Posts Tagged change management

Guest Post: Creating Gravity for Transformation

A few weeks back, I had the privilege of attending the 2-day Shingo Prize workshop on the Principles of Operational Excellence.  The experience was nothing short of mind-blowing, as I developed a far deeper understanding of Lean and why it works, not just what works.  In other words, my understanding grew from something based on an understanding of Lean’s tools to something based more on Lean’s philosophy.

As I reflected on my own experience as a student of Lean (and what I will now refer to as Operational Excellence!), I began to think of how to relate my understanding of these concepts to others.  To my mind, the critical element in Lean transformation is the organic development of leadership based on experience and ability to mentor.  For this to happen, traditional hierarchies where managers use positional authority to push their influence onto others need to be replaced.  Simply put, leaders who encourage the use of knowledge and experience to coach others and approach their work with a commitment to “know-why” being of greater value than “know-how” will generate an influential, gravitational pull towards transformation.

Several months ago, I stumbled across John Husband’s site dedicated to the concept of wirearchy.  According to him,

A major shift in the ways activities are planned and managed is occurring in many spheres of human activity, from command-and-control to coordinate-and-channel. When customers have more power and employees want to communicate and be heard, the dynamics have to change.

A new organizing principle is emerging, called Wirearchy.  The working definition of wirearchy is:

A dynamic two-way flow of power and authority based on information, knowledge, trust and credibility, enabled by interconnected people and technology

Operational Excellence relies on many of these same concepts, particularly the need to move from “command and control” to “coordinate and channel.”  The “two-way flow of power and authority based on information, trust and credibility” sounds like the very definition of “respect for people” as well.  While Husband’s concept relies heavily on the development of technology to produce non-hierarchical, collaborative teams, I think any community where people become critical “nodes” in an interconnected network as a result of their knowledge, experience, embodiment of an ideal and willingness/ability to teach others (as opposed to authority based strictly on rank and title) fits within the wirearchy concept.  What wirearchy sees technology bringing is something I believe the Operational Excellence would consider an ideal state:  free-flowing and distributed authority based on the relentless pursuit of cultural transformation.

A representation of Wirearchy

I recently came across a presentation from Jeffrey Liker, where he offered ideas based on a PhD dissertation from Robert Kucner.  Kucner models what he calls the organic spreading of Lean culture and values as spirals circling outwards from certain processes, eventually touching upon others to penetrate deeper and deeper in an “inch wide, mile deep” fashion.

In both models, we can see areas where people or processes are forming critical centers of activity that influence those around them.  How do these critical “nodes” at the center of the activity form?  I think the answer has to do with a sort of gravity that develops when organizations, or individuals within organizations, insist on driving change.  This never-ending pursuit of excellence usually starts within smaller sub-units as depicted above, however, sustaining the effort may have more to do with forming a single dense space at the epicenter of the desired behaviors than it does with spreading outwards as quickly as possible.  In other words, leaders may find that sharing knowledge to develop a deeper understanding of operational excellence in a few areas builds more momentum, more easily, than trying to spread the concepts as far and wide as possible.

A depiction of the organic deployment of Lean

If we turn the model on its side, we can more easily see how the nodes collect and gather the loose, swirling mass of ideas and behaviors until they grow deeper and denser, forming a vortex that draws others in with it.  Using this perspective, it is easer to understand why deeper is better than broader.  As multiple objects in the same space grow larger, they eventually grow together, adding energy to the phenomenon.  What this means for transformation is that when smaller organizations within an enterprise appear to be outpacing others, don’t stifle them.  Allow those deeper areas to keep going and growing deeper, eventually creating the gravitational pull that will bring other elements into the vortex.

Across any enterprise, there are organizations and individuals that develop greater depths of Operational Excellence.  While some focus only on utilizing mandated tools, others begin to pursue cultural transformation.  The focus on tools to implement change, however, prevents the strong vortices that generate an ever-deeper understanding of excellence from being formed.  As organizations evolve from a tool-driven understanding of behavior to systemic, cultural and philosophical levels, they begin to develop their own gravity, pulling in other organizations within their reach and eventually determining the behavior of the enterprise as a whole.

