Gauthier Duval on Kaizen Events, Organizational Development, and “Veryable” Labor


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My guest for Episode #461 of the Lean Blog Interviews Podcast is Gauthier Duval, the Director of the Lean Center of Excellence at Veryable.

He's applied and taught Lean for over 18 years, including time with Freudenberg-NOK (an auto supplier featured in the book Lean Thinking), Simpler Consulting, and other manufacturing companies in the U.S. and Europe.

Today, we discuss topics and questions including:

  • Your Lean origin story?
  • The next steps in your career and learning??
  • Freudenberg-NOK — 2004 — Growtth Consulting spinoff
  • Working with Lean – Europe vs. US?
  • Simpler – worked with Chris Cooper – Episode #129
  • Your view on the role of what's often called “kaizens” (kaizen events) vs. ongoing daily kaizen improvement?
  • Multi-day events vs. small discontinuous improvements?
  • How should people be participating?
  • The role of the senior leader?
  • Kicking a company president out of a Kaizen Event??
  • Lessons you've learned on the psychology of change?
  • Organizational behavior and organizational development? — how do you define that? 
  • What makes an organization a “learning organization?”
  • Chris Argyris — why should more Lean people be reading his work?
  • Tell us about Veryable – the company, the problems you solve and how it works…
  • How to expand “JIT” beyond just materials?
  • Variable labor in a “lean mindset” way — including “respect for people”??

The podcast is sponsored by Stiles Associates, now in their 30th year of business. They are the go-to Lean recruiting firm serving the manufacturing, private equity, and healthcare industries. Learn more.

This podcast is part of the #LeanCommunicators network

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Automated Transcript (Not Guaranteed to be Defect Free)

Announcer (1s):
Welcome to the Lean Blog Podcast. Visit our website Now, here's your host, Mark Graban.

Mark Graban (12s):
Hi everybody, it's Mark Graban. It's episode 461 for October 27th, 2022. I guess today is Gauthier Duval. He's the director of the Lean Center of Excellence at a company called Veryable. So you will learn more about him in a minute. Later on, you'll hear more about his company for links, you can look in the show notes for more information, or you can go to Well, hi everybody. Welcome back to the podcast. Our guest today is Gauthier Duval. He's the director of the Lean Center of Excellence at a company called Veryable, and that's spelled V E R Y A B L E if you want to go look them up online.

Mark Graban (56s):
But Gauthier has applied and, and taught Lean for over 18 years, including Time with Freudenberg NOK, which is an auto supplier. They were one of the companies featured in the book Lean Thinking. He was with Simpler Consulting. He's done work with other manufacturing companies in the US and Europe. So go to, welcome to the podcast. How, how are you doing?

Gauthier Duval (1m 15s):
Thanks, Mark. I'm doing great, thanks.

Mark Graban (1m 18s):
Well, I'm, I'm glad you're here today. There's a lot that we're, we're gonna dive into on, on topics including, you know, Kaizen events and, and, and other forms of, of continuous improvement. But then we're gonna talk about, you know, some issues involving organizational development and learning organizations. And I think it's gonna be a really, really good discussion here today. But, you know, as I, as I tend to do, go, you know, I like to ask people, you know, kind of come to call it the Lean origin story. Like how, how, where and when, Like what, what's your story where you got introduced to Lean?

Gauthier Duval (1m 54s):
Yeah, my story, I won't say it's an introduction to Lean, but it really framed lean for me ahead of time. And it was my very first real job. I was a management consultant in a steel company and my particular area of responsibility was the tool preparation department. And I'd been given the subjective to basically improve the productivity in there rapidly found out that the key here was not so much to look at balance of workload to capacity, but actually the key was the changeover process. And so I had to kind of pivot and turned it to a changeover reduction process.

Gauthier Duval (2m 36s):
Nevertheless, I mean, not at all. Again, I had no clue what Lean was about. Never heard the term Lean or TPS before, but it was something that I, I had to engage in. And the funny part, and why I say this was kind of a, a, a framing episode for me was add the report out where everybody presented their projects. The chairman of the company actually focused on this particular project, not so much for how much money it's a, but because he said this is something that's going to improve our ability to sell higher margin products, but products that are in smaller matches.

Gauthier Duval (3m 20s):
And therefore, you know, you've opened that to us. That's the main value of what you've done. It was funny because neither I nor my project director at any clue that this was really the value of what our project was. So it was very eye-opening. And what I later learned about lean, I think it helped me to really immediately click and engage and just love the whole, the whole thing, lean thing.

Mark Graban (3m 46s):
Yeah. So did you have lessons or coaching or resources of, you know, or kind of TPS or lean based on, on how to go about the changeover reduction? Like you kind of sounds like you had to kind of figure out how to go about it that way.

