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How to address precontemplation of Lean change – #2 in SFMI #Lean series

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This article is #2 in a Series about using Solution Focus and Motivational Interviewing to coach CEOs into starting their own Lean journey.

#1 in series gave a broad-brush view of what I intend to write about. Please read it first.

This article deals with the first stage of change: that of Precontemplation.

Background on precontemplation

This stage of change corresponds to a mental state of someone who is not considering change, whether he has not thought about it yet or that he doesn’t feel like he needs to change.

For an MI coach, the most important tasks during this stage are to:

  • build rapport and trust
  • and increase problem awareness to raise a sense of importance to the change

Special note: when considering imposed change (some upper level of management imposing a change for instance), it may be first difficult to work with the client because this kind of situation just triggers resistance. What have been found useful in other contexts is, rather than work directly with the requested change, work on the constraint instead: “I understand you’re not the one that asked for that change. Yet, you now have a new workload to assume, in addition to the other ones you already had. Would it be ok for you if we look at what could be done to alleviate this constraint?”


Back to a Lean starting initiative context, during this stage the CEO may not be aware that what he’s viewing on the gemba reflects his own way of thinking and that of his organizational culture.

Building rapport and increasing problem awareness are the more important tasks of the coach at this stage. But the problem has to be formulated as one of the CEO behavior, not one related to other people in the organization!

With this in mind, here are some tentative question, MI-style, to ask a CEO considering Lean:

  • Why do you want your organization to go Lean?
  • How would it be better if your organization implemented Lean management? What else?
  • How important (from 1 to 10) is it for you to move your organization to Lean management?
  • I understand you want the situation to be changed and your organization to become “leaner”. Tell me about a successful organizational change you have been leading. What made it possible? 
  • How did you manage to lead it to success? 
  • (text below deleted on 2011/09/08 and moved to Contemplation stage)
  • How is your current Lean initiative going? What works? How did you manage to achieve this? 
  • Tell me about your current management practices. What consequences have had your current management behaviour on your Lean initiative? 
  • When comparing your previous change successes to your current Lean initiative, what’s different? 
  • Suppose you did change your management practices, how would that help you? The organization?

What needs to be kept in mind by the Lean coach is that the aim of these questions is to get the CEO moving from precontemplation stage to contemplation at which moment, he will be considering change.

Stay tuned for #3 episode!

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