Here’s an interesting one from Michael Ballé’s Gemba Coach Column.
Readers of this blog know I’m a big fan of Michael’s thinking. He’s one of the best sensei one can imagine.
Yet, he’s not strength-based in his approach (apart for the “respect for people” which very few seem to understand from him). This latestest column is no different: in trying to make Lean appear positive (as did some other senseis before), Michael stayed in the deficit-based thinking. He’s sticking to the Toyota approach of Lean (which makes wonder wherever it is applied properly, no argument on this) and he explains how looking for, and solving problems can be a positive thing, because it can help people improve their work and achieve a shared purpose to a level that few organizational development initiatives might bring.
Yet, I’m not entirely convinced. Lean can be so much more when viewed from a strength-based perspective.
First of all, problems can be seen as an opportunity of asking oneself when has the problem been less present (if not just totally absent). This is true positive thinking without the need for reframing the situation. In a true positive deviance, one can meditate on the saying that “in any malfunctioning system, something does work properly”. We just have to ask to start searching for, and finding it.
Second, one can put more emphasis on what people would like their system, organisation or process to be. Sure enough, problems happen, meaning, things won’t turn out like we would like them to be. Yet, by accepting this (just like what Michael advocates for), we can just let go of perfection and “make lemonade when life brings us lemons”. If it can be done with problems (solving them when they appear), then why can’t we cease positive opportunities when they happen?
Indeed, I’m still convinced that the PDCA, continuous improvement way to efficiency is the right one to advance. But just like other systems, you can use the loops and feedbacks to run negative or positive paradigms through it (ok, it goes a bit more complicated than this, but I hope you get the point).
So, continue your PDCA and A3 problem solving, but why not next time try to ask about what’s working and what you’re trying to achieve? Why not ask about a time when things worked, at least partially, and what you did that helped make it better? I’m sure you’ll re-discover interesting stuff that you’ll be proud to share with your colleagues, and standardize and teach to others.
But, by building on successes to confirm and reinforce your positive first steps (instead of possibly demotivating problems to solve), you might get more energy to go down the Lean path and more rapidly. Isn’t this an attractive vision to strive for?
Keep us posted on your experiments!