Gauthier Duval (4m 4s):
Yeah, if I re yeah, I remember actually really struggling to see, okay, how am I gonna do this? Cause it's very complex, right? This is not a changeover on a machine. This is changeover on a, what was, I think, the largest steel rolling mill in Europe or even outside of Japan. And so if you're familiar with how we make steel beams, you start with a large slab of red hot steel, which gets hammered into a, a longer shape. And then that goes through the, through the Rolling Mill.

Gauthier Duval (4m 44s):
It basically goes through a series of gigantic steel drums or steel rollers that gradually shape the steel into eye shaped beam. And so you have to think about what's changeover means there. It means basically changing these multi ton steel rollers, the radius of each one of those wheels. It's several feet and it required, I think it required something like 17 or 18 people to do the changeover.

Mark Graban (5m 20s):
It sounds far more complex than, you know, changing the dyes in a, a simple press machine or standard machine, not that those are, right. Yeah.

Gauthier Duval (5m 34s):
Yeah. And on top of that, you also have to synchronize with movement of the, of your overhead cranes, which are also used in the other parts of the process, like the saw. So it was very complex. I used a, I I, I knew nothing about sed, obviously, and, and so I used a pert, you know, program evaluation or review technique. And I remember making a precedent chart, you know, you know, a large piece of, of paper and just drawing out each and every little step and figuring out which, which one was a predecessor, and just figuring out this way and then doing, again, charts.

Gauthier Duval (6m 21s):
So it was not, it was not your usual cement technique, but nevertheless have achieved achieved our goals.

Mark Graban (6m 28s):
Yeah, I mean, and, and it sounds like, well, a couple things come to mind that one, what I hear you describing, you know, regardless of terminology we might use is like the power of studying the work. Like I'm an industrial engineer, so I have a bias towards observing and deeply studying work and then thinking about what steps can be eliminated, rearranged. I mean, it sounds like, you know, it's just kind that discipline there, there's, there's helpful concepts that come from sed, but I mean, it sounds like you, you went about this in a, a methodical way instead of like, just looking for you think of what other organizations might do and look for a best practice.

Mark Graban (7m 11s):
Like there was studying, here's how it works here, how do we make it better?

Gauthier Duval (7m 16s):
Yeah. There, there's really no shortcut of going into the, into the details getting, you know, getting your hands dirty, literally.

Mark Graban (7m 26s):
Yeah. And then, you know, the other thing that jumps out, I think in your, your, your discussion of the context of that, it sounds like it wasn't improvement for the sake of cost cutting. It sounds like it was improvement to enable things like you, you mentioned revenue and it sounds like, you know, maybe providing better customer service and, and, and growth in different ways, whether it's, you know, revenue or volume providing more value that's different than quote unquote cost cutting, right?

Gauthier Duval (7m 56s):
Correct. You know, and that's why it was so meaningful to me because initially my project was a pure cus cutting project.

Mark Graban (8m 7s):
I mean, that's

Gauthier Duval (8m 9s):
What I was asked to do and that's kind of how I went about it with that objective. And then it was, it was during the presentation of report that all of a sudden, you know, this this, she kind of really opened our eyes and, and showed us that there are things that are way more valuable to, to a company than just costs.

Mark Graban (8m 34s):
Yeah, Yeah. So then what was your progression? I mean, you kind of alluded to, or you know, you said from that you didn't really know lean you, you were doing things where you'd say, Well, that was, you know, lean ish if you will. Like, so when, when, what were some of the different steps there where, you know, clearly you did get into that more formally. What, what, what happened happened next for you and for your learning?

Gauthier Duval (8m 57s):
Right? Yeah, this was really leaned by accidents for me. It really started with when I started working at, at Growth. So that was 2004. And at the time we just moved actually to Europe. So my, we were working in the States. My wife got transferred to Barcelona in Spain and I just took up this job for, for consulting. And,

Mark Graban (9m 29s):
And real quick, and, and for context growth was kind of a, an offshoot from Freud and Bergen. Okay.

Gauthier Duval (9m 36s):
Right? Correct. Yeah. Like Growth was the name of the lean office at Fredenberg. Ok. It stands for Get Rid of Waste through Team Harmony.

Mark Graban (9m 47s):
There's two tees in growth.

Gauthier Duval (9m 49s):
The two Ts are not a typo, there are two tees.

Mark Graban (9m 52s):

Gauthier Duval (9m 54s):
And, and so it was very successful. They, they kind of spun it off as an independent consulting business, still keeping a lot of relationship with Fredenberg. I did a lot of Kaizen projects at Fredenberg cause we still had that connection. But yeah, that was my real introduction to, to lean because all we did really was we would do a lean assessment followed by a number of projects.

Mark Graban (10m 25s):
And, and, and so it was sort of an, so it had been growth had been an internal group that started doing consulting, but then occasionally also kind of consulted back.

Gauthier Duval (10m 36s):

Mark Graban (10m 38s):
Berg, is that, was

Gauthier Duval (10m 38s):
That fair? Yeah, yeah. Yeah. It was that kinda agreement, gentleman's agreement between the two entities, even though, you know, we were tru truly independent companies.

