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Enterprise Excellence Episode 18: Gwendolyn Galsworth

Work that makes sense


Welcome to Episode 18 of the Enterprise Excellence Podcast. I am so looking to my conversation today. The purpose of the Enterprise Excellence Podcast is sharing knowledge and insights to create a better future. No one exudes this more than Gwendolyn Galsworth. Her life and career has been amazing. She has worked with many of the leaders in Enterprise Excellence, written many award winning books on visual workplace and dedicated herself to helping others improve and grow. Let’s get into the episode.


Gwendolyn taught Latin at the beginning of her career, because of her closeted childhood. Father is from Switzerland, and mother from Russia. Her father at 15 years of age went to the Russian Revolution as a young journalist in Italy. He quickly and devastatingly lost his brother who was printing anti-fascist material and escaped on the next boat to the United States. He met Gwendolyn's mother, became a dishwasher during the day and learned to speak English from the Life magazine at night. He was promoted to top dessert Chef and then burned his heart out, having a heart attack at 49. He then stayed home, raising Gwendolyn and her brother with Marxist personal philosophy while Mum worked as a bartender. When Gwendolyn entered her teens, she heard of going to college, and asked her Father what to do. He said to teach Latin, so that's exactly what she did!

She moved to New York and became involved in theatre. After ten years, Gwendolyn left the theatre and wrote her dissertation. Although loathing them, Gwendolyn needed to understand statistics to validate her research. Gwendolyn went on to research how people with a choice did or did not make powerful decisions that would either enrich (or otherwise) their self-connection.

During the 1980's, Gwendolyn was teaching 5S with operators, then supervisors and managers, Gwendolyn found fumble and failure, dreariness, obedience and a low level of success. After completing a few study tours of Japan, Gwendolyn learned that what the Japanese used 5S for was purely for compliance, obedience and enforcing following of rules. But they also importantly had a whole range of cultural development tools to support the enhancement of people's creativity and power.

She worked closely with Dr. Shigeo Shingo and Dr. Ryuji Fukuda in bringing their methodologies to the West.

So, what was Gwendolyn's vision? In 1991, Gwendolyn founded Visual Thinking Inc. (originally Quality Methods International) to support her visual conversion work with clients.

Gwendolyn created a methodology where operators felt safe, in control, and were not fighting with their environment or others. A visual thinking system that is driven by the operator. Operators would be powerful, would possess a tool to dig in and measure performance. Information in the environment is physical and visible. Can I flow in my work? What do I need to know that I don't know right now in order to do my work? Teach operators how to think.

This self-improvement stage will run out at some stage. You now have control over your corner of your small part of the world. And then the 'I' then becomes 'We'. What do I need to share that other people need to know? In order for them to do their job. This builds relationships and extends the culture. Every operator becomes a leader. You cannot be a leader if you do not know the strength of your 'I'. Teach people to think of others.

The final stage is complete visual awareness, flow, creativity and unity. People who know how to think and know how to lead. Know what it means to be held accountable and like it. Connect with the power and the strength of who they are.

Gwendolyn believes that work offers the perfect environment to find your power, refine it and then share it with others. This develops unity, and a culture where every person becomes an informal leader.

Gwendolyn would love to work with a group of companies to create a virtual consortium and begin a conversation about making sense of work. Reach out to us if you are keen to participate in this forum. Or if you would like to hear from Gwendolyn again - we sure would! What would you like her to talk about?


Website: (Company Website)


08:52min I was inspired by both my mother and my father's strength of spirit, although I couldn't have articulated it. They had tremendous internal strength. And I find, when I look at my career, that I've demonstrated that without even knowing it was a characteristic. It was just my nature to be a fairly dramatic, fairly dramatic and pretty intense person.

10:18min Well the connection is that it has to do with a stratum of who we are on the inside and what we express when we're given an opportunity to flow.

20:14min Flow is so natural. What would it be like if a company set as its goal, "We're going to create flow”? Not just in our product scheduling or processes, but flow is actually a higher outcome for us culturally.

28:55min it was Ono who said "People don't come to Toyota to work. They come to think".

29:17min and that's why I called the process in work that makes sense and every aspect of my work, visual thinking. Because if we implement a system of thinking, we've already built in our legacy, our sustainability and we've changed the lives of ourselves and the people who have learned to think.

39:44min moving without working happens when information is missing from the work environment. When there's an information deficit.

43:27min what do I need to know that I don't know right now in order to do my work? We want to separate the 'I' from the need to get team agreement, or to get anybody's agreement. If you're not harming anyone else, not harming yourself, answer that question. Ask that question and answer it through a visual device.

50:06min by the time we're completely visual aware, which is in the methodology module 9, you have people who know how to think and know how to lead and know what it means to be held accountable and like it. It's a revolution in operators. You don't say, "You should hold yourself accountable". They do and they hold you accountable too.

52:27min and why should I go through life or work and not feel it? Why should I only feel it when I leave work and go to church or go on my bowling team? Why shouldn't I feel that goodness? Because when I feel it, I feel safe. When I feel it, I feel connected? When I feel it, I can face my life?

Key Takeaways

The key takeaways for me from this episode are:

1. Firstly the benefit of developing a strong sense of self connection to your "I". Knowing who you are, what your natural tendencies are, connecting with your power, but going deeper than that. How do you express yourself when you are in a state of flow? How can you help yourself experience that sense of flow?

2. Secondly the importance of developing your thinking skills. Thinking brings belief in your abilities, a reliance upon yourself, develops confidence and being able to make the most of situations that are presented. Thinkers learn from their experience, and will often improve upon their interactions.

3. Finally focusing on helping others to learn and think. This will foster nurturing and supportive relationships, communication and culture. You will help others to become independent, know their power and how to refine it.

Thank you Gwendolyn for such a holistic, enjoyable and genuine conversation. I look forward to getting you back on the show again in the future. Bye for now.

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