Podcast: The search for continuous improvement marches on
Mathieu Rebeiro, Director of Process Excellence at RBC Insurance explains that continuous improvement isn’t just a job, it's his passion and he takes it seriously!
Image: Felicity Aston
“It’s about building on what you started. In the spirit of continuous improvement, I challenge people not only to talk about how their industry is improving, but how are they improving their approach to things and their attitude towards their industry."
He is a huge advocate of Lean Six Sigma and is often asked if it's an old methodology. People are now talking about Agile as the new methodology as well as design thinking and robotic process automation (RPA).
The challenge is a lot of people are not ready, willing or able to explain how these methodologies complement one another. “The funny thing is, they’re not wrong but they’re not right either because all of these are complementary methodologies,” he added.
Recorded at SSOW in Canada, tune in as Rebeiro gives tips on continuous improvement.
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(The following is an automated and unedited transcript. Please be aware that errors may be present.)
Interviewer: Seth Adler
Guest: Mathieu Rebeiro
Seth Adler: From RBC Insurance, Mathieu Rebeiro joins us. Recorded at SSOW Canada, Mathieu Rebeiro joins us and shares thatas a Six Sigma Black Belt he's often asked, Isn't Lean Six Sigma old or something that's past? He'll be presented with the fact that the new methodology is agile or waterfall or design thinking or RPA. He offers, "It's not wrong to think that way, but it's not right either." All those are complimentary methodologies, and the challenge the executive in question is, are you ready willing and or able to explain how they all complement each other? Rather than find what divides us, Mathieu contends find the commonalities and work together on the job at. He tries very hard to ensure that everyone understands that it's not an either or, it's a conversation.
Welcome to PEX Network on B2BIQ. I'm your host Seth Adler. Download episodes on pexnetwork.com or through our app on iTunes within the iTunes Podcast APP on Google Play or wherever you currently get your podcasts. Mathieu Rebeiro, and so if I read your name right, it looks very confusing. But then if I just say your name Mathieu Rebeiro, how close am I?
Mathieu Rebeiro: Pretty close.
Seth Adler: How would you say it?
Mathieu Rebeiro: I would say Mathieu Rebeiro as well if we were speaking English. If you were speaking to me in French, then I would say Mathieu.
Seth Adler: And then how would you say the last name?
Mathieu Rebeiro: Still Rebeiro. Last name is Portuguese, first name is French Canadian.
Seth Adler: Portuguese, French Canadian, does that mean that you're from Quebec?
Mathieu Rebeiro: Close, I was actually born in Toronto. My mother's from Quebec. My father's Portuguese, but he wasn't born in Portugal.
Seth Adler: He was born in Brazil.
Mathieu Rebeiro: No, but you're getting close.
Seth Adler: Okay, I'm not guessing again.
Mathieu Rebeiro: British Guiana.
Seth Adler: Wow! This I was not expecting.
Mathieu Rebeiro: I didn't think you were.
Seth Adler: Have you been to British Guiana?
Mathieu Rebeiro: I have not.
Seth Adler: He has.
Mathieu Rebeiro: He was born there but hasn't gone back since he left so, imagine a older version of me, the same height, but with a Caribbean accent.
Seth Adler: Okay, I like it.
Mathieu Rebeiro: A lot of people like it to. They get surprised when they hear him talk. They're expecting a Portuguese guy and they get a Caribbean.
Seth Adler: Right, yeah, and all the while he's Canadian.
Mathieu Rebeiro: He's Canadian. Yeah, he's a Canadian citizen. He was though in Guiana until he was in his 20s, and then when the British left he left as well.
Seth Adler: This is unexpected to say the least.
Mathieu Rebeiro: If you want to get even more complicated-
Seth Adler: Let's do it.
Mathieu Rebeiro: I'm actually one quarter French Canadian. The other quarter is Scottish. My grandfather was born in Scotland.
Seth Adler: On your mother's side?
Mathieu Rebeiro: On my mother's side.
Seth Adler: I see.
Mathieu Rebeiro: Both my father's parents were from British Guiana, but on my mother's side has a little bit more flavor in there, so Scottish and French Canadian, which gives me little red hairs in the summertime.
Seth Adler: I don't see them now.
Mathieu Rebeiro: No, when the sun hits my beard you'll see a couple red ones.
Seth Adler: I see, they become apparent.
Mathieu Rebeiro: I don't know how long they'll stay though. Maybe they'll go white soon. I don't know.
Seth Adler: Who knows. Well, you're not that old right?
Mathieu Rebeiro: No, not that old.
Seth Adler: You're not that old at all but, you're a learned man Matt. I saw you present here at Shared Services Canada, SSON Canada if we're going to be I guess formal about It and you know what you're talking about as far as continuous improvement is concerned.
Mathieu Rebeiro: I try. It's a passion of mine, it's not a job. A lot of people, they take their jobs seriously. I take my passion seriously. I'm always looking for ways that I as an individual can continuously improve what I do, how I do it, what I think, how I think and that translates into facilitation, mentorship, both inside and outside of RBCP. So, I'm always looking for ways in terms of how can I help myself, how can I help my team, the broader company that I work for as well as those in the industry that have really given me the career that I have to thank for where I am.