Mark Graban (10m 51s):
And you joined there in 2004. Joe Day was mentioned, the US featured, I'm sorry,

Gauthier Duval (11m 0s):
Yeah, sorry.

Mark Graban (11m 2s):
Yeah. Joe, Joe Day had been the CEO and I, I, I looked up real quickly, he retired in 2002. He was mentioned quite a bit in Lean thinking. Yeah, I've, I've had a chance to meet him a couple of times, you know, because of being featured in Lean Thinking when I was at MIT students, we invited him to come speak in 1998 when he was, you know, still ceo. And I actually then ran across him probably in about 2014 or 2015 in his retirement. He was, let's just say, on the board of a health system in Florida.

Mark Graban (11m 42s):
And I was there as a consultant and I had an opportunity to reconnect and go have dinner with, with him. But, you know, so he, he had already left. And I'm just curious though, like what your recollections were anyway, of like, you know, the influence that he had that was hopefully, I'm assuming still there. Yeah. Thousand four

Gauthier Duval (12m 3s):
Ish. So I, I never had the pleasure of meeting Joe directly. One of my best colleagues and friends at Growth was very close to Joe. In fact, he was discovered by Joe. But, you know, since my experience was with the European branch, we really didn't, didn't have many connections with, with the us but I, yeah, I know that Joe was involved in, you know, digital transformation of the health system.

Mark Graban (12m 35s):
Yeah. And I think, you know, he was motivated to try to bring lean concepts, including lean leadership in, in, into healthcare. And he, he was, he was actually buddies with Jack Welch cuz they were retired CEOs who, if I remember it, they played golf together. But different approaches to leadership, shall we say. And remember him, you know, I don't, you know, he had no disrespect for Jack Welch, but he just, there there was recognition of, hey, there, there there was a different leadership mindset and a different style of, of lean or otherwise there.

Mark Graban (13m 15s):
But I wanna get back to you. You talk about going to Europe. What, what, what differences did you see in terms of trying to introduce lean as much as you could generalize, you know, Europe compared to the us?

Gauthier Duval (13m 35s):
Yeah, it's always difficult to generalize. I had the, had the luck actually of traveling extensively as a consultant. So I, I traveled all over Europe to do different projects as well with as North America, Asia. And yeah, there are some, there are some real differences, at least from my personal experience. I always felt that doing a Kaizen project in the US was more rewarding, or let's say it was easier. My, my my sense is that participants in the US come into a Kaizen project, very open-minded wanting to change in Europe.

Gauthier Duval (14m 26s):
It really feels like you're dragging them to their death. They, and there are some differences, you know, between, let's see the Latin countries, France, Italy, Spain, and the, the northern European countries. Yeah, I would say in the, in south in southern Europe, people come with kind of a very defensive approach, you know, and, and they'll kind of fight you every step of the way.

Gauthier Duval (15m 7s):
But if you do manage to convince one or two key people, then you've won it. You know? I mean, it's very important to have that, that human connection and to, and to work directly with people and show them what's in it for them, you know, that you're really trying to, to make their job easier. And once you've done that, you know, there, there are absolutely no issues. My experience with the northern Europeans, like the Germans, it's quite of interesting. They'll, they're the most direct people I ever met. Like Germans will give you feedback that's anywhere else would kind of sound like your head has been caught off.

Gauthier Duval (15m 50s):
Yeah. They don't mean it in that way. They're just being objective and telling you exactly what they think. Yeah. And they don't sweeten it. Yeah, yeah.

Mark Graban (16m 0s):
The, the, the Dutch or you know, also have a reputation and they embrace this reputation as, as being blunt, direct, very

Gauthier Duval (16m 10s):

Mark Graban (16m 10s):
You know, and, you know, maybe they're, Yeah. That's interesting to think about in terms of, you know, there's a lot of lean healthcare activity in the Netherlands. I've had a chance to go a couple of times and there probably is real value in that ability to be direct and to expect directness in a way where maybe it helps separate, you know, it's the difference between, you know, if you will, you know, attacking an idea without the person, you're debating the idea with feeling attacked personally. You know, maybe, maybe that, that maybe that's a cultural norm that, that, that could be helpful if everyone's on the same page with that expectation.

Mark Graban (16m 53s):
It's all surprising sometimes coming in as a, a foreigner, somebody outside of that culture. But

Gauthier Duval (16m 59s):
Yeah. And I don't wanna make it sound like one model is better than the other. I think you can, you, you can achieve your goals anywhere. You just, like you said, it's about knowing what to expect and, you know, interacting with people according to those expectations, to those norms.

