How often do we hear stories where Lean seems to be floundering in an organization?
Leaders often complain:
“People are being resistant to Lean.”
Ah, that sounds like a variation on the old complaint that “people are resistant to change” or that “people hate change.”
I don't believe that people hate change.
I think people hate being uncomfortable when there are changes promised (or happening) that they don't understand. I think people hate being told to change when they don't think it's really an improvement. Or they hate change when they're going to be forced to “sustain” a practice instead of testing it to see if it's really worth sustaining. People hate not having input into change.
If Lean is this mysterious thing that's not being communicated well, people are going to resist that. You can't blame them. You can, perhaps, blame leadership for not leading.
I finally read the outstanding book by Chip and Dan Health: Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard. Dozens of people have recommended this book and I finally got to it. I wish I had read it earlier.
There are many gems in the book.
One is, and I'm paraphrasing I think, change is a process, not an event. Ironically, change is not like flipping a switch.
We shouldn't expect people to believe in Lean overnight. One training class doesn't do it. One speech from an executive doesn't do it.
As the Heath brothers say:
“Knowledge does not change behavior.”
There's got to be more to change than logic. There must be an emotional appeal as well.
Why do people “resist” small changes or a big programmatic change like Lean?
“What looks like resistance is often a lack of clarity.”
One thing we need is to know WHY we need to change. Simon Sinek makes this very clear in his book Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. Listen to a podcast that my friend Ron Pereira did with Simon last week through his Gemba Academy Podcast.
When I look at “Lean failures” (or situations that might become failures), there seem to be some trends:
- Lack of communication
- Lack of understanding WHY Lean is needed (what problem are we trying to solve?)
- The urgency for change is not well understood
- Often, Lean itself is not well understood
When I was leading Lean transformation projects in hospitals 10 years ago (through a consulting arm of J&J), we weren't just teaching Lean… we had a pretty good change management methodology in place. We were basically using the John Kotter change model, made famous in his article, then book, Leading Change.
We were trying to avoid the 8 mistakes that Kotter laid out in the article:
- Allowing too much complacency
- Failing to create a sufficiently powerful guiding coalition
- Underestimating the power of vision
- Undercommunicating the vision by a factor of 10 (or 100 or even 1,000)
- Permitting obstacles to block the new vision
- Failing to create short-term wins
- Declaring victory too soon
- Neglecting to anchor changes firmly in the corporate culture
Do you make any of those mistakes?
Adopting Lean in an organization is a major change, just like implementing an EMR system, merging with another health system, or building a new hospital or tower.
A common thread in successful changes is a solid change management methodology. There are no silver bullets, but the recognition that change is hard and that change sometimes can't be rushed is key.
A New Workshop I'm Facilitating
Because I see change management as being so important (or the lack of good change leadership being so harmful), I've partnered up with ExperiencePoint, a company that has created a very effective approach to learning change management practices in a safe, experiential way. I first learned about them in 2009, when I first got to experience their “Lakeview” change simulation when it was new.
Lakeview is a scenario and case based on improving patient flow in a hospital, using Lean as a strategy. I liked the ExperiencePoint approach and I've followed their progress. I finally decided to get certified so I could bring Lakeview, or their other simulation called GlobalTech, to my clients and other organizations.
Last week, I got some practice facilitating the Lakeview simulation with a volunteer audience of local friends from different organizations. During the full-day workshop, people worked in teams of 3 or 4 people, working the case scenario through their table discussions and interactions with the simulation software. I facilitated discussions and taught a change management model that they could use in the scenario (and take back to their workplace). The team working time is about 3 hours of the experience. It's definitely not a full day of didactic learning.
The model that ExperiencePoint recommends is a modification of the Kotter change model. Kotter says that the first step should be to build a sense of urgency. I agree with the ExperiencePoint folks that a better first step is to understand the situation and the need for change. That seems like good Lean thinking to me, by the way. If you start by communicating a sense of urgency, you might just build anxiety if you haven't communicated anything about how to solve the problem.
Here is the ExperiencePoint model that we use (click for a larger view):
- Understand the need for change
- Enlist a core change team
- Envisage: Develop the vision and strategy
- Motivate: Create a sense of urgency (more broadly in the organization)
- Communicate the vision
- Act: Take action
- Consolidate gains
Many organizations are in a rush and jump to phase six… they are jumping to solutions without first laying the groundwork and foundation for change to be understood and accepted.
Having a model like this helps prevent errors, such as jumping to implement Lean tools before the organization understands WHY change is necessary. You have to engage and enroll people in change, not just force things on them.
I am convinced that the ExperienceChange simulations, either Lakeview or GlobalTech, are a great way to learn and practice. It's a great team building activity and a way of building some common language and methodology that can be used to better implement changes in the future.
If you'd like to learn more about this or about bringing this learning experience to you organization, please click here for the ExperienceChange page on my website.
Even if you're not interested in the workshop or approach, what do you think about the broader points that I brought up here in the post?
What do you think? Scroll down to comment or share your thoughts and the post on social media. Don't want to miss a post or podcast? Subscribe to get notified about posts via email daily or weekly.
- Jody Crane, MD: Lean in Emergency Medicine and Hospitals; 3 Big Issues Causing Tough Times in Healthcare - February 1, 2023
- Alternative History: GM Uses Lean to Remain #1 in the Auto Industry - January 31, 2023
- Fall in Love with the Problem, not the Solution: In Entrepreneurship and Continuous Improvement - January 29, 2023