Seth Adler: So, we need to find out why you're like this. Was it your parents that instilled this in you or is this a thing unto yourself that we have, this continual, continuous improvement search?
Mathieu Rebeiro: It's interesting question because when you look at my father, he is retired now. He was a professional accountant, CMA converted CPA and his brother, my uncle in Los Angeles is also retired but used to run a successful engineering firm out there. And so, you might say that I get part of who I am and what I do from my father who's very mathematically inclined you could say, analytical in nature. And then I can tell I definitely have some genes from my uncle in Los Angeles.
He's a very unique individual. Extensive education, brilliant man. Designed a lot of things, and spends his retirement challenging himself with problems. In fact, when he was a child my uncle, he was one of my mentors actually. I speak to him frequently for advice. When he was a child people would ask him, "What do you want to do when you grow up? Do you wan to be an accountant? Do you want to be a doctor?" He says, "I want to fix problems." And people said, "Well, that's not a job," and he said, "I'm going to make that a job." I am going to fix problems for a living.
He started off as a consultant working for big consulting firms across Canada and the US, and then he decided he wants to fix problems at his own company so he started his own company. And so, I think part of that made its way into my genes because when you ask me what I like doing, I like fixing problems to. I don't look at myself as a director or a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt. I look at myself as a problem fixer.
Seth Adler: We should point out that you are a Six Sigma Black Belt. We need to make that distinction.
Mathieu Rebeiro: Yes, it's something that I practice, I preach, I promote. Huge, huge advocate of Lean Six Sigma. I'm often asked isn't Lean Six Sigma something old or last year? That's past, it's not something that we're still talking about now. Those people I challenge them because they talk to me about agile is the new methodology, or it's waterfall, or it is design thinking, or robotic process automation.
The funny thing is, they're not wrong but they're not right either because all of these are complementary methodologies. The challenge a lot of the industry faces is that they're not ready, they're not willing, or they're not really able to explain how these all complement one another. So instead, much like humans naturally do in many circumstances, they find what divides them and argue about it verses find the commonalities and work together on it. And so, I try very hard both in and outside of my organization to ensure everyone really understands that it's not an either or, it's an and conversation.
Seth Adler: Sure, well one of the words is improvement. I'm trying to think of the other word.
Mathieu Rebeiro: Continuous.
Seth Adler: Right yeah, so it's always happening. It will never end right?
Mathieu Rebeiro: Exactly, and continuous improvement is about throwing out the old and bringing in the new. It's about building on what you started. In the spirit of continuous improvement, I challenge people not only to talk about how the industry is improving, but how are they improving their approach to things, their attitude towards things right? Because, they can't always be thinking that this and this new methodology or technology begins. That's not how it works here right? We don't build the car and then throw away the car and then say we're going to start driving buses. We just build better cars right? So why would you throw away Lean Six Sigma when it's working? Why not build upon it?
Seth Adler: And so, saying that that's an old methodology inherently is a flawed conceptual thing, doesn't make sense to say.
Mathieu Rebeiro: No, because if you think back where'd it really come? Some people still tell you there's a Lean, and Lean's all about making things faster, improving the velocity, removing waste and they are lean practitioners. They're great at what they do, but it's not Six Sigma and it doesn't work with Six Sigma and Six Sigma's not good. Then you'll have Six Sigma practitioners that say, "What are these Lean guys doing? They're all talking about speed but, why don't you improve the quality because quality is more important than speed. Because if you speed things up and it's broken, you're just going to make bad things faster."
When I look at that I say, "Both of you are actually again not right and you're not wrong. It's both of it." Lean Six Sigma is a complementary methodology. It wasn't designed that way initially. I mean, Six Sigma had its roots in the USA from Motorola, General Electric, AlliedSignal. Toyota had its roots in the Toyota Production System. Even one of the founders of the Toyota Production System Taiichi Ohno, he didn't even know about the word Lean at the time. He was Japanese, that's an English word.
And so, these things continue to evolve and they will continue to evolve in the spirit of how they were invented in the first place. It was all about continuous improvement back then, it still is now. And so this whole Lean Six Sigma, it's not new and it's not old. It's roots really started in the 1980s and that was in manufacturing. Some people haven't let go of the whole concept that Lean Six Sigma is manufacturing and as we crossed over into the late 90s early 2000s, it really penetrated the service industry.
And once it did penetrate the service industry, it took a little bit of while ... I'm sorry, it took a little while for service organizations to catch on and say, "Hey, can we really translate manufacturing concepts into a service industry?" Once they figured it out and they realized the savings from ... I gave an example earlier today in the conference about Amazon.
Seth Adler: Yeah, I was going to say the Jeffs.
Mathieu Rebeiro: Yeah the Jeffs, the two Jeffs. Everyone knows the one Jeff the founder, but the other Jeff is in the background, the shadows. And people on talk about the other Jeff a lot, it's Jeff Wilkes. A lot of you don't even know he exists.