Mark Graban (17m 20s):
Yeah, I mean, I was talking to somebody earlier, actually for an episode of my favorite mistake, a physician from in, a leader from, from Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. And the conversation wasn't so much about lean, but he was talking about, you know, what's often called Midwest nice. Where people might be smiling and shaking their head and it looks like there's agreement, but when there's really, when there's not, because people don't, again, we're generalizing, but this is a different cultural thing to try to battle through. What's the culture in our organization? Are we being superficially nice in a way that glosses over disagreements in a way that really kind of hurts us long term? Like yeah, we don't have conflict, but like some level of conflict if we can not have it be personalized like it, that's, that's necessary for improvement.

Gauthier Duval (18m 12s):
Yeah. I think a lot of Americans have felt that working in the uk right? Where what sounds like a very, very mild disagreement is actually very strong. Yeah. And profound disagreement with you.

Mark Graban (18m 26s):
Yeah. Where, where if, if you don't know that some you don't know, some of that context, you might not understand them, the level of

Gauthier Duval (18m 33s):
Disagreement and not take it seriously and ignore person and what they're trying to tell you. And then that's can rapidly devolve into something much more difficult to catch up.

Mark Graban (18m 45s):
Yeah. Yeah. So one, one other topic I wanted to ask you about. You know, from, from your experiences, you, you, you used the term KA and projects, you know, a lot of people would talk about KA and events. Yeah. Sometimes, you know, sometimes people say kaizens when they mean KA and events. I, I think that's not a helpful shorthand. So I'm, I I'm curious not, not just around terminology, but what, what, what are you seeing your thoughts around, whether we call them kaizen projects, kaizen events versus, you know, kind of more ongoing daily continuous improvement. What, what, what are some of your experiences and

Gauthier Duval (19m 23s):
Thoughts? Yeah, well Mark, let's go back to what you said about terminology. I think terminology is supremely important. There's so many misunderstandings and so many cases where we have miscommunicated purely cause we are using the same word and assigning different meanings to the word. And it's not just about Kaiser, it's to me and one of one of my pet peeves as people were using cycle time for time. But there are many, many other examples. And Kazan I agree, is one of those areas where if you don't necessarily have the same understanding of what the word means, you can rapidly misunderstand what's the other person is telling you.

Gauthier Duval (20m 8s):
So, you know, for me, kaizen is just anything that is an improvement. It doesn't matter what improvement has been done by somebody in a couple of minutes or whether it's a week long event.

Mark Graban (20m 20s):
Yeah. Just yeah. On that real quick, Yeah. I think of Kaizen as sort of a overarching banner, a header. And then within that, to me, Kaizen events are a type of kaizen small improvements. Sometimes we'll call them just do it. So I like to call them just psa. It's, you know, cause we don't want it just do like, there, there whether, whether it's a, an A three or a Kaizen event or a small kaizen. Like to me the common thread is plan, do study, adjust cycles, large, medium, or small.

Gauthier Duval (20m 55s):
Yeah, I mean, I did a, I did a project recently with a, a machining operation here in Dallas. And you know, we could have done it with a regular Kaizen event multi-day, but it wasn't appropriate. And the best way to, to achieve the goals actually was to break it down, if you will, and to just regular meetings every two, two or three weeks and define step by step, you know, what we're gonna do. And then give people the opportunity to do those things while they are carrying on with their daily jobs.

Gauthier Duval (21m 39s):
I think this is one of the major issues with is it's too disruptive quite often. Sometimes we want it to be disruptive and I think it's okay to disrupt the mindsets you have to do that. But if you're disrupting your daily production or disrupting your, your daily operations, then you're basically asking for trouble. You're asking for people to, basically, you're giving them the excuse to say, this is really not working for us, or this is not the right way to do it.

Mark Graban (22m 8s):
Yeah. And there's, yeah, I, I, I think it would be a mistake for someone to be like a little bit too stubborn to say the only way to do improvement is the classical five day event. And then we see all kinds of adaptations. If you for, you know, shorter kaizen events, you're gonna force everything to be five days. That, that could be wasteful. It could just kind of, you know, why, why is it not, it, it doesn't have to take that long or what you're describing. Sometimes it's done a little bit more over time. Yeah. But similar thought process in terms of planning, you know, I think even the classic quote unquote week long kaizen event there, there, there's, there's the planning time than there's the event and there's follow up.

Mark Graban (22m 52s):
It's never just a week.

Gauthier Duval (22m 54s):
Correct. I think it really comes from the consulting constraint, right? Cause consultants have to basically fit everything into a week long trip. And so they kind of si, at least that's my

Mark Graban (23m 6s):
Experience, right? That's some of the history of it.

Gauthier Duval (23m 8s):
We sized our kaizens so that they would fit within our travel

Mark Graban (23m 12s):
Schedule. Yeah. But then there's always that hypothesis around sizing. We think like unless you've gotten really good at sizing it, there, there's two different errors. You could've chosen a problem that's too big. Yeah. Or you could've chosen a problem that was too small. So if it's too

Gauthier Duval (23m 26s):
Small, Yeah. I mean, I've had

Mark Graban (23m 27s):
End the event early, I guess. Right?