How to create this gravity?  As with most things that require behavioral change, constant communication and education are vital.  People at all levels of the organization need to be educated on the principles of Operational Excellence and not just why it works in general, but why it will work here. Just as important as educating people on why it will work, is building the sense of urgency that answers the question, “Why is this necessary right now?”  The more you can provide education and communication on why things are changing, the greater the cooperation and buy-in, the deeper the resulting understanding will become, and the stronger your gravitational pull towards transformation.

This post was authored by David M. Kasprzak, creator of the My Flexible Pencil blog, where he shares his thoughts on improving workplace culture through the use of Lean concepts.  While working as an analyst to develop and analyze program-level cost & schedule metrics for the past 10 years, David has now turned his attention towards understanding the behaviors that create high-performing organizations.  He currently lives near Nashua, NH with his wife and 2 sons. David can be contacted via email at

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Book Review: Leading the Lean Enterprise Transformation

Business travel is a drag. One of the painfully few benefits, if you’re flying (and waiting), is that you can catch up on some reading. Recently, I finished reading George Koenigsaecker’s Leading the Lean Enterprise Transformation, published by Productivity Press. In my humble opinion, it’s a future classic…and it’s brief – 162 pages!

This book addresses the number one reason for lean implementation failure – ineffective transformation leadership.

Keonigsaecker is a lean scion. He was there at lean’s first American beachhead – as President of Danaher’s Jake Brake in Bloomfield, CT. All told he has led 10 or so successful lean conversions as president or group president, including that of Hon Industries. He is the real deal as a lean leader and practitioner and, no surprise, as a profoundly committed student. Trust him.

So, what does Koenigsaecker’s book share? Among other things, he discusses:

  • True North metrics. True North metrics – quality improvement, delivery/lead time/flow improvement, cost/productivity improvement, human development provide the enterprise with a handful of  clear and simple measurable outputs that will help drive meaningful results. Koenigsaecker shares that annual double digit improvements within each of these measurement categories is the norm during an effective lean implementation. Targets should be set accordingly.
  • Value stream analysis and kaizen events. Value stream analysis (VSA) establishes much of the roadmap for lean implementation.  The importance of VSA, and its power for identifying waste, necessitates heavy lean leader involvement and linkage to True North metrics.  The resultant value stream improvement plan is comprised largely by high impact kaizen events.
  • Implementation pace and required infrastructure. In order to drive double-digit True North metric performance, the implementation pace must be aggressive and must have sufficient resources to support the transformation. Accordingly, the book explores how to establish the kaizen promotion office, kaizen event effectiveness and lean training for the different levels within the organization.
  • Governance. Lean transformation leadership or, in George’s parlance, “governance” encompasses the application of change management best practices (guiding coalition, communication, dealing with change resistant “antibodies,” etc.) and the rigor of strategy deployment and related monthly checkpoints. In order to establish a cadre of effective lean leaders, Koenigsaecker is a convincing proponent of  the mentored lean immersion of executives and senior managers. This recommended (three month) immersion consists largely of kaizen event participation (VSA, standard work, 3P, administrative, etc.) lean business system training and participation in strategy deployment sessions.
  • Lean culture. Koenigsaecker saves the hardest, most critical and most elusive for last – building a lean culture. He discusses the building blocks of a lean/Toyota culture (serve the customer, seek what’s right…regardless, decide carefully, implement quickly, etc.) and the related action plan for achieving that. The action plan includes giving the leadership team personal experience, introducing daily kaizen (about two years AFTER basic lean training and experience through kaizen events) and challenging the team to build (experiential) knowledge.

Leading the Lean Enterprise Transformation is value-added and a must read for every lean leader. It is especially relevant for those who seek to implement sustainable step-function improvement in an enterprise that does not have fourth generation lean leaders (i.e., Toyota)…and that’s a pretty big population.

Related post: The Post-Value Stream Analysis Hangover, Why Bowling Charts? Trajectory Matters!

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Guest Post: Missing Elements of Change = Bad Formula

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.


Change Leadership – Ignore Best Practices at Your Peril

Too often we forget the basics. And we pay dearly for it.

One of the basics of a successful lean transformation, heck any transformation, is change management. When it comes to stuff like that, I defer to the experts for insight into the “how.”

John P. Kotter, author of Leading Change and A Sense of Urgency and co-author of several other great books, is a change management, or should I say change leadership, expert.  Kotter identifies an eight-stage process for creating major change. There’s obviously a lot to discuss behind each one of the stages, but for now, the list is a great start.