Seth Adler: Well now they do because he's got a big job title, but they don't know that that same guy was there in 1999.
Mathieu Rebeiro: Exactly, and a lot of people don't know ... and he doesn't talk about it publicly from what I've seen as well, that he's a Black Belt. He is a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt. He came from some of the founding companies and the reason he came on board to Amazon, the reason was because the founder Jeff knew he was a Black Belt and he was a very intelligent guy. And so he said, "Hey this guy smart, and he's a Black Belt."
The founder said to Jeff Wilkes, "I want you to teach me this Black Belt stuff. I want to learn from you to know how to transform my business." Fast forward 18, years we've gone from a company that had a low stock price of $5, $6 in change and now is close to $1,000. That didn't happen accidentally. They call it operational excellence, that's their brand. If I call it process excellence, if I call it operational excellence, if I call it continuous improvement, we're all saying the same thing because ...
And I understand it, I get it, I appreciate it. I do it as well within my team. My team is called process excellence, and the reason why we have all these different names is not to confuse people. It's because not everyone necessarily gets or wants to get Lean Six Sigma. That sounds technical, so although we practice it, we use it, we believe in it, we rebrand it to make it easily digestible for the people that we work with and we want to promote it to.
Seth Adler: Yeah, bringing up the two Jeffs, I feel like we've got to bring up the other guy who you had video of and ... I don't know if you purposely did this but, you included him introducing himself in the video that you showed. This is a guy that said what his name was. Said his full first name, his middle name, and his last name and he said, "But Steve Jobs is fine." Meaning, this was Steve Jobs before Steve Jobs right?
Mathieu Rebeiro: Exactly.
Seth Adler: Why did you include the video in your session?
Mathieu Rebeiro: I included that video because a lot of people, and I just mentioned this a few minutes ago to, they think Lean Six Sigma is old, outdated, or not applicable in their industry. Steve Jobs didn't invent the MP3 player. He didn't invent the cell phone right? Why is he so popular?
Seth Adler: He would he would tell you that he didn't even.
Mathieu Rebeiro: Exactly, quite humble guy.
Seth Adler: Well no, I wouldn't say that.
Mathieu Rebeiro: About something right?
Seth Adler: Yeah, exactly.
Mathieu Rebeiro: And so, the reason I included it was because there's a lot of respect, deep respect. Maybe some would say reverence for Apple as a company, as a brand. When you look at Apple as a company, as a brand, people love it. People gravitate towards it. How many people have an iPhone in their pocket? Probably more people than any other phone brand. Little do they realize that the brain behind that, the father behind Apple's success today I think without a doubt is Steve Jobs right?
Seth Adler: Sure, well they know that part.
Mathieu Rebeiro: They know that part, but what they don't know is that back before Steve Jobs was "Steve Jobs" is, he was and right up until his death a firm believer in continuous improvement. Good, better, best, never let it rest so to speak. The reason why I wanted to show that video is, he was very young in that video and he was talking about fundamental concepts of continuous improvement like Kaizen sand and challenging people who say, "That's the way we've always done it."
Seth Adler: Steve Jobs sitting there eyes to camera saying his pet peeve essentially is folks saying to him, "Well, this is the way we've always done it. I refuse to have my company run that way," and we actually have built the company to run the exact opposite way, which is, no one says that.
Mathieu Rebeiro: Exactly, exactly you nailed it. There's a lot of companies who believe that, "If we were successful doing this before, we'll be successful doing this going forward." Those are the kinds of companies whose shareholders are not impressed, whose stock prices are not going up right now. I'm going to pick on these guys because it's not around anymore but Blockbuster, classic example right there. "We've always done it this way. We're going to continue to do things that way." Where are they? I don't know. I don't see Blockbusters around anymore. I see Netflix and is Netflix a company about continuous improvement? I would say so.
Seth Adler: Blockbuster is fascinating, because they were ever present and then gone. They did meet Netflix where they were and for my knowledge< it was about nine or 10 months too late. It was nine or 10 months and ... Let's go back and check, but it was not much more than a year after Netflix launched that Blockbuster came in with a digital offering. But, they hadn't done the groundwork to be what Netflix already was. They had no idea about data analytics or anything. They knew how to rent videos.
At that point they could have bought Netflix perhaps, but they went and tried to compete with Netflix and completely utterly lost. Because, and here's what I'm getting to, essentially they were trying to do something that they didn't know how to do. Like, let's just say you've got these flood processes and you say, "Well, everybody's doing RPA so I should absolutely jump in on RPA right now because I've got these flood processes." It's the wrong way to think. You can't automate a process that is flawed.
Mathieu Rebeiro: Right, and furthermore to Blockbusters, their detriment is, they weren't thinking about disruption. We talk about disruption, it's a hot button buzzword right now, everyone's talking about disruption. Lean Six Sigma in all industries, in all companies right now is very much a disruptive methodology despite what some people may think. It may not be what some of the companies out there are selling are marketing right now but, they're trying to wrap something up in a new bow. Put new wrapping paper on something ...
