By December 14, 2009 7 Comments Read More →

Guest Post : It’s About People

Today’s guest post is from Ankit Patel, who started his own blog and has been active on Twitter. Welcome to the Lean blogosphere, Ankit.

It’s About People, by Ankit Patel:

Like many of you I first learned lean on the job in a manufacturing setting. Some of us have applied to areas outside manufacturing with pretty good success but there are things where it just seems like it’s not sticking with the people.

So how do you convey the message to your audience? What I’ve seen work pretty well is using the DISC system to communicate to people why it’s so important to make changes.

Just a quick review below is the DISC personality system. Typically people fall into 1 maybe 2 categories as their dominant traits.

First off how do you know what category someone falls into? I’ve used it enough to where you get a feel for someone after about 5-15 minutes of talking with them but you can always find free tests online.

I was once trying to convince a call center in a company that they needed to reduce waste using lean principles. Good news was that lean was being done at the company and there had been some great successes. Bad news was that it had the stigma of being just a “manufacturing thing.” The very first thing I did coming into the call center was to be very direct and very task oriented. I assumed that most were D’s and S’s because in the manufacturing setting that’s usually the people you get.

Without getting into too many details let’s just say it was like pushing a wet noodle on a sticky floor. I decided to step back and review what was going on and saw that my communication style was way off for my audience. Can you guess what profiles dominated my audience? Yup I’s and S’s and some C’s with very few D’s.

What I found that worked best with the people in the call center was to tell them stories about lean and how it helped. I told them about how we had people running themselves ragged fire constantly fighting issues. When we implemented standard work those same folks felt like “the 3000 lb ball they were carrying was lifted off their shoulders.” I told how the team members were happier after lean because they felt like they had a stake in what was being done. I would even bring in some of the manufacturing folks and have them do a testimonial. We had an office worker, a line worker, and a manager but the people were all the I and S profile. Because unlike magnets, with people like attracts like.

Once the initial hump was tackled then we could get down to business with the details, but if it hadn’t been for the shift in communication style we wouldn’t have been able to help the call center as quickly as we did. I’d love to hear some of your stories on how you’ve used different communication styles with different personality types.


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The Lean Way Consulting is led by Managing Partner, Ankit (ahn-kit) Patel. Ankit’s personal vision is to help people, organizations and communities flourish by using the proven thinking and methodology associated with Lean Transformations. With his primary focus on companies between $1 million and $100 million in revenue, Ankit has worked with companies in a wide spectrum of industries from high tech to healthcare.

7 Comments on "Guest Post : It’s About People"

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  1. leanisgood says:

    Kind of spooky. We did the disc thing today at work. I took the inventory on line about a week and a half ago and we had our session with trainers today. Neat stuff. I wonder about its repeatability. I took it the first time about 12 years ago and was a weak SC. My dot was pretty close to the dividing line between S & C but in off the edge of the circle. It has gone clockwise over the years. Today I was a hard Di. My dot is all the way out on the perimeter and a couple degrees left of the D – i dividing line. Either I have changed a lot or the measurment system is not repeatable.
    The theory behind it certainly makes sense though. The rules about how to communicate to the different personality types and how to motiviate is pretty provocative stuff.

  2. Ankit Patel says:

    Thank you Mark for the guest blog spot.

    leanisgood,
    I’ve noticed that you have to usually combine the DISC system with a situational leadership type of communication. The issues with DISC are around exactly what you are saying with repeatablity. I use it mainly to help with the methods I use to communicate and team building. If it dosen’t work then we change it using the good old PDCA method :)

    Ankit

  3. Bruce Baker says:

    Ankit,
    What do you tell people who aren’t happy with there position on the DiSC circle? Some people don’t like their results. It seems to me like there is no good or bad regions to be in. Diversity is a good thing. But in my experience, including yesterday’s excersize, there are always people who don’t like where they are on the circle. Any advice for someone who wants to help them understand without sounding jingoistic? Thanks.

  4. Mark Plummer says:

    Hi,

    Is this not similar to Belbin – which I studied at Uni back in the early ’90s? There are 9 team roles, from Plant to Shaper. I would have thought that this would make it more powerful than DISC, as the number of roles & makeup of the teams is greater.

    See http://www.belbin.com/

    Mark

  5. Mark Plummer: Mark,
    I actually talk about other types of profiles and how to use them on my blog. I think the thing to note is that DISC is a little more widely used and its about using something better than nothing. DISC is good for communication styles and is useful for team building but there are other systems that make it easier to build teams.

    Ankit

  6. Bruce Baker: Ankit,
    What do you tell people who aren’t happy with there position on the DiSC circle? Some people don’t like their results. It seems to me like there is no good or bad regions to be in. Diversity is a good thing. But in my experience, including yesterday’s excersize, there are always people who don’t like where they are on the circle. Any advice for someone who wants to help them understand without sounding jingoistic? Thanks.  

    Bruce,
    That is an interesting question and the short answer is it depends. DISC is good for communication styles but not from taking people from point A to point B. You’re right about the divisions not being good or bad but it’s the perception their person has. The issue is that the person falls into one of two categories:
    1) unwilling and able to change
    2) unwilling and unable to change
    If they fall into the first category you try to ask them questions and basically guide them to the right answer. If they fall into the second category then you need to just tell them step by step this is what you are going to do. This is all form the Leadership Institute and I have a blog post going into more details about the categories.

    The other thing to remember is that if you aren’t the persons boss or they don’t really know you or like you then it’s very hard. I would say try first to let them take the test on a different date. If they are honest with themselves they will come out to the almost the same results over time (given they take the tests within a few weeks of each other).

    Feel free to send me an e-mail to talk more about it.

    Ankit

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