Stereotypes are generally considered bad, either because they denote a negative aspect of the individual or by eliminating the person as an individual completely. I agree on both counts but I will say that stereotypes can save time.

When I meet an individual, my stereotype machine starts pumping up with every word and non-verbal queue I process. And let’s be honest, who doesn’t have a stereotype in their head? The brain is always looking for patterns and shortcuts so why would this be any different? So with that stated, I am going to give you my short list of stereotypical thoughts when I am working on Continuous Improvement projects. Now that I think of it, I usually use this list whenever I meet someone:

The individual has a skill that I do not have or maybe even heard of and this skill may or may not be involved with their job.

There is a wealth of knowledge and experience at what they do that far exceeds my knowledge of their work and the overall process.

They are doing the best job they can under the circumstances. No one wakes up and says,” I am going to be an A-hole today” or “I am going to get hurt or create bad product.”

Everyone wants input into their work and at least be heard. Sometimes the answer is that it can’t be changed but they would like to be at the table having the discussion.

Everyone has people around them that depend on them.

The work they are doing is being performed for a reason. That reason may be dated or may be related to a misunderstanding of their supplier or customer but people don’t make up things to do.

They are not “head count” they are “Brain Count” and like John Donne’s meditation, “If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less…”

There are others but I think you see the point. Without coming to the individual as that, an individual there can not be true collaboration and ownership. How many discussions do you have starting with,”The scheduling department is a bunch of idiots,” followed by how bulletproof the maintenance or operational team is by rising above the issues and making it happen anyway. One of the continuous improvement cornerstones is that we can get better through discussion, understanding and training. The prerequisite for that is that we are all know our jobs and are willing to change and improve. If you are doing continuous improvement and don’t come in with that knowledge, the bell tolls for thee.