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Leadership Nudge® 317 – The Andon Cord

Leaders create mechanisms that allow the team to signal that they feel like it’s time for a pause. It’s this tool that enables the team to feel comfortable pausing the production work (redwork) in order to bring unusual problems to light or to ask questions.


Today I want to talk about the power of pause. 

Now in the Industrial Age, where the overriding play was to obey the clock, that sense of time pressure kept us out of our prefrontal cortex. That made it very hard for teams to do higher-level cognitive thinking. But now, we want the team to reflect upon their own work, solve problems, and make decisions about the future so we have to call timeout. This pauses and relieves the pressure of the clock allowing the team to say “Oh, now we can do some thinking.” The job of the leaders here changes a little bit. Leaders need to create a mechanism that allows the team to signal that they feel like it’s time for a pause. This is exactly what the Andon cord in the Toyota Production System does. It’s a cord that workers could pull that lit a lantern (Andon is the Japanese word for lantern) which indicated “Hey, I was in production mode. I was in redwork, but somehow there’s a problem and I need to now switch to problem solving mode. I need to raise my head up, look left and right, have an expansive approach, solve a problem, often with the help of my supervisor and then we can start the lineup and go back into production mode.” The power of pause. I’m David Marquet, that’s your Leadership Nudge.



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