  1. Establishing a sense of urgency,
  2. Creating a guiding coalition,
  3. Developing a vision and strategy,
  4. Communicating the change vision,
  5. Empowering broad-based action,
  6. Generating short-term wins,
  7. Consolidating gains and producing more change, and
  8. Anchoring new approaches in the culture.

It’s great stuff and hard to argue against any of it, in total or at the elemental level.  But, lean leaders routinely fail (I’m guilty) to follow this game plan (or other proven change management game plans by folks like Daryl R. Conner). I believe that there are a handful of reasons for this lack of adherence, including:

  • Degree of difficulty (and/or leadership impatience). Change is hard (one of my better statements of the obvious). Applying the rigor of a proven multi-step process, in the short-term, just seems to make it harder and delays getting into the action of changing processes, value streams. organization structures, etc.  Q: Isn’t there a short-cut? A: Not if you want to be successful.
  • Lack of humility. This can be translated as, “I know what I’m doing…I don’t need no stinkin’ process.” Of course, you never actually hear people say that, they just act that way.
  • Drift. At the launch of any sort of transformation, everything is shiny and new – full of hope…and I dare say, the promise of change. But, shortly after the launch, things can get very messy.  Even if an organization applies best practices to optimize the chance of success from the perspective of learning and leverage while managing technical and human resource related risks, there will be no shortage of  problems. Amidst the fog of issues and challenges, it is very easy to lose one’s change leadership bearings. Urgency can make leaders “forget” or procrastinate when it comes to living the basics of change leadership.

So, what to do? Study what the masters of change leadership teach relative to strategy and technology.  Apply the rigor and build it into the overall implementation plan relative to timing, level of effort and ownership  (for example, provide yourself and your team with the requisite time to develop a vision and strategy). Religiously conduct frequent formal and informal PDCA checkpoints to keep yourself on track and to identify necessary adjustments. Use an external coach to keep everyone honest.

Change leadership is hard enough. Don’t handicap yourself and your organization by ignoring best practices.

Related posts: The War Room – More than an Interior Decorating Statement, The Post-Value Stream Analysis Hangover


Model Lines – Federal Government Take Note

model line picModel lines (a.k.a. pilot) are a proven method to initiate a lean launch. The model, typically one specific “line” or value stream within a single facility or operation, provides a small, focused and controlled playground for implementing lean. The pilot represents a low risk venue within which lean leaders can experiment, learn and (hopefully) successfully build a much leaner line or value stream. The effort  also provides valuable opportunities for showcasing what lean “looks” and “feels” like; an important element in the change management process.

Pilot lessons learned encompass the technical aspects of lean implementation from a tools, systems and deployment perspective, while providing critical insight into the necessary cultural and human resource requirements. The model line’s foundation must be built upon lean leader alignment and effective change management as well as a rigorously developed value stream improvement plan. Of course,  prudent pilot selection is absolutely essential. Selection criteria must include the potential impact of the pilot, strength of pilot leadership and implementation degree of difficulty (technical and cultural).

Once the model line has demonstrated elevated performance through the appropriate application of lean, then (after a formal checkpoint process) the organization will typically move to an initial deployment phase. Within this phase, the organization seeks to replicate the model to another line (same value stream/processes) either in the same facility (if there are multiple ones) or another facility. Here the organization applies the lessons learned from the pilot and begins to learn new ones relative to technical scalability and human resources issues (you can’t stack the team with your best players once you start having more than one team) while verifying the business impact.

Ultimately, after any related issues (and there will be plenty) have been successfully addressed, initial deployment transitions into full scale deployment. Full scale deployment expands the model to all lines/identical value streams throughout the organization. Here the company should enjoy the full business impact of what was tested out in the model line and have an excellent technical and cultural foundation for further lean deployment throughout other portions of the business.

Model lines are a thoughtful and measured method to deploy lean, or virtually any system for that matter. Perhaps the purveyors of health care reform should have made use of the concept…in fact, Massachusetts may be a pilot that offers some profound lessons learned.

What do you think?

Related post: Value (Stream) Delivery – What about the family?

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The Human Side of the Kaizen Event – Part II

human side pic 3Last week, Defense Industry Daily posted the first half of an article authored by yours truly and Chuck Wolfe. Well, the second half of “Want an Effective Kaizen Event? Don’t Forget the Human Side!” is now posted. Actually, the whole article is now posted.

