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How to address Preparation stage of Lean change – #4 in SFMI #Lean series

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This article is #4 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 intended to write about. Please read it first.

#2 in series addressed the precontemplation stage of change.

#3 in series help reinforce the contemplation stage.

This article deals with the next stage of change: that of Contemplation.

Background on preparation

Following the preceding stages of change, if you’re reading this, it would mean that your CEO is now ready to change himself. Indeed, I remind the occasional reader that the beginning of this series was about having the CEO realize that he was the first person that needed to change. Most CEO know their organization need to change to implement Lean, but they usually don’t expect to change themselves. Yet, if they continue to do what they’ve always done, they’ll get what they always had.

So, the most critical part before being allowed to the preparation stage is that the CEO expressed Commitment to change talk, following MI questions aiming at raising DARN talk (Desire, Ability, Reasons and Need). That was the purpose of articles #2 and #3.

So, the CEO being now committed to change himself, the most important tasks during this stage for the MI coach are to:

  • build confidence in the change to come
  • talk about timing of change
  • present information, options and advice

All the while

  • resisting the urge to push by staying at the client’s place (or pace)

Lean role of CEO

This stage of change differs from preceding ones in that the CEO is expected to build an action plan for the change. There are two possibilities with that:

  1. either he knows how to “behave Lean”
  2. or he doesn’t

I have two responses to these situations, non exclusives and not related specifically to #1 or #2:

  • comfort him that he knows how to do it
  • teach him what he doesn’t know…

With that second point, it’s important to notice we’re still trying to avoid raising his resistance to the change, so any advice or teaching need either:

  • be formally requested by him
  • or gently introduced and asked for permission to tell before telling: “I know a way to achieve that. Would you like me to present it?” It’s also important to note that we’re not behaving as having a definitive knowledge or advice: we want the CEO to adapt what we say to his specific organization and make it his own.

It is now important to recall that Lean is mostly about empowering collaborators to spot problems and imagine solutions that they implement, measure and generalize (standardize in Lean terms) where appropriate, with maximum colleague implications. This is basic PDCA and scientific method.

We certainly don’t want the CEO to solve problems on behalf of employees, for that would prevent them from learning (and he doesn’t have time for that anyway).

The role of a Lean CEO is to coach, on the gemba, his middle managers into coaching, on the gemba, their employees into the scientific method (PDCA) in order to move current processes to a vision of one-piece-flow.

The purpose of this article is not to detail how to do that (they are shelves full of literature on that topic). Suffice it to say that, for instance, D. Jones and J. Womack approach is useful to keep in mind:

  1. identify value
  2. identify value-stream
  3. create flow
  4. pull
  5. aim for perfection

And the two tactics to get there are:

  1. just-in-time
  2. and jidoka (autonomation or automation with a human touch)

This is the strategy the CEO need to have in mind, down to employees and through middle management as well. Always, all the time. This is summed up as 1) continuous improvement with 2) respect for people.

Preparation

So, the main strategy of the coach will be to help the CEO identify what behavior he needs to adopt in order for his people (middle management) to do what he wants them to do in order to do Lean. The what are: continuously, improve, respect and people. The how is what works for the CEO. So, most of the following questions are Solution Focused oriented on purpose.

With this in mind, here are some tentative questions, MI-style, to ask a CEO preparing his own change for some more Lean behaviors (be reminded that it’s always possible to mentor the CEO into Lean knowledge, provided he asks for it or gives you permission to do so – what we want is genuine interest in continuous improvement: Lean tools are only shortcuts to be used where, when and if people want to use them):

  • recalling preceding transformations/projects you managed successfully, what worked well in terms of your own behaviors for having them move on?
  • how do these compare to your current management practices?
  • what first steps would you see yourself doing first? Can you make these smaller? And even smaller? And, of these last ones, what even smaller step could you start doing right now?
  • what other behavior will you start doing tomorrow? What else? 
  • what else?
  • what will you see improve as a result? What else?
  • what is the place in your organization where continuous improvement would benefit more as a starter? What’s been your behavior toward it recently? How would you go about changing it? How will you measure results?
  • suppose a miracle open overnight (without you knowing it since you were sleeping) and all middle-management would adopt Lean behaviors. How would you know in the morning that things have changed? What would you notice first? What would you do to support it?
  • on a scale from 1 to 10, how would you rate your current management practices regarding continuous improvement? Why not a lesser number? What are you doing that makes you give this score? What else?
  • on a scale from 1 to 10, how important is it for you to change your own behavior? Why not a lower number? What else?
  • on a scale from 1 to 10, how ready are you to starting implementing your new behaviors? Why not a lower number? What else?

Should you have comments on these questions, or other suggestions, feel free to leave a message below!

Stay tuned for #5 episode that will be about the Action phase.

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