Gauthier Duval (23m 28s):
Yeah. I've had plenty of variation in terms of what I achieved those week long events. Sometimes I didn't achieve my goals. Sometimes I went above on average it was about right. But yeah, the sizing is really

Mark Graban (23m 44s):
Difficult. I mean, even with experience, there are things that you don't know and maybe you get better at testing assumptions Yeah. To make sure that you're not surprised by things that you didn't know.

Gauthier Duval (23m 59s):
Well, you mentioned the preparation phase, right? And I think that's what a lot of lean practitioners have learned to do, is to spend three or four weeks prior to the event itself in preparation. And that's certainly is a big help in terms of making sure that you, that you don't have large deviations. I think for consultants it's a bit more difficult to do that

Mark Graban (24m 28s):
If you're outsiders.

Gauthier Duval (24m 29s):
Yeah. You're outsiders and basically when you're working purely, often you're purely working on the delivery phase and there's very little time left for preparation and follow up, which I think is a shame, really. But

Mark Graban (24m 44s):
Do, do, do you think outside consultants tend to try to direct internal folks to do the prep and the follow up then

Gauthier Duval (24m 54s):
That, that's been my experience and it works. You know, it depends who, who your internal clients are. If, if they have some prior experience of kaizen, that works fine. But if you're dealing with a client who is just starting on their lean journey and they do not have experienced people to, to do this prep work in the fall work, then that becomes an issue.

Mark Graban (25m 21s):

Gauthier Duval (25m 22s):

Mark Graban (25m 23s):
And, and I guess, you know, there's growing pains in, in terms the, the, the learning by doing where, you know, hopefully people are given it an opportunity to learn from mistakes, to learn from their experience. Like to me, sure, we'd, we'd love to quote unquote do it right the first time. But that's not, I mean, that's maybe that's not always possible on complex things.

Gauthier Duval (25m 45s):
I think, you know, good, good consultants wouldn't, will manage expectations based on what they know is gonna happen. So again, I mean, you're not going, you're not going provide the same expectations to a company that is at the very beginning as opposed to one that is midway or is somewhat mature.

Mark Graban (26m 9s):
So one of the thing I wanted ask you about Kaizen events to use that term in terms of getting, you know, deciding who should be participating and then in particular the, the ideal role for a senior leader.

Gauthier Duval (26m 27s):
Yeah, I think it's always good to have managers and leaders in kaizen simply because you don't learn just through theory. You have to actually live through the, through the event and understand how the, you know, how, how the, the team members change their perception of what is possible for me, regardless of how the event turns out in terms of what results you've achieved, one of your key goals as a facilitator is have I changed people's mind? Have I changed their expectation of what can be done?

Gauthier Duval (27m 10s):
And if you've, if you've done that, then you've achieved a lot in terms of mindset, in terms of culture. So for me it's really important that the leadership, especially top leadership, has that experience. Sometimes it's a bit difficult though, because some, you know, I think the biggest, the biggest culture change actually is for the, the top leadership from moving, from being the person who provides the answer to everything and who provides the direction and, and tells people what to do to being the listener. That's sometimes a very, very big change.

Mark Graban (27m 49s):
So, so what happens if you're in an event and senior leader is kind of falling back into some of those habits, you ever have to pull them aside or try to provide some coaching or reminders? I mean, that, that's gotta be awkward at

Gauthier Duval (28m 3s):
Times. It is kind of awkward, you know, it's the big difference between being a consultant and being an internal lean person. So as consultants, you, you, you don't have the fear, I think, of confronting your boss since that person is not your boss. I mean, I, I try to treat everybody exactly the same way. It doesn't matter whether it is a team member who is disrupting the, the work or whether it is the the CEO, you have to treat them the same way. And that's the whole point actually, you know, I don't know if you do this when you do your, your kaizen events with, I always start with what rules do we wanna play with or play by?

Gauthier Duval (28m 50s):
And I don't, I don't, I don't set the rules. It has to be coming from the team themselves. Of course, as a facilitator, even though you don't set the rules, you, you do have a great deal of influence on Yeah. The team works with. But having said that, I, I did have actually, it's only been once in my entire lean career, but I did have one case where I actually had to fire, and it was the president of the company, by the way, fire the president company from his own

Mark Graban (29m 24s):
Kick. I mean, he wasn't kicking him out of the event, basically.

Gauthier Duval (29m 27s):
Yeah, I'm, I'm saying fire, but really it was just saying, I think it would be best for you not to come back tomorrow.

Mark Graban (29m 35s):
And what, what was the behavior that prompted you to do that?

Gauthier Duval (29m 39s):
The behavior was just that this person was so controlling Yeah. That this person was basically, yeah. Taking over the entire kaizen and not letting others speak and really monopolizing the whole Kaizen event, which was antethetical to the whole, to the whole concept of kaizen. So after trying, you know, as smoothly as I could to give him just private one-on-one feedback during the break, and he said, Yes, I will, I understand not changing his behavior.

