It's not often I get the chance to sharpen the proverbial saw like I have this week. I've been in the Denver Peak Academy, a powerful and collaborative environment designed to churn out better processes in government. It's led by a gifted group of guides that teach the principles behind developing a leaner organization. And I've been both sharpening and cutting my teeth at the same time.
As one of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, "sharpening the saw" is one of those habits that gets less attention. It's about relearning yourself, your skills, and your abilities. It's about making sure you have the skills for tomorrow, today.
Personally, I spend most of my professional "sharpening" time reading news, exploring articles, having hands-on experiences with co-workers and exchanging ideas with creative government innovators in my organization, and across the country.
But I don't often work on specific professional skill development. I usually compensate for sharp edges with horsepower. It's a weakness fueled by hubris and comfort. Silly really. We can all stand to learn something new. I spend a lot of time pursuing a variety of creative pursuits in my personal skill development, but somehow it doesn't translate to my work style as often. So, I decided to check in. And I found I needed a skill tune-up.
The Denver Peak Academy runs its "black belts" through the paces with an intense and intensive week of training geared towards an important type of innovation: process improvement. Participants (myself included) learn how to use targeted Lean Manufacturing principles such as fishbone diagrams, process flow mapping, communication circles, spaghetti diagrams, 6S's, 3A's and other food and bingo-sounding tools to refine government process. Any process really.
The participants are taught how to pilot concepts, quantify savings and perform a variety of hands-on activities, designed to teach participants how to pitch innovate concepts to resistant bosses, and use the customers' voice to guide better service.
It's a great way to fan the flames of problem-solving deep into the organization, and they are gracious enough to spread this flame of wisdom to some of us innovators from other places. And these are skills I needed to learn.
Their efforts will spread far and wide. And I have no doubt you will see amazing things from Denver in the next few years, spurred by this Peak team. The Academy is one of those unique places where government operates like a business, and we are all reminded about how we can get better at serving our customers, whomever they might be.
And so I ask you what have you done to sharpen your saw lately? Because we can't do it all with just horsepower my friends.