I mean, even automation like robotic process automation, that's not new this year. That was it new last year. It was called automation before, it didn't stick as well, put robotics in front of it, it sounds edgy. "Oh, it's robotics." They think of an android walking around in the street even though it's not that and they know it's that, it's just the word right?
Seth Adler: It's keystrokes right?
Mathieu Rebeiro: Yeah, so it underscores the power of branding. If I put a pair of shoes on the wall and they're all plain white shoes, they might sell. I put a swoosh on the side of the shoes, the shoe doesn't change except for the swoosh, starts coming right off the shelves because there's a brand people recognize. People see Hollywood movies now talking about robotics. They're hearing about artificial intelligence, which actually isn't here yet by the way despite what some companies are saying. We're getting close to it but, we're not there yet.
Seth Adler: We're not where folks might have you believe we are, but there is cognitive ... I mean Siri and Alexa. I mean, this is every day AI right?
Mathieu Rebeiro: Well, I'd kind of look at those as interactive chat bots.
Seth Adler: That's also fair.
Mathieu Rebeiro: When someone asks me about artificial intelligence I would say, true artificial intelligence is being able to take a machine that can express and respond to emotion, and we're not there yet.
Seth Adler: We are certainly not at the top of our game as far as that's concerned. All right so, obviously this is about the methodology for you. This is about the mind set. We can go ahead and do whatever we want with technology, but it doesn't matter unless we've got the mindset right. When you explained your uncle's background, which kind of sounded like "Well I betcha that's exactly what happened to Matt," when was this kind of epiphany of, this is a passion? Did this creep up on you or was there a moment in time where you said, "You know what, as far as continuous improvement is concerned, this is my passion. I'm 12 and this just happened and this is why." How did this happen to you essentially?
Mathieu Rebeiro: Well it's funny. When I look back in time, I have never been someone that's been satisfied with mediocrity, never.
Seth Adler: Yeah, you and me both.
Mathieu Rebeiro: I recount countless events over the years growing up, and I never liked it that this was how things had to be done because that's what everyone else was doing, or because, this is how we've always done it. I would challenge it. I would challenge it as a child. I would challenge it as a teenager.
Seth Adler: So frustrating for people around you I would imagine.
Mathieu Rebeiro: Oh yes. I think I built somewhat of a reputation, whether that's a good or a bad thing. Whether it's fame or infamy.
Seth Adler: Yeah exactly. "Hey Matt we're going to play tag. Do you want to improve how we do it?"
Mathieu Rebeiro: I wasn't quite there yet at that age but, I think it was, yeah, in my teenage years, I took my first ... I'd been there is a child but, my first kind of, call it mecha or something to Los Angeles to spend the summer with my uncle. My uncle spent the summer ... I actually made a pitch to him before I came down and I said, "If you'll mentor me, I'll work for you and it'll be a bit of a barter system so to speak."
Seth Adler: So I'll work for free for the mentorship is what you're saying?
Mathieu Rebeiro: Yes, yeah.
Seth Adler: Okay, plus he had to pay you.
Mathieu Rebeiro: Yeah. I actually wrote him up a proposal and sent it to him about what I would offer him and the value I'd provide in exchange for his mentorship. Being the person that he is, he was impressed by my interest and by the time I had taken to invest in writing him this letter and pitching to him how I could help him.
Seth Adler: I'm think about my nephew. If my nephew ever came close to the way that I think I'd be like, "Oh my God! This is fantastic."
Mathieu Rebeiro: He was pretty excited, yeah.
Seth Adler: Exactly, he's got another guy.
Mathieu Rebeiro: A protégé right?
Seth Adler: Exactly, exactly.
Mathieu Rebeiro: He put me in charge of reaching out to different mayors in municipalities in California State.
Seth Adler: How old were you?
Mathieu Rebeiro: I was probably between 16 and 18 at the time.
Seth Adler: Not old.
Mathieu Rebeiro: No, no. He said, "You've got one job to do. You have to find out how to reach the ears of all the mayors in California State and convince them to hear a sales presentation from one of my engineers. That's your job."
Seth Adler: That's what you got to do.
Mathieu Rebeiro: "Get through all of the red tape to the mayor, give him some sort of a sales pitch and you come up with your own pitch. But how to get him or her to speak to one of my engineers about the products that we're selling." They were selling municipal asset management solutions at the time. My uncle had actually invented ... This is back before everyone had phones in their hands. He had taken a PalmPilot and what we might look at is like a military grade GPS. It wasn't like that, but it was a GPS device in the PalmPilot and he welded-
Seth Adler: With the big antenna right?
Mathieu Rebeiro: Yeah, yeah pretty big. He welded the two together, so he did some metalworking in his garage, wrote software that connected the units. We're talking about borderline 2000. This technology wasn't really out there the way he had it at the time. And you could pinpoint where a stoplight was. Before, they'd have a paper file they'd say "A stoplight burnt out at the intersection of this," but they didn't know which stoplight. With this software you could pick and say, "It's this stoplight on the northeast corner," and, "It's this bulb and this serial number," and so forth. That was the solution we was selling and I had to convince mayors to want to hear this kind of technical pitch and so-
Seth Adler: By the way, the technology does sound attractive understanding the time that we're talking about.
