When Do You Resort to Firing?
Blog reader Grant, in Australia, sent me an email newsletter from a lean training and consulting organization that will remain unnamed (as I don't want to drive any traffic to their website, if you must know who it was, post a comment and maybe I'll post the name). The newsletter (which I couldn't find online anyway) was about tips for “Getting Buy-In” related to lean and change. Good topic, right?
There were some okay tips on the list, including:
4. Select initial improvement projects using the criteria of “hassle-reduction” or “time-saving” and demonstrate by example this works.
10. Influence the performance management system so that continuous improvement become one of their key result areas for the year.
But then you get to the list and you find this:
12. Fire the most change resistant manager tomorrow and say why – send a message that you are serious!
Is this Jack Welch influenced/inspired Lean Do these guys recommend that you fire the bottom 10% of your managers so they “Get the message”? (Update: Check out the comments for this post… what really is Jack Welch's position on firing the bottom 10%?) What message, exactly, does this send? Well, it depends.
I think this is HORRIBLE advice if you're just starting your Lean initiative. You have to give people a chance to learn, to change, and prove they can do things the Lean way. You have to try to teach them and show them what the new expectations are. You shouldn't go firing people right away unless you're looking to instill a culture of fear, which is the opposite of what you want with lean.
That said…. if you do have a true “concrete head” or an “anchor” who refuses to change after some time and significant effort on your part as a leader, you might have to no choice but to get rid of a manager. Chances are, if that manager is such a concrete head, then they are possibly dragging down the rest of your team. Sometimes, firing (or moving) a real Lean resistor is good for morale, if all the other managers were on board.
Either way, there are no easy answers. It depends on the situation and requires a lot of leadership judgment. I think it's irresponsible and tacky to have such flippant sounding advice about firing someone in a “lean” newsletter.
What do you think? Have you had to fire to some concrete heads? What steps did you take first?