“We Don’t Make Mistakes; We Have Learning Moments”

I’ve just returned from the regional conference of the Association for Manufacturing Excellence, held last week in San Diego.

It was an enjoyable gathering of several hundred people focusing on many aspects and issues of lean transformations. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be posting articles about a variety of fascinating presentations I heard at the event.

To get things started, I’d like to tell you about an interesting philosophy I heard expressed at the event. It came from Garry Ridge, CEO of WD-40, who was one of the keynote speakers. Ridge – who is originally from Australia – is an engaging, entertaining speaker. If you ever have the opportunity to hear him speak, seize that opportunity.

If you know anything about lean, you know how important it is for employees to know that it’s all right to fail occasionally. If a cross-functional team attempts to make improvements, and they don’t achieve the success they were seeking, that should be all right if the experience can be used to find a better solution.

Ridge takes things a step further. During his presentation, he said, “We don’t make mistakes at WD-40; we have learning moments.”

In a similar vein, he suggested that working with employees should not be about grading their performance. He expressed it as “Don’t mark my paper; help me get an ‘A.’”

For Ridge, those statements are more than just clever catch phrases. They are part of a broader philosophy about leadership and how a company should operate.

In fact, he has set up entire website devoted to this subject, called
The Learning Moment. As far as I can tell, the website is not connected to WD-40, though it does talk about the company and Ridge’s role there.

The website contains statements of philosophy, models, articles and other resources. I urge you to take a look at it.

And may you experience a learning moment today.


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