Mathieu Rebeiro: PalmPilots and GPS working like ... Municipal service workers are now using iPads. He definitely was ahead of his time so much so that it made it harder to sell at the time because a lot of people weren't prepared for that. They weren't even thinking like that at the time I mean, the whole digital transformation people are talking about today didn't exist. I really had to convince I guess is the best way, a lot of secretaries why I should get through the door so to speak over the phone. This is cold calling.
Seth Adler: Right, as a 16 or 18 year old.
Mathieu Rebeiro: Yeah, in that range right now, and convincing them to let me get through to the mayor and set up an appointment for a sales pitch. That was fun, I learned a lot not just through that experience but, through the mentorship of that summertime.
Seth Adler: Sure, did you get through to any mayors?
Mathieu Rebeiro: I did actually quite a few. I got through to quite a few, set up some appointments, so successful.
Seth Adler: You did?
Mathieu Rebeiro: Yeah, quite proud of it to. M uncle was proud of it to because, I would say he was optimistic and supportive. In hindsight, I don't know if he was sure if I could actually pull it off, but he wanted to give me a good challenge which I respected.
Seth Adler: For those who have never cold called, explain the euphoria that you felt when you actually succeeded.
Mathieu Rebeiro: Well, it was a pretty awesome experience. It is extremely difficult. It's hard to cold call to sell a product to someone, let alone get through to a mayor in a mayor's office to sell a product. Their secretaries are very talented at keeping people at bay because they were-
Seth Adler: That's why they're called the gate keepers.
Mathieu Rebeiro: Exactly, so these gatekeepers, they would employ all sorts of tactics to keep people away because everyone was trying to sell something at the time. You'd have different techniques and approaches, and that's really where ... You think about continuous improvement and bringing it back to that, I didn't realize what I was doing in the context of a formal methodology or approach, but I was testing and learning. If something didn't work, I would actually make note of it exactly and try something new.
Eventually I realized some of the easiest solutions were the simplest ones. I didn't introduce myself as Mathieu Rebeiro. I introduced myself as Mathieu. I didn't say I was calling to speak to ... I'm not going to say a real person's name right now right, but Jim Jones, I was calling to speak to Jim. So, "Hi, it's Mathieu or Matt just connecting with Jim." Certain assumptions may have been made that our relationship was more mature than it actually was and that helped get me through the door so, quite an exciting experience when it actually works. When you saw that you know what, tried, tested and yup, we've got it. This new process works and it's the best process out of all these different options tested.
Seth Adler: So, that's basic example of continuous improvement in action. Very basic but, it does say that anybody can do this and so that brings us to Black Belt. What do you as a Black Belt understand that me as a non belt doesn't?
Mathieu Rebeiro: I'd maybe reposition as, what do I understand that you could understand if it was phrased and positioned well. The difference between a good Black Belt honestly bad Black Belt isn't the degree of technical proficiency. It's not if someone has 50 years of experience or two. The test is really, how good can a Black Belt explain Black Belt concepts to someone who has no understanding of Lean Six Sigma, continuous improvement, or let's even put them ... Their only understanding of a Black Belt is that, that's something they did or they were working towards in a karate class years ago.
And so, the difference between say ma and you Seth is, I've dedicated my life into understanding the concepts, the foundations, the tools within Lean Six Sigma so that I can do the technical and then I can put it in easy to digest language. Whether you're an executive or whether you are working in a call center, my job really is to connect the dots for you so you understand how you can get more involved. Whether it is just at an awareness point to say, "Okay, now I understand what Lean Six Sigma is, what continuous improvement is and how I can contribute to a program at my company."
Or even, "How do we embed continuous improvement in my everyday life?" Having that concept, you'll find people are happier. Individuals are happier, employees are happier when the understand and realize that they can make a difference greater than they thought they could just by equipping them with some basic tools and some basic teachings.
Seth Adler: All right, so basic tools basic teachings. Understanding that we have a fair amount of engineers that listen. We even have some master Black Belts that listen, all the way down the Green Belts and then folks that just have not gone on the Six Sigma journey. What would be at least a few of the key learnings that you could decipher for us? Here on the spot, what would be a couple things that you might tell us, that you might share with us?
Mathieu Rebeiro: First and foremost is passion. There's three things that I teach my team and those that I mentor that are very simple to understand. I tell them these are the ingredients to being successful in my opinion. Passion, why is passion important? Whether you have a PhD or you're a high school drop out, passionate people time over time will succeed over people who are not passionate. Drive takes you a lot of the way toward success. And so, if someone's not passionate, they're not going to be successful in this type of role say as a Black Belt.
Perseverance, how does that help is the second P? You can be passionate, but you can ... If things get too tough, you might give up and say, "You know, I really love this stuff. I like doing it but, I've got nowhere to go. I've run out of options. I've hit a roadblock." And so, what I encourage people there is, whether you're a Black Belt or whether you're someone who just wants to contribute more to your community, maybe you work with charities, maybe you work in the for profit sector, it doesn't matter.