Gauthier Duval (30m 20s):
I mean, it took me two days. I really struggled with do I do this or not. But actually it turned out to be a, a good decision. I was, as I said, I was pretty much afraid of what would happen, but the effect on the rest of the team members was amazing. This is like the team members all of a sudden blossomed and Yeah. And did a fantastic work.

Mark Graban (30m 49s):
So how, how did that leader take this news? Like, did, did the, did they stop off? Did they argue with you about it? Did they like Yeah. Okay. Did, like, did they begrudgingly accept

Gauthier Duval (31m 2s):
That? Well, in this case the leader was obviously not happy. Yeah. I would say really in the end, it didn't ch change his behavior much

Mark Graban (31m 17s):
So beyond the event, it didn't change the behavior. Correct.

Gauthier Duval (31m 21s):
I mean, he was already, yeah, not exactly cooperative, but he was not the top clients, the top client was in Germany.

Mark Graban (31m 30s):
So it wasn't his decision to either kick

Gauthier Duval (31m 32s):
You up could been also why he wasn't very cooperative to, with wasn't decision to have our team in his company.

Mark Graban (31m 47s):
Well, so that, that possibility raises, you know, some interesting ideas around the acceptance of change. I mean, if, if to be, you know, if, if, if they were being told to do this, that, I mean, there's some basic psychology around people. Okay, well if you're gonna tell me to do it, I'm gonna, you know, push by, there's almost this reflex to push back

Gauthier Duval (32m 10s):

Mark Graban (32m 10s):
Against being told to do something. So I wonder there might have been some opportunity even within that organization, within that enterprise to better engage that leader then they might have been willing or able to, to embrace this more.

Gauthier Duval (32m 28s):
Yes, I would say, I think it's, you know, I, I think it is something that any lean person has to learn more about is the whole field of organizational development. I think it is so important if you're, if you're trying to do a lean transformation, you really understand what's, you know, what change means and how organizations behave and how, or the organizational structure and the organizational culture drives the behavior of the people that you work with. I, I feel that a lot of our lean colleagues don't pay enough attention to organizational development

Mark Graban (33m 17s):
And that phrase. And I think, you know, we can dig deeper into that, You know, Toyota uses the phrase organizational development or od a lot of the former Toyota people that I've worked with in various capacities or learned from very many of them were from, you know, the od you know, part of, of Toyota. In in, in your experience even more broadly, how, how is, you know, OD as a, a concept or a department different than HR and human resources?

Gauthier Duval (33m 51s):
Oh, that's a great topic, Mark. I feel that one of the weaknesses of OD is that it is, it's really hr. I mean, it is very much an HR thing and I think that's, I mean, I, I'm not an OD practitioner, but I think it hurts od to, to be, you know, to, to be stuck to this HR department. I always feel, at least in my interactions and past with OD people, that's, they need, they would really benefit from reaching out and working more closely with their operational excellence or produce improvement colleagues.

Mark Graban (34m 34s):
So it sounds like there's, there's kind of an opportunity to bridge that gap coming a little bit from both directions. Lean people

Gauthier Duval (34m 41s):
I wish Yes.

Mark Graban (34m 42s):
Reach out to, to, to OD reach out to lean or operational excellence. There's, you know, back to terminology, there's all kinds of different terms, but like when, when you talk about the, the, the benefits of, of why building that bridge and, and, and how would you explain the why and, and the benefits from doing that?

Gauthier Duval (35m 5s):
The way I, I think the way I would explain it is OD ought to be a foundational practice for lean. In other words, if we think about the, the sequence of implementation, I believe we ought to start with OD and then begin the, the lean program. And I think that a lot of, you know, we all know that a lot of lean initiatives don't end up meeting expectations. And I don't know if you wanna qualify them as straight out failures or semi failures, but it's a fact that a lot of lean initiatives don't work out very well.

Gauthier Duval (35m 48s):
And I, and you know, in the, in the lessons learned, we always talk about leadership is was not on board or the mindset was not on board. Well, that's all od and I think that, you know, we have to start with beginning and that's really working hand in hand with the specialists, practitioners

Mark Graban (36m 13s):
Back becoming a running of terminology and definitions. How do you define failure if it's a quote unquote failure? You know, there, there are different numbers thrown around, feels like I'm, I'm, I'm sharing a pet peeve now of numbers thrown around of, you know, whatever X percent of lean initiatives fail. I'm like, well, what, what, what do you mean by fail? And I think, you know, this number sort of points back, like, if I remember right, the more, the more precise terminology or was something around did not meet expectations. Well, that, that's different, right? Yeah.

Mark Graban (36m 53s):
Not meeting expectations versus failing and then the steps back and you know, you step back and ask, well were the, were the expectations unrealistic or not? So, you know, if we're loose with our terminology around these things, you know,

Gauthier Duval (37m 9s):
Your expectation is that you're going to become your industry's Toyota. Maybe that's

Mark Graban (37m 15s):
Or how quickly, Right?