Among other things, part two introduces the Transformation Leadership Model. This model, covered in chapter three of the Kaizen Event Fieldbook, explores the two-pronged leadership approach to lean transformation – one technical and the other more behavioral in nature. Both need to work in concert and both are founded upon humility and respect for the individual.

I think it’s good stuff. Please check it out and let me know what you think. Click here if you missed my post on the first half of the article.

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Sensei Facilitation Style – Scary or human?

dentist picI recently facilitated a five team, week long kaizen event. The teams made some very significant improvements (more kaikaku than kaizen). There was one team that I was especially concerned about from the very beginning – their scope was fairly expansive, the challenges not trivial by any means and the team members not exactly lean experts. So, I stayed on them quite a bit, coaching, cajoling, poking and prodding.

In the end, the team on the “watch list” implemented a number of great improvement ideas and transformed the target process from the perspective of flow, visual and capacity management, standard work and leader standard work. Frankly, I think they surprised themselves! They definitely progressed in lean understanding, kaizen, change management and confidence…all necessary things if you’re trying to create and sustain a lean culture.

After the report out, the team leader likened me to a dentist, “We hate [the experience] until the tooth is fixed and then it’s not so bad.” Not something I wish to put on my tombstone, but I’ll take it. I consider myself typically a “Cho-san style” facilitator.  Bob Emiliani, in his book Better Thinking, Better Results, differentiates between two basic facilitation styles. One being the “suzumura style,” ostensibly named after a zealous disciple of Taiichi Ohno, Kiko Suzumura and meaning “scary style.” Suzumura style is characterized by “strict, demanding, short-tempered, insulting and demeaning” behavior.  Cho style, after Fujio Cho, now Chairman of Toyota Motor Company, while still demanding, incorporates and even temper, respect, humility benevolence, and humor.  Of course, depending upon the predominant culture, resistance to change and size of the performance gaps, sometimes one style is more appropriate than the other.

So, what’s your experience with facilitation styles? What have you found to be the most effective?

Other relevant posts: Stretch, Don’t Break – 5 ways to grow your people, The Human Side of the Kaizen Event – 11 Questions for Lean Leaders

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Stretch, Don’t Break – 5 ways to grow your people

stretch armstrong pic Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the renowned Hungarian psychology professor is noted for, among other things, his research on work and flow (continuous flow from the perspective of the worker being completely absorbed in a task and within a state of intrinsic motivation – “being in the groove”). He addresses the dynamic between the level of skill and challenge. For example, if an employee’s skill level is high for a task in which the challenge is low, there’s a real risk of boredom. If the challenge is very high and the skill level is low, then we end up in the realm of anxiety – usually not very productive!

So, one test for lean leaders is how to match the skill or readiness with a given challenge. How do we stretch the employee, so that they learn and grow…without breaking them? In other words, how can we effectively straddle the zone of anxiety and the zone of boredom or frustration?

There’s at least five things that the lean leader can do:

  1. Provide the employees with an understanding of the challenge. Think change management basics – proof of the need, vision, strategy, impact on them, etc.
  2. Train and coach the employees in order to increase their skill level and readiness. In Lean, there are new ways of thinking, a new language and a host of tools, systems and principles. A large part of an effective lean leader’s job is to humbly deliver teaching. And, by the way, we can’t expect people to become experts right away. Frankly, most everyone does not have to become an expert, but they need basic competency.
  3. Provide a safe, but appropriately challenging forum to apply the new skills. Kaizen events are a great real life place to learn the art and science of continuous improvement. I often tell kaizen team members that the greatest skill that they can bring to a kaizen event is common sense and a passion for improvement and that we will learn together. No use wigging out.
  4. Make people think. Don’t give people the answers. Help guide and challenge them to apply PDCA thinking – to become experimentalists. This means that people will often fail. Lean leaders must see these failures as learning opportunities.
  5. Apply emotional intelligence.  Lean leaders must be attuned to the emotions of their employees.  Using something like Chuck Wolfe’s Emotion Roadmap, they can identify the current feelings (i.e., anxiety), understand the gap between them and the ideal feelings (i.e., enthusiasm) and then work to close the gap.

So, what do you think? What are some of your strategies for effectively stretching people?

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