After almost 9 years of introducing, implementing and learning about lean management at Chugachmiut, the experiment has ended. At the request of my board, I tendered my resignation on September 17, 2012 and starting a short vacation while I rest, recharge and look for that new great experiment to pursue.
When I was offered the job 9 years ago, I did not ask for a contract, nor did I want one. As I told many of my friends, I wanted to be able to walk if I felt the board was not supportive of my efforts on their behalf, and I wanted the board to be able to dismiss me if they did not feel I was meeting their needs. In that event, all I wanted was to be treated fairly and with respect. Although the end came quickly, I was treated fairly and with respect.
Leaving a place that I spent 9 years putting my heart and soul in was tough. I admit that. However, during the last 3 years of my tenure I was able to learn valuable lessons about healthy living and healing. Stress is an enemy of health, and while at Chugachmiut I was able to learn 2 therapeutic interventions that help me daily with living a life free of stress. Mindfulness is a miracle within everyone’s reach. Dr. Bob Stahl, who worked with Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts, Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society, taught me mindfulness. By learning to focus on the present, and not reliving the past or rehearsing the future I stop escalating my stress response and achieve a state of peace. In the days since leaving, I have continued to achieve peace.
What the future holds is still a wonderful mystery. I am blessed to have my education, experience and health to guide me. And I have time to look for, and examine, options that might be available.
In the meantime, I am grateful for many blessings at Chugachmiut. The board gave me an opportunity to serve what my Tlingit protocol refers to, as my father’s people-the people of the Chugach. At one time my board was offended when I said this, but as I explained, it is an expression of honor. We value our father’s people. Much of our Tlingit protocol derives from this relationship. We must not do anything to dishonor our fathers. I pray that my work at Chugachmiut did not dishonor him. (Clifford Stephen Anderson, 1934-2001). The board took a chance on me in 2003, and I appreciate that.
I also appreciate the wonderful staff that worked with me and embraced the Lean Management journey we set for on in May of 2004. Those who stayed with me have a very comfortable and non-threatening work place. Employee satisfaction among employees who embraced service to the people of the region and our lean management was extremely high, and I leave knowing that Chugachmiut is a far better place than when I arrived. I will miss not having an opportunity to say goodbye to them, and since may read this blog, this must serve as my goodbye.
I am also grateful that the board allowed me to experiment with the company and change the culture. The pillars of lean are ingrained in my management style, and I hope I left the company respecting both pillars. Respect for People is, I have learned, the real core of Lean. Continuous Improvement can only be built in an atmosphere of respect for people, but boy oh boy, watch the company prosper if you can figure this out. In the 8 years I served I had the blessing of becoming one of the very few CEO’s in the nation able to transform an organization and its culture into what I hope is a great example of what Lean Management can do. As a non-profit that introduced lean into its core administrative services, health care, language and culture, wild land fire fighting, trust services, Head Start and myriad other parts of the business, we blazed a unique trail. I have written about many of the stories in this blog.
As I move on, I thank the board for respecting my contributions to Chugachmiut over the past 9 years. I thank my Executive Team for the great work they did to learn and implement lean. And thank you to the employees I have had the pleasure of leading for the years of sharing your lives with me. I hope you enjoyed the journey as much as I did.
And a special thank you to the people of the Chugach region, for your hospitality and support for many years. I want you to know that the culture at Chugachmiut changed because we wanted to serve you the best we could.
God Bless You All.