Lean Leaders can Overcome the “Three Root Sins”

jump over a cliff

Author: Cody McCullough (2018)

Defining and Recognizing the Three Candidates for Your Faults

Although the three root sins have a spiritual connotation, the intention of this article is to describe how each of the root sins creates underlying behaviors that lead to frequent faults and failings as lean leaders. Gemba Academy’s Ron Pereira discusses in a compelling podcast how the concept of the “Three Root Sins” can be applied to both business and continuous improvement.

All of us have tendencies and manifestations linked to all three of the root sins. By implying that we have a “root sin” simply means that for each of us, one of the three is dominant, and is more significant and employs greater influence on our day-to-day behavior than the others.

pushing a boulder up a hill

The three root sins are: PrideVanity, and Sensuality.

  1. Pride refers to a disordered attachment to our own excellence, and the inordinate opinion of one’s own importance, merit, or superiority.
  2. Vanity refers to a disordered attachment to the approval of other people.
  3. Sensuality refers to a disordered attachment to comfort, ease, and pleasure.

How to Overcome Your Root Sin as a Lean Leader

Once you have identified one (or more) of the three root sin candidates as being most applicable to you as a lean leader, the next step is to execute countermeasures or actions that will reduce or eliminate the problems that manifest themselves from the root sin.

Countermeasures to Pride – Gratitude and Humility

  • Lean implementations often fail because they are led by someone who’s ego prevents their team members from providing a unique perspective. Teamwork and team problem solving is at the heartbeat of lean.  By harnessing each team members unique skillset and appreciating their unique talents, lean leaders will realize that their team members and are more willing to identify problems and “go the extra mile” to fix a problem.

Countermeasures to Vanity – Understand the “WHY” behind your lean improvement program

  • A common trap or downfall for lean leaders is to overact to their team being categorized as overhead (not adding direct value to the product or service their organizations offer). Because of this, lean leaders will feel the need to justify their existence by trying to add value or seek approval from their superiors in any way possible.  Instead of the work being driven by the need to impress others within your organization, the work within a lean program should be driven by doing things the right way and with the right intentions, which is to maximize customer value while minimizing waste.

Countermeasures to Sensuality – Having courage to overcome difficult obstacles, not just the easy ones

  • Lean leaders must understand lean is very rarely easy or comfortable, and that there is no “get rich quick scheme”. Lean is a struggle which requires strength and courage to overcome each obstacle that is found along the way. Often, the most difficult and uncomfortable lean projects are the ones that result in the greatest direct savings and impactful team building experiences.  If you are overcome with wanting things that are easy, you will not succeed in lean.

If you want to get rid of the weeds, you can’t just pull out the stems; you have to get at the roots.

Notice that earlier in the article, we defined each of these root sins as a “disordered” attachment to something. The things in themselves – achievements, relationships, pleasures – are not evil. The problem comes when lean leaders seek meaning and fulfillment from these.

It is important to realize that we each have tendencies that manifest ourselves from pride, vanity, and sensuality. In each of us, one of the three is usually dominant. If we can identify which one, we can better aim our efforts to grow as lean leaders; we can strive to develop the virtues that counteract the cause, the root, of our falls and faults.