination on how to do better.

Clearly, one expects more from leaders of people, so highly remunerated, but apparently not so well educated for they have failed to learn from nature. By fitting Lean to asymmetrical business, leaders have done great harm to human health.

The future of Lean must be to improve human health. To do that, leaders must restore symmetry.

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