Gauthier Duval (37m 16s):
And how quickly, Yeah,

Mark Graban (37m 17s):
Maybe you could do that, but it's not a six month project, right?

Gauthier Duval (37m 20s):
Correct. Yeah, absolutely.

Mark Graban (37m 22s):
It's probably not. Yeah. But you know, there's, there's back, you know, back, back to, you know, terminology and, and phrases that get thrown around. I mean, the word lean itself, 10 different organizations that would say we're quote unquote implementing lean, you could ask what, what does implementing mean? And they might be doing any range of things that are very different, you know, kind of, you know, full holistic lean model if you will, versus like, oh, we're using some lean tools. Like those, those are not one and the same another term think it's thrown around maybe sometimes loosely is a learning organization.

Mark Graban (38m 7s):
And I don't know that's something that's important to you. Like how, how would you define that term? Like what, what, what do you think that term should really mean? Like, more specifically?

Gauthier Duval (38m 18s):
Yeah, I think that, you know, talking about expectations and goals, I believe that from an OD perspective, that's the goal is that we become a learning organization. And what it means for me is the ability for the organization to discuss threats without becoming defensive. I think what, you know, when you look about, when you look at companies that have really truly failed, right? It's because it's not because they were not aware of the threats that ultimately killed them.

Gauthier Duval (38m 60s):
It's because being aware of the threats, they decided either to suppress discussion about it or to pursue one way without them questioning the, that one way. And you know, when we talk about learning organization, for me there, there's one person who really embodies great understanding of what it means to become a learning organization. And that's Chris Argyris. If you, if you were to ask me who are my, my top gurus, right?

Gauthier Duval (39m 41s):
I mean, obviously I'd say, oh no, for lean and for strategy management and ding for systems thinking. But when it comes to the organization and the culture, I would put Argyris as my top, my top inspiration.

Gauthier Duval (40m 46s):
Even though I'll, I'll be up front, you know, I encourage everybody on the podcast to go and read Chris Argyris. His books are not exactly an easy read. I mean, it's very academic in the style, but it's full of insights and full of really important ideas.

Mark Graban (40m 23s):
So I've, I've heard the name, I am more familiar with the work of Peter Singy, who is also one of the first names that comes to mind, I think, in terms of system syncing learning organizations. So tell, tell us more about like what, what, what stands out to you from the work of Chris Argyris and, and, and, and why people want, you know, tell us a little bit more about why people should be reading his work and, and, and the connections that they might draw out that are useful.

Gauthier Duval (40m 57s):
So Chris Argyris, first of all, to give you some context, he was, I believe the dean of the college of business at Harvard. So very, very distinguished researcher and practitioner. And what he wrote about was how the, the, what he called the def, what do you call the defensive mindset, you called it a model one mindset. How that's basically drove the way organizations are structured and how the way these organizations structure are structured also reinforces the mindset.

Gauthier Duval (41m 40s):
So he was also very much a systems thinker because he identified all of those feedback loops within the organization. And, you know, he, he really understood how that defensive mindset was so integrated into the way we think that we perform according to that mindset. I, I would say without, without ever thinking about it, because this automatic, so he kind of, archer is kind of formalized this defensive mindset, by the way it started very, very much by accident.

Gauthier Duval (42m 23s):
It started with him doing some studies, I think it was with government workers and realizing when it, when he was analyzing the studies that he did, that everybody, pretty much everybody behaved and thought in the exact same way. And this, this way was really what he called the defensive thinking mindset. It starts with the idea that we'll have certain governing values that are inculcated right from the start. Like one of the reasons why we all have this common model, one defensive mindset according to arduous, is we acquire that during childhood and all children go through the same phase, which is, if you're a child, you basically have no power, right?

Gauthier Duval (43m 12s):
You are dependent on others for everything. And so the survival mechanism for a child is to develop this, the, these action strategies that work very well. But those of course, as an adult, don't work so well. If you are in a situation where you need to learn, you need to change. So if you think about these governing values that drive defensive mindsets, there, there are things that I think would, would be accept by everybody. It's, you know, you achieve your goals, but you achieve your goals through unilateral control, which you don't depend on others to achieve your goals. You wanna maximize your winning and you wanna minimize your losing.

Gauthier Duval (43m 53s):
You want to suppress negative feelings and you want to be perceived as acting rational, right? I mean, it's not controversial. Everybody will say, Yeah, that makes sense. Where it becomes interesting is what kind of action strategies we have developed in internalized so that it's now a habit that we, the way we achieve those governing values through the action strategies are things like, I'm gonna advocate for my position, but I'm gonna do so in a way that does not invite you to test my assumptions or my reasoning in any way. I'm going to evaluate you or I'm going to make attribution about your thoughts, but I'm not gonna right.

