For virtually everyone change means hard work, risk, and the need to learn new ways for unproven benefits. Change is one of the most difficult things for humans to readily accept.  Charles Darwin said, “It is not the strongest species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones who are most responsive to change” which holds true for culture change.

Fortunately, there is a formula that provides insight into how to successfully facilitate change:

L x V x K x AP x A > R = Change


L = Lever: Find a sense of urgency by identifying a crisis in which action is the only choice.  It is necessary to overcome inertia.

V = Vision: How you would like things to be in the future, this is the “True North” thinking.

K = Knowledge: Learn the skills necessary to facilitate the change. Find a change agent.  Understand and disseminate the lean knowledge.

AP = Action Plan: Actions and strategies needed to move the organization toward the vision.  It is important to begin as soon as possible with visible activity.  Often, a great start is to identify and map your value streams.

A = Alignment: Communicate the why and how of the vision to inspire people to want to try to achieve it.  As  you gain momentum you need to expand your scope. Apply strategy deployment (Hoshin Kanri) to facilitate horizontal and vertical alignment.

R = Resistance: People tend to naturally resist change.  Reduce resistance by making the change known, easy, beneficial, and popular.

To ensure successful change all of these elements are needed.  If an element is missing you won’t get change but rather something short of that as shown below:

Lever x Vision x Knowledge x Action Plan x Alignment = Change
Vision x Knowledge x Action Plan x Alignment = Status Quo
Lever x                Knowledge x Action Plan x Alignment = Confusion
Lever x Vision x                         Action Plan x Alignment = Frustration
Lever x Vision x Knowledge x                         Alignment = False Starts
Lever x Vision x Knowledge x Action Plan                        = Resistance

There is no quick solution for creating a lean culture.  Successful initial implementation and ongoing maintenance of process improvements, among other things, requires overcoming the resistance to change.

This post was authored by Tim McMahon, the Founder and Contributor of A Lean Journey Blog.  Tim’s blog site is dedicated to sharing lessons and experiences along the Lean Journey in the Quest for True North. He is a lean practitioner, leading continuous improvement efforts for a high tech manufacturer of fiber optic cables and assemblies. Tim teaches problem solving skills, lean countermeasures, and how to see opportunities for improvement by actively learning, thinking and being engaged.