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How to address Action stage of Lean change – #5 in SFMI #Lean series

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This article is #5 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 helped reinforce the contemplation stage.

#4 in series is for supporting the preparation stage.

This article deals with the next stage of change: that of Action!

Background on Action

In the preceding stages of change, you first developed an understanding in the CEO’s mind that someone had to change and that it was him. Then you helped him (or her!) prepare for the change (see previous article on preparation). Now, the change is ongoing and you need to support the CEO during the Action stage of change.

During this stage, the role of the coach is to support the CEO in achieving whatever goal he set for him or herself by:

  • offering planning assistance
  • supporting and encouraging his or her efforts to change
  • helping to develop reachable goals and monitoring progress

And without forgetting the next stage:

  • helping develop plans to maintain the new behaviors over time


In the previous stage (preparation), the CEO developed a plan to embody new behaviors aimed at sustaining continuous improvement (kaizen) from the organization’s employees. This is what needs to be supported during the current stage.

Contrary to previous stages where things didn’t move yet, there should be some results by now and your purpose will be to identify and amplify them. Coming back to the OSKAR coaching framework of Solution Focus (here on SF Work or here on AI Commons), I propose some questions below.

Concerning the current action plan:

  • What have you done/changed (in your own behavior)? 
  • How did you manage to achieve it?
  • What have you noticed is better in your organization as a result of your own changes, with respect to moving your organization toward Lean (flow, stop at defects, empowerment, respect for people, etc.)?
  • What else?
  • What have you discovered that supports you in your own change?
  • What else?
  • What would your employees say you are doing well? Maybe: What have they already noticed and told you? Or: how do you know they know?
  • What else?
  • What, in your organization, do you think will change next? How will you support it?
  • On a scale from 0 (no Lean behavior at all) to 10 (perfect Lean senseï), how do you rate your Lean behaviors up to now?
  • 2011/11/25 update: What is working well already that has given you the confidence to rate it at the rate you gave earlier? What else? (before moving forward into the future, we need to reflect about what is good and useful now. Question courtesy of David Shaked – Thanks!)
  • What behaviors of yours would you need implemented to raise one level up on the scale?
  • How will you know you’ve achieved it?
  • What makes you positive about being able to make that next change? What resources can you tap into to make it happen?
  • What is your next smallest step to do toward that higher level?

Concerning sustaining the changed behaviors in the future:

  • What helped you achieve the changes up to now?
  • What would you like to do to help maintain these changes  (and corresponding results) in the future?
  • What do you see can help you in sustaining the changes?
  • What smallest step can you do right away toward helping sustain the changes?

As usual with Motivational Interviewing, practice OARS: Open-ended questions, Affirm positive talk & behaviors (these are already embedded in the proposed questions above), Reflect what’s said (emphasizing success) and Summarize often.

Note regarding Lean change and Stages of Change

The Stages of Change model is one where there’s a beginning and an end to the change. The last steps of the model deal with the inevitable relapses and plans to prevent or overcome them.

Lean is a journey, not a destination. As a consequence, a Lean manager is always learning and there’s no end to that. So isn’t there any end to the change plan. This needs to be addressed by the coach and the CEO: at some time, the coach will need to assess whether the CEO can be let on his own more often and thus taper off the coaching. As is said in TWI Job Instruction: the coach needs to help until he knows the CEO knows what to do and how to do it.

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

Stay tuned for #6 episode that will be about the Maintenance and Relapse phases.

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