If you can really appreciate the value of perseverance and pushing through when it's tough, you will see the results. You will reap the benefits rewards. The amount of satisfaction you get out of pushing that just a little farther is just tremendous. I've seen people who are Yellow Belts I'd say. They've gone through between a half day at a two day orientation about it, and they're passionate, and they don't give up. When they get faced with something even as big as let's say, "We can't do something because this piece of legislation prevents us from doing it this. This regulation prevents us from doing it. This a regulator prevents us from doing it."
These people, some of them I've worked with, they don't have years of experience. They don't have Black Belts, but they will go into research, which leads me to the third P, proactiveness. They will proactively go, find out what piece of legislation that is that someone's telling them they can't do it. They will read it having no prior knowledge of that legislation before, find out that they in fact can do it, challenge the person who's the supposed expert and say, "Prove to me I can't do this now."
And so the three Ps I teach people about to be successful as passion, perseverance, and proactiveness. When you have those three things, even if you don't know the technical, I can work with you. I can build you, I can develop you.
Seth Adler: Anybody can work with that person right?
Mathieu Rebeiro: Yes.
Seth Adler: All right, so those of the three and we'll end with these three. I'll give you the three final questions. I'll tell you what they are and then I'll ask you them in order. What has most surprised you at work along the way including working for your uncle? Could've been could happened yesterday. Could be a collective insight. What has most surprised you at work?
What has most surprised in life and on the soundtrack of Matt's life, one track one song that's got to be on there. First things first though, along the way, what's most surprised you at work?
Mathieu Rebeiro: So, what's surprised me most at work over the years? I'd say one memory that's really stayed in my mind over the years was when I was starting off this whole journey, I'd call it a journey. This journey of learning was, back at one of my prior companies, my mentor at the time gave me the opportunity which I'm very thankful for to be part of the first wave of Green Belt training employees. I went through this training successfully and what was so surprising afterwards is, my mentor said to me, "Okay, now it's time to go through Green Belt training a second time."
And I said to her, "Why would I go through it a second time? I've already passed it." To give you an idea, Green Belt training, it's two full weeks of classroom time. It's not like this everywhere, but in my opinion it's how it should be everywhere because it produces the kind of quality. You put the good investment upfront, you'll reap the rewards later on. If you want to give people a Green Belt just for the sake of giving them a Green Belt, then you're selling yourself short. You're not fooling anyone.
But if you really want someone to develop and grow, teach them, really teach them. So, I went through two full weeks Green Belt training off site in Montreal, nonconsecutive. It was morning to evening. You go in class, you get off in the evening and what do you do? You study at your hotel room until you fall asleep and you repeated again for five days straight. So, I did not for my Green Belt training, then I had to write an exam that was proctored by our Human Resource Departments because it was done in-house, but facilitated by some consultants they brought in.
And then I had to complete a project, a real project, a real business. Then I had to actually create a storyboard and defend the project and say, "I actually did this. This is why I did it and how I did it." And after I did all of that, which wasn't a week, a month or two months, it took probably a year or so from my memory. After all of that my mentor said, "Great, now I want you to do Green Belt a second time." And I said, "Why a second time? I just spent all ... Like I said, not a little bit, a lot of time going through this process. Why would I do it a second time?
And she said, "Well, the first time you had the knowledge and the experience of the people who are facilitating to you. That was what was transferred into your head. But, each person has different life lessons. Each person has a different background, a different perspective on things." She said to me, "I bet you that when you go through it a second time, you're going to learn new things that you didn't learn the first time and that's going to make you a stronger Green Belt." I can honestly say at the time, I was hesitant to believe her. But given that she had invested so much time in helping me to develop to Green Belt role I said, "Although I'm not sold, I'll trust you and I'll do it again a second time."
And fast forwarding, I did it a second time. I did it a third time. I did it a fourth time, and every time I did Green Belt certification, I learned something new. Big surprise for me right?
Seth Adler: Even though you're supposed to be a Green Belt and you're still learning new stuff, second time, third time, fourth time-
Mathieu Rebeiro: Because, each time it was with a different company. Facilitated different medium. Three of them were done in person, one of them was done online. Each of them had their pros and cons to it. At that point, I realized what this was really all about, is that you are never perfect. You are never there or where you want to be. It is continuous, not a destination and that applies first and foremost with yourself.
People who don't get that, they're still struggling today because they're thinking, "How do I get to be a continuous improvement specialist or a continuous improvement company?" And then high five and say, "Okay I'm there. I know everything. I don't need to hear anything from anyone else."
It was at that moment when I finished the fourth when I said, "Okay, I get it." I've gone through the motions. It was exhausting, it was tiring, but I came out stronger at the end of it. And I came out with such resolve that I said to myself, "This is what I want to do with my life." This is a way that enables me to be that problem fixer we talked about at the beginning. I can fix problems for a living. I can help people with their problems in the for profit sector, the non for profit, in my personal life. I can fix problems and this helps me be a better problem fixer.
