Late Bloomers

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Last week as I climbed into my car, I glanced at a tub of morning glories that I’d started from seed last March.   All spring and summer the plant grew taller and taller leaping at one point off the trellis and over the garage door frame.   Green and gangly, my morning glory plant was the picture of health, but for one thing:  it had no flowers. I watered and fertilized, but each morning as I climbed into my car nary a bloom; even into the early fall there was only greenery.  With the first frost imminent, I’d pretty much given up on the idea of blooms.

But then, suddenly (or so it seemed) on October 19th there was a profusion of heavenly blue blossoms.  I waxed philosophical at the sight, reflecting that some of us are just late bloomers.  We find our passion, if we’re fortunate, a little later in life.

One week earlier I’d delivered the opening keynote at the Northeast Lean Conference in Providence, RI.  Before beginning, I asked the audience for a show of hands:  “How many of you,” I inquired, “when you entered the workforce and took your first job, had no idea that one day you’d be attending a conference that dealt with transforming your organization?”   Five hundred hands went up – almost everyone in the hall.    Perhaps there were a few twenty-somethings who knew from the first that this would be their career, but for most of us, there was no guiding vision of Lean Transformation when we took our first jobs.  For me personally, there were few resources to even prepare me for the struggle of a cultural and conceptual revolution.   I left school with a B.A. in English literature to work in a marketing department.  Today I relate happily that, with the exception of that first job, I’ve been equally unprepared for every job I’ve ever held.

In fact, if the hands in the audience are any indication, many of us entered the workforce with a different idea of the future.   Who knew we’d become excited about dealing with seemingly overwhelming challenges?  Who knew that a serendipitous struggle – or in some cases calamity – would draw us into the fray?  Who knew that would become a personal burning platform.   “Thank you,” I said before continuing, “Thank you for the important contributions that you all make.”  Late bloomers, all of us.

I’d be very interested to know, how did your Lean journey begin?  Please share your story.


PS A quick reminder: At the conference last week, we offered a special super early bird discount ticket price for next year’s Northeast Lean Conference – October 23-24, 2019 in Hartford CT – good through the end of this month. If you’re planning to attend (and you should be) register now and save huge (only $795 per person instead of the regular $995 for members, $1095 for non members). The theme will be “Total Employee Improvement”. We can’t wait.



5 thoughts on “Late Bloomers

  1. Jim Benning

    I took a short course at the University of Kentucky, Center for Robotics and Lean Manufacturing. (Toyota was coming!). Anyway, right off the bat they showed a video of Mercury Marine (outboard motors) making fun of their crazy process that was not doubt putting them out of business. Do a google search for “Mercury Marine Lean Video,” and start it at the 2-minute mark. It is a very crude video but it speaks volumes! I was hooked.

  2. Ken Plant

    My journey actually began at the kitchen table with my dad. He talked often of the issues they were plagued with at the shop and how they would use Lean and its techniques to solve the problems in the best way possible for the people and for the company. I learned about Visual studies as he introduced me to Gwendolyn Galsworth’s techniques to make even more improvements. From there, many years later I would find myself working for that very same company. There were long car rides home discussing more Lean strategies to address any issues that needed to be resolved. He has since retired but our talks have not. We still talk of the latest issues we are dealing with or ones of old that never get old to hear and are always relevant. Thank you for teaching him what he has, in turn, taught me, and I, in turn, continue to try to teach anyone who is willing to listen to the Ways of LEAN.


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