Gauthier Duval (44m 39s):
Because just in the way that I'm kind of keeping things to myself, I know that you're things to yourself, therefore the only way I can understand you is by making evaluations and attritions. So there are a whole series of action strategies that we develop and internalize and those action strategies, even though they work very well, if you're in a routine situation, if you're in a situation where you have to deal with real threats, then they're totally counterproductive. And so he called this skilled incompetence, called it skilled incompetence because we become very skilled at these action strategies, but they make us incompetent when it comes to being able to learn from our errors.

Mark Graban (45m 25s):
Yeah, wow. It has a lot to think about there. It's

Gauthier Duval (45m 31s):
A lot.

Mark Graban (45m 31s):
Yeah. The word threat is, is is that referring to, let's say, external threats to the business or anything that's like interpersonally threatening? Like a

Gauthier Duval (45m 48s):
But ultimately, yeah, ultimately it is about how I as an individual perceive what you're telling me or what you're doing as I perceive it as a threat, or I perceive it as a potential embarrassment. Okay. So if you say something that would perhaps embarrass me, I'm gonna try to, that of course I'm not going volunteer any information to you that would in return embarrass me or that would threaten my, my goals.

Mark Graban (46m 21s):
Yeah. So is is that reaction, that defensive mindset, is it similar to what people might call knee-jerk reactions or thinking of, is it related to Daniel Kahnemann who talks about type one thinking and type two thinking or fast thinking and slow thinking is, is, is this sort of like knee-jerk fast thinking responses?

Gauthier Duval (46m 47s):
So yeah, I don't think it's the same thing as the system one, system two of comma No, this is, yeah, I would really separate the two. But it is kneejerk in the sense that again, it's been internalized that we perform this behavior without even thinking about it. And one of the, one of the countermeasures that, that has developed, cause of course he talks about this model one mindset, the solution to that model one mindset is not to do the opposites. The solution is to develop a new set of habits of mental habits, which he calls model two. And one of the things that he, that he explains, you know, is it's really like, it's been like learning tennis.

Gauthier Duval (47m 32s):
He says it's about the same level of effort and, and practice over month. But if you practice it every day, then you're going to be able to acquire those new habits. And the ideas not that this replaces the old mindsets, the old mindset still has its place. When you're in a routine situation, it works fine. It's when you are in those special situations where the organization or yourself or your team, you need to learn and you need to address something that is perceived as a threat, then you have to use those new habits.

Mark Graban (48m 8s):

Gauthier Duval (48m 9s):
And he says, you know, one of the things you do, one of the habits is to slow down.

Mark Graban (48m 13s):

Gauthier Duval (48m 14s):
So resist your temptation to immediately come back with an answer, slow down your thinking.

Mark Graban (48m 19s):
Yeah, yeah. That gives me, that gives me paused. I'll think about that later instead of pausing and thinking about now. But it also makes me think a little bit of the one time I saw the late Stephen Covey speak in person at a Shingo Institute event, one of the, you know, he was talking about one of the, one of his themes of putting a gap between stimulus and response sounds similar to some of what you

Gauthier Duval (48m 47s):
Think. I think that was a quote from Viktor Frankl

Mark Graban (48m 50s):
Actually. Yes.

Gauthier Duval (48m 51s):
Actually, between

Mark Graban (48m 53s):

Gauthier Duval (48m 54s):
There's a space and that space is where your liberty lies or something like that. I don't remember the exact quote, but very, very striking quote. Yes.

Mark Graban (49m 2s):
Yeah. And you're right, Covey did credit him. But I, I think, you know, Covey, I remember him adding, you know, some thoughts about thinking of, you know, how how do we, what can we do in terms of behaviors and habits to, to make sure that that space is there of not shrinking that space to where it really becomes just reflexive stimulus and response and Exactly. And allowing, allowing higher order thinking to rule instead of our reptile brain as it sometimes called, Right. Fight and flight, fight or flight response and, and, and, and traps that we, that we fall into.

Mark Graban (49m 43s):
So a lot to think about there. So our guest again today, Gauthier Duval, wanted to ask you tell us a little bit, a little bit about Veryable the company. The, the website is, tell us about the company. What, what are the problems that, that you solve?

Gauthier Duval (50m 6s):
So the problem we solve is how do you apply just in time beyond materials? You, you have three factors of production, as we all know, we've got to do anything that you need materials, you need people, and you need equipment. And lean today as it's structured, is predicated on the idea that neither labor nor equipment are truly flexible and therefore we do leveling. And what Veryable does is really, it is a digital marketplace that connects businesses with operators or really independent contractors. And, but it's, it's really shrinking the batch size of labor acquisition, if you will, to the, to the, to the extent that now the batch size is I need one person, or I need five people for one shift and I need in three hours.

Gauthier Duval (50m 58s):
And so it's really the ability for businesses to scale their labor capacity up and down to meet their demand, which is really what just in time is about

Mark Graban (51m 8s):
The right people in the right place and the right time.

Gauthier Duval (51m 10s):

Mark Graban (51m 12s):
