Wednesday, September 10, 2014

If you can get lean from reading, I'm headed toward skinny

                One of my favorite books is Cheaper by the Dozen by Ernestine Gilbreth Carey and Frank Gilbreth, Jr.  I also like the movie but only the one from the 1950s, not the re-make with Steve Martin.  The only two things that these movies have in common are the title and the fact that there are 12 children present.

                Anyone who has ever read this book, and the sequel Belles on their Toes, knows of their parents (Frank and Lillian Gilbreth) had an interest and careers in motion study and efficiency.  I never gave it much thought other than being impressed they had devised ways to teach their children everything from the most efficient way to take a bath, memorize the planets or committ to memory complex math formulas. 

The Palo Alto Veterans Affairs Healthcare System, where your humble narrator works, is on a lean journey.  And I’m not talking about those horrible boot camp competitions about who lost more weight or ran more miles or other such nonsense.  I like to be competitive in areas where I can excel like Miss America or Music trivia or even single-handedly raising the level of fashion at a facility with 4,000 employees.  Every.  Day.  That is a skill, people.  Anybody can cut out carbs for a length of time before they become angry and start attacking people.  I think maybe these ISIS folks just need a Snickers or a some Doritos.  No?  Then you explain that whole mess to me.

The VA’s lean journey is one of looking for efficiency, for the best way to do anything, from taking blood samples to cleaning patient rooms to buying items for home use to training staff.  And lean isn’t an acronym.  It means just what you think; cutting fat or waste.  And that may mean time, paperwork, meetings, steps, whatever is unnecessary or repetitive.  Like me having to tell you to buy my book (A Gone Pecan).  My last royalty check was for $6.39 so thank you to the 6 people who bought an e-book.  I don’t know where that 39 cents came from, but the Starbucks on California Avenue thanks you, too.

I’ve been reading a biography of Cheaper’s mother, Dr. Lillian Moller Gilbreth, and have learned so much that is germane to my journey as a lean learner and leader.  Yes, your fearless Dustin is the leanest leader in Palo Alto, by the Toyota definition, not those hateful people that created the body mass index chart. This is the thinnest I’ve been since I was wearing my Winnie the Pooh mock turtleneck in kindergarten in 1975 and they have the nerve to call me overweight.  Rude, I tell you.  Rude!

Dr. Gilbreth was originally from the Bay Area, back in the early 1900s when Oakland was still fairly agrarian and not the bullet-riddled bedroom community it has become.  And, yes William Cassidy, I know that Lake Merritt is a “safe” area in Oakland but I’m not dodging gunfire to eat at that restaurant again.  Those chilaquiles weren’t THAT great.  She was among the first to combine the use of psychology within engineering and was awarded her PhD in Industrial Psychology (from Brown University) in 1915, which was the first degree awarded in that field.  Additionally, her fatigue and motion studies helped develop the field that is now called ergonomics.  And not to get all nerdy on you, but HOW COOL IS THAT?!?

This is why I love reading non-fiction.  I can read and learn things to actually implement in my life to make myself and those around me even better.  And these are things that aren’t theoretical, this is reportage on people who actually did things and taught and impacted lives.  Fiction is great for when I want to withdraw into a make believe world, but I don’t have enough time to do that and impact those around me in a way that I feel is significant in the limited amount of time I have on the planet.  I turn two score and four years old on October 2 which is at best middle-aged for someone whose most recent ancestors considered gravy a beverage.  It would be helpful if I died at 88 because, according to my 401K, I will have a significant nest egg when I retire if I wait until the 35th of Never-uary.  True story.

And I guess that is all I’m saying for now, other than go read some non-fiction.  I’ve got lots of suggestions, if you are so inclined to ask.

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