Mental Models: Standardized Work and Performance Measures
A few thoughts while waiting for a Sunday flight… at least it’s a Sunday flight towards home.
One reason traditional organizations (and traditional leaders) struggle with Lean is because the mental models are different. The problem isn’t understanding tools; the problem occurs when people are forcing Lean methods into a traditional setting. What might work great in a Lean culture, might cause nothing but trouble in a traditional setting – all because of the mental models. When we implement a new method from another organization, we might do well to ask “What existing mental models is this going to conflict with? What might the side effects be?”
A had a great chat with Pascal Dennis recently (check out my recent podcast with him) about mental models. His consulting group sells these cute “mental models” cards that illustrate some comparisons between traditional thinking and lean thinking mental models. One of those cards is pictured above.
Two topics that often raise ire related to Lean are standardized work and performance measures.
Traditional organizations love to control people (or feel like they have to) while Lean organizations believe their employees have intrinsic motivation and they deserve to be respected and engaged in improvement as responsible adults.
So when a traditional command-and-control organization hears of standardized work, they often leap to the idea that Pascal expressed, that too many organizations unfortunately think standardized work is just another way to control people. That’s wrong, that’s not Lean. If you don’t change your mental models, the “boss” will yell at people for not following the standardized process while a Lean manager seeks to understand the situation – asking why the person isn’t following the process (the process has changed, there was a good reason to not follow it in a certain case, or the person wasn’t trained properly, perhaps).
We have to shift from management = policing and being the boss to management = being a collaborative coach and leader.
Traditionally, performance measurements are used to rank people (pitting them against each other), to blame, or to punish.
So when a Lean consultant says an organization should measure the process more frequently, traditional managers think they are just blaming, ranking, and finding fault with people hourly instead of monthly. This is not progress.
As I tweeted earlier:
“Metrics and measures are the voice of the process, to be used for improvement, not for blame, ranking, and punishment.”
This is a different mental model. You don’t measure a physician’s infection rates so you can fire those with the worst rates. That sort of punishment and blame forces problems underground. We don’t just need “transparency,” we also need to work on improving systems and processes instead of blaming individuals.
Right tool, wrong mental model = disaster and grumpy people (and poor quality).