While observing improvement opportunities at a horticulture client I saw some potted plants blown over the previous night. Repositioning these plants was a regular but tedious, frustrating and time-consuming task to ensure plant vitality and tidiness (since then they have implemented several improvements).
What captured my attention though was the comment by Kara Beaumont, one of the owners of Ardmore Nurseries: potted plants do need wind for better root development. They are hardened by the wind which prepares them to survive better once replanted at the customer. Academic research supports this viewpoint: “Wind stressed trees showed increased lateral root production and in particular, a greater development of wind-ward roots, which should result in better tree anchorage.”
In the workplace, and in our personal lives, we are often stressed and even knocked over by gusts and gales: financial threats, customer dissatisfaction, low staff motivation, relationship breakdown, health scares, stiff competition, high defect rates, long lead times, and other systemic problems. I few thoughts on practical resilience stemmed from this situation.
Gusty periods can really be beneficial, really
We can learn to focus on the positive during times of strain. There is always good in all bad situations; a solution in every problem. Complaining about the wind and its resulting issues, the unfairness of life, or blaming others for our troubles, is the opposite of a KAIZEN™ mind-set. Problems can (and should) make you and your workplace better when you have a solutions-orientation and when you pursue predetermined goals (even minor goals). Managing processes, people and problems in a visual (clear and transparent) way can help us see problems more objectively and deal with it in a structured and disciplined way.
Teamwork deals with gusts
Severe wind can cause damage but when plants are positioned close together the odds are much higher to stay upright. A practical way to keep our people together and to protect the team dynamics is to involve them in improvement activities and to enable them to develop their own standards (aligned with our goals). When we design work WITH our people we are not only developing team culture but in essence we are showing kindness, care and respect.
Masaaki Imai says “Such things as sharing, caring, and commitment are important in KAIZEN™. Just as various rituals are needed in religion, KAIZEN™ also requires rituals, since people need ways to share their experiences, support one another, and build commitment together.” 
Protect through standardised methods
Windbreaks at the nursery have been carefully positioned to reduce the impact of severe winds. Although we need our roots to be strengthened, people and processes also need protection from permanent damage. A KAIZEN™ leader will know the difference between winds that can strengthen and gales that can damage. This wise leader will also be deeply aware of the capabilities and capacity of both processes and people and will protect from serious damage by applying methods and tools like Poka Yoke, 5S, Andon and Total Productive Maintenance. This safeguarding reverberates with Theodore Roosevelt’s moto: “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”
Checking every morning is standard practise at Ardmore Nurseries: looking for fallen plants, damages, diseases, moisture levels, tools, work schedules, etc. With KAIZEN™ we ensure leaders have standard processes to check and support individuals and teams, especially when they are struggling. A Gemba Walk is a deliberate, structured and frequent visit by leaders to their teams and areas to sustain and continuously improve standards. It is more than “Span of Control”; it is rather “Span of Support” where the focus is on increasing staff motivation through coaching.
When challenges and turmoil are gusting in your workplace or personal life, learn to see the threats as opportunities to develop stronger roots. An uplifting team can greatly enhance the quality of our work and personal lives and this requires compassionate leaders who have developed the KAIZEN™ capabilities to design better processes with their people. When leaders are checking if these “better” processes are being followed, it is always to support people; never to control or blame them.