It was that kind of moment it was a defining moment in my career where I said, "I get it now. I get it." It's not about making other people continuously improve and talking about all the ways that they can improve but I'm perfect. It's about, how can I improve? What can I learn not just to the Green Belt classes but, every interaction I have with someone, every process I touch, every team I work with, what can they teach me just as much as what can I teach them? Sharing.
Seth Adler: It's fascinating, and that is what you would hope each of us humans knows and I don't know how many do.
Mathieu Rebeiro: That message really does transcend Lean Six Sigma there. It is true and I firmly believe in it that if we start working more together ... We're touching on not just corporate issues but world issues here. If we focus more on how we can help each other, everyone will be more successful.
Seth Adler: Certainly. What has most surprised you in life?
Mathieu Rebeiro: What has most surprised me in life? I would say in my life, the thing that was most surprising to me was, I'll be honest. I'll be quite open right now. There is times in my life where I thought sometimes people were right when they told me I couldn't do something. I cannot count the number of times in my personal life where somebody told me that, "You can't do this. It's not possible. That's not the way the world works. That's not the way corporate culture works. That's not the way families work. That's not the way ..." You pick it and someone will have tried to convince me that I can't do something.
What I learned about myself as I've reflected over the years is, I always knew deep down that if I put my mind to something I could do it. But there were so many people out there that told me I couldn't do something, there were times where for a moment, I believed them. Sometimes for a longer moment than I would have liked to and it was discouraging. There were times where I thought honestly of giving up on something, giving up on something career related, giving up on something academically, giving up on something in my personal life.
There are more people out there that want to pull you down than bring you up and so in my personal life really what was my greatest lesson or learning is to trust myself. Believe in myself. And what I've done over the years is, I've taken ... When somebody tells me that I can't do something or that other people can't do something, because it's not just for myself. I believe in other people as well. And so when people tell me about limitations, and that's where they go to first. That's where they focus on. What can't be done, why it can't be done, how it can be done. I take that energy that they're pushing on to me and I use it as fuel.
So the more you tell me that something can't be done, or that people can't change, or that organizations can't grow, the more I want to do it and the more drive I have. So although they feel like, they might feel like, or ... Let me rephrase. Although these people might think like they're kicking me down, they're actually knocking me forward and the more kicks that happen, the faster I go.
I've learned to kind of harness that energy now and I thrive on it. That's really what gets me up in the morning. I look forward to someone telling me why I can't do it and how I can't do it. I say, "Please, give me a list. Give me 100 reasons. How about 200. Let's go through all the ways it can't be done, great. Now let me work with you to show you how it can and you're going to be the one that's going to be the breaking point, the turning point. You're going to be the one, not me that realizes that it can be done."
Seth Adler: You mentioned that I believe in your session even, that the detractors become some of your best kind of proponents.
Mathieu Rebeiro: Absolutely, that was one of the topics where I said, don't get the demotivated or discouraged by someone that says it can't be done because when you ask them why it can't be done and to list all the reasons and explore those reasons, what they're really telling you is, "Yes it can be done if you overcome these obstacles." So, you should be giving them a high five. You should be thanking them. You should be rewarding that person. They'll be very surprised, which is quite a funny moment to and they'll say, "Why are you thanking me? I told you you couldn't do this."
Seth Adler: You just gave me the list of things that I have to do to get it done.
Mathieu Rebeiro: Exactly, and the person usually has a look of bewilderment and they go, "Hold on a second, what's happening here? This has never happened before." People usually walk away and they go, "Okay, well I'm not going to work in this space anymore and I go, "No, no. Thank you, I really appreciate it. Now we can do this together." Then they go, "We? I thought it was you." And I say, "No it's your business. It's your team. You've taken the time to outline all the ways that once we address, then we can move forward so thank you and together we'll walk forward."
Seth Adler: They think they're kicking me down when really they're pushing me forward.
Mathieu Rebeiro: Exactly.
Seth Adler: Matt, that's pretty good stuff. On the soundtrack of your life. One track, one song that's got to be on their.
Mathieu Rebeiro: One track, one song. Does it have to be just one track, one song?
Seth Adler: No, have at it. Do what you're going to do with the question.
Mathieu Rebeiro: You know what, I would say ... That's a tough one. I like music a lot. I like music a lot. One of the tracks I played today actually that you noticed it was drumming, but it wasn't just drumming. It was actually what's called, I might mispronounce this right now because it's a Japanese word, but I went to see the Wadaiko Yamato drummers of Japan in concert a few years back.
These men hold these massive drum sticks and these massive drums, and I find it moving is the first word that comes to mind. It makes me want to get up and do something positive. It's energizing. It's almost epic because you can imagine ... Some of these drums Seth, they're not two or three foot in diameter. Some of these dramas can be like six, eight, 10 feet tall. These guys are coordinated, they're passionate.
I looked at that and I said, "I want some of that energy. I need some of that energy. Actually, I have a CD at home too that I listen to and it's all drumming tracks. But not your typical rock drums, it's Japanese drums and I guess the irony is, what I do for a living is inspired by a lot of Japanese thinkers. So, not only are they good in the corporate world, but think they're also good musically.
Seth Adler: Sure, absolutely. Not out of food either right?
Mathieu Rebeiro: Yeah.
Seth Adler: Now, I will take the chance because you brought it up and I told you I wanted to bring this up. I see a lot of sessions at conferences. I loved ... You started your session and you pressed play on the drumming that you just mentioned. It's just playing and you flipped to the second slide, and everybody assumes that the drumming is leading somewhere. You almost understood the room enough emotionally where we were all asking you, "Where's the drumming going Matt?"
No one said a word, but he kind of did a double take and you said, "Oh yeah, the music is just to keep you engaged." You literally said out loud, "No, I'm just doing this. It's the first session of the morning, this is just to make sure that everyone's playing attention." I loved it.
Mathieu Rebeiro: It's a good pace right?
Seth Adler: It really is.
Mathieu Rebeiro: You know, march to the beat of the drum.
Seth Adler: Absolutely, but when ... You were just so explicit with the fact that I'm making you pay attention. When did you conceive of this as a tool for giving a session?
Mathieu Rebeiro: I'll be honest with you. I'm often asked about prep for large presentations, conferences, and how I prepare for them. And I don't consider myself let's say, an artistic person let's say, but I don't like to over-plan. I find it's better to, in the spirit of kind of working with people is, feed off the people around you and cater to the people around you.
And so, at this conference at SSON here, I like to survey the room. To be honest, I did a little homework ahead of time to get an idea in terms of who is coming to the conference? What were their backgrounds? What might be their likes or dislikes? I can't help it, I can't turn my brain off. What do their demographics look like? Are they male or female? Are they working in manufacturing or service? What's their proximate age? What kind of experience do they have? What kind of music might they like or dislike? What kind of content might they like or dislike?
I want to find something ... It's challenging given all the diverse kind of backgrounds of those in the audience. You want something that's universal that's going to appeal to people. And so, some things are planned in advance and I usually carry a number of items in my proverbial pocket so to speak. That was one of them. I said to myself, "I'm going to bring a mini kind of speaker, subwoofer. I'm going to check the room, and if they [inaudible 00:47:48] a little bit," you know, still tired in the morning, still waking up, first session of the day.
It's a conference. I mean, we're in a conference room. We've got a projector screen, somewhat dim lighting. It's not the most get up and run. It's not exactly a Tony Robbins, three day session where people are cheering and have their hands up in the morning saying, "I'm here to talk about continuous improvement." It's exciting don't get me wrong. I think it's exciting, but I don't expect everyone to have the same enthusiasm first thing in the morning at nine thirty.
You never met me and maybe even never come across as content before. Not really knowing what to expect so I said ... I was on my drive here in the morning and I said, "Today feels like a drumming day. I think people need to get some drums, get their hearts beating, get worked up." I considered a few different tracks and I said, "You know what, this one's going to be the most appropriate," because to your point Seth, when people hear drums, there is this, I think it goes back not just within our own lifespan. It's almost in our DNA. Drums-
Seth Adler: Guttural, anticipatory.
Mathieu Rebeiro: For hundreds of years, people of associated drums, especially increasing in volume, with something is about to happen.
Seth Adler: Absolutely.
Mathieu Rebeiro: And so the underlying message was still there somewhat that, yes something was going to happen. I was hoping people would walk away with even if it was an ounce more curiosity and interest than they did before they heard me speak or got to that space. I said, "I want people to think something's coming and I want their attention," to be honest to. And so what better way ... I could have played Beyonce, but I figured, drums is going to make people think. They're going to hear the drumming go, "Something's coming, something's coming, something's coming."
Seth Adler: It's almost when you admitted that this whole drumming thing was to make you pay attention, that's when everyone kind of calmed down and did. You had them paying attention once you admitted like, "Okay, the drumming thing, yeah, that was to make you pay attention." And then you kept it on for a few more minutes and then you just pressed stop and everybody was with you. It was great. It was amazing.
Mathieu Rebeiro: That part to was key because it was at the beginning when I was talking about all the reasons why people tell me continuous improvement doesn't work and Lean Six Sigma doesn't work. And so I said, "Of all the times you're going to pay attention, you need to pay attention right now," because this is the stuff even if you're not saying it, you're either thinking it or you've heard people say it you. I want you to process this information right now and go, "Yeah, okay I get it. Yeah, yeah, where is he going with this? It seems like he's shutting down his presentation." Good, now that we've gone and aired out all that dirty laundry, I acknowledge that's out there right. Great now, let's talk about how it actually works.
Seth Adler: Yeah, here's some Drucker.
Mathieu Rebeiro: Yes.
Seth Adler: That type of thing. They think they're kicking me down, but really they're pushing me forward.
Mathieu Rebeiro: Exactly.
Seth Adler: And there you have Mathieu Rebeiro. Continuous improvement isn't about throwing out the old and bringing in the new, it's about building what you started and although they may think they're kicking me down, they're knocking me forward. Appreciate it talking to Mathieu Rebeiro. Appreciate you listening. Stay tuned.