Road to CharacterThis is not an explicitly Lean book, however it offers lessons for the Lean thinker. Lean thinking requires that individuals act to the benefit of the entire process of value creation. This cannot be achieved without a healthy amount of character development, and the focus of this book is the development of one’s character. One of Brooks’ findings is that like all improvement character development happens through daily effort.

To explain his study of character Brooks refers to two Adams to describe the two sides of human nature. Adam I is the external Adam that wants to build, create, use, start things. Adam II is the internal Adam that wants to embody certain moral qualities, to do good and to be good. It’s not unlike the dynamic each of us faces when called to be part of teams on Lean projects or in Lean enterprises.

Brooks uses to the histories of several respected people including Martin Luther King, Jr., Dwight Eisenhower, George Eliot, and Samuel Johnson, to illustrate the formation of their character by the events and the people in their lives. The stories he tells about their lives are extremely interesting in and of themselves; yet are an important part of his illustration of how different people have integrated their dual natures.

Brooks also contrasts how culture impacts character, and how some cultural changes have created conditions that can be argued to get in the way of a Lean transformation. For example he cites studies indicating that social trust has declined. In the 1960s significant majorities believed that people could generally be trusted. By the 1990s twenty percent more people believed people could not be generally trusted.

It appears character may be at the root of disconnectedness between people and their employers, neither being willing to fully commit to the success of the other. The Adam I self is about talent, not character from both the employee’s and the employer’s perspective. Lean thinkers will recognize that lack of commitment being a source of waste.

Brooks’ book is call to balance Adam I and Adam II by building a new moral ecology, for which he has developed recommendations he labels the Humility Code. While none of the fifteen points of the humility code were prepared with the Lean thinker in mind, each one contains advice that is practical and consistent with Lean principles.

Part of Lean training is developing the personal capabilities to work with others to create value in the most effective way possible. These personal capabilities include our characters, which like everything else in the Lean universe is subject to continuous improvement.

Read the book to understand the thinking behind the development of the Humility Code. Then spend some time thinking about, or better discussing with others, how those points are relevant to your Lean training.