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How to address Maintenance & Relapse stages of Lean change – #6 (and last) in SFMI #Lean series

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This article is #6 and last 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 was about supporting the preparation stage.

#5 in series dealt with the action stage.

This article deals with the two last stages of change: that of Maintenance and Relapse!

Background on Maintenance and Relapse

During the last episode, we’ve seen how to help the CEO sustain his Action stage mainly by making him reflect on the results he got and on how he planned to continue to improve.

Or course, Lean is a journey, not an end in itself. So there’s no final learning on the part of the CEO. Yet, when it comes to his behavior, there are some new ones that must be put in place and maintained once he found that they worked (meaning they induced continuous improvement initiatives and thriving from the employees). Occasionally, the manager could fall back into relapse. The coach must then know how to help him get back on track to what worked well. Here’s how.

During this stage, the role of the coach is to support the CEO in maintaining his own successful behaviors by:

  • supporting and encouraging the behavior changes already done
  • talking about possible trouble spots and developing plans to manage relapse triggers

Of course, in case of relapse (falling back in command & control mode, telling what to do (giving solutions), forgetting to following-through with improvements, etc.), the coach has a clear role to play as well:

  • addressing the relapse, but without adding to the feeling of shame that could exist
  • assessing and discussing what went wrong and remembering what worked well instead, to reuse that

Maintenance

By now, the CEO should have clearly identified what works for him in modelling Lean behaviors that foster employee thriving and continuous improvement. So, what’s important is that the coach supports him and help him put in place triggers to detect relapse and take action should this occur. I propose some questions below in the Motivational Interviewing and Solution Focus way used in the preceding posts of the series.

  • Things seem to be running almost by themselves now. What are you doing that allows that? What else?
  • How did you manage to get there (show the current successful behaviors) despite the rest of the organization not initially being supportive? [develop his sense of autonomy]
  • What have you learn about yourself? What else? [develop his sense of competence]
  • What do your current behaviors bring to management and to the employees? What pleases them? What else?
  • What are the results from the customers points of view? From the stakeholders?
  • How did you manage to achieve all of these? What else? What else?
  • How do you feel?

Preparing for relapse:

  • Old habits die hard: have you witnessed yourself falling back already? How did you noticed? How did you felt about it? How did you manage to get back on the train? How did you felt then? 
  • What else?
  • What positive effect had your getting back on track with Lean behaviors on the employees? How did they helped/supported you? What else?
  • On a scale from 0 (no confidence) to 10 (totally confident), how do you rate your confidence in maintaining your effective Lean behaviors in the future? How come such a number? Why not a lower number? What strengths do you have that support your maintaining your Lean behaviors? What small step do you see yourself doing tomorrow to start moving to the next level on the scale? What else?

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

Relapse

First of all, it’s important to stress that relapse is unavoidable. It happens, this is normal, and things can be done. During the maintenance dialogues above, some tokens were identified that support the CEO into his Lean behaviors and to get back on track should he had fallen off the train. Still, the CEO may wish to see the coach because some things aren’t going as expected, or the coach may witness some regress during one of the visit.

Motivational Interviewing addresses these situations by digging into the problem and trying to understand it. Since we’re trying to make use of Solution Focus at the same time, we’re introducing a twist here by building again a platform and helping the CEO re-imagine his Future Perfect, then help him identify what works that he can re-use to get back on the Lean train.

Here are some proposal questions:

  • I noticed that some things weren’t as your showed them to me last time. What happened? how do you link the situation to your own behavior?
  • What would you want the situation to be instead? What would that mean for your corresponding behaviors?
  • How did you managed to demonstrate these behaviors in the past? What worked in the past to sustain the behaviors despite the environment?
  • Aide from the current problem, what’s working? What’s giving you hope for the future? How do you manage to sustain these other aspects? How could that help you get back to your preferred future as far as the problem is concerned?
  • On a scale from 0 (inappropriate Lean behavior) to 10 (ideal Lean behavior you’d like to demonstrate with respect to the current relapse), where are you now? What helped you not fall down a lower number?  What else? What small step will you make tomorrow to start moving to N+1? What else?
  • How will you see you’re back on train?

Conclusion

Here we are. In this series of articles I tried to address the necessary change of behavior a CEO should demonstrate to move from his current behaviors (at the source of the current situation of his organization) to Lean behaviors more appropriate for an organization embodying Lean:

  • thriving management and employees,
  • exhilarating service to customers,
  • and delighted stakeholders.

I proposed to introduce the necessary changes by making use of:

  • Motivational Interviewing: a way to dialogue with someone to as to make him or her move through some stages of change without any raising of habitual “change resistance”. This is done by raising awareness in the coachee that he is autonomous in his decision to change or not, he is indeed competent in doing the change and by installing a sense of relatedness between the coach and the coachee where the coach models prosocial behaviors and embodies a posture (behaviors) that can be replicated by the CEO toward his employees. Five strategies are used for that purpose: 1) expressing empathy, 2) developing discrepancy between what the CEO wants and where he is, 3) avoiding any argumentation and 4) rolling with resistance and finally 5) supporting self-efficacy of the CEO.
  • Solution Focus: a change approach that builds a platform out of a problematic situation, based on what works nonetheless. Then the coachees is encouraged to envision a Preferred Future. Then, the coach helps the coachee identify tokens that support his already working behaviors and the smallest possible steps that could be taken immediately to improve the situation toward the vision.

I hope I have been clear enough in my description of this endeavor. Any experiment you might make with this proposed approach, I’d be delighted to know what happened and what worked. Feel free to contact me by leaving a comment below or through any of my social entry points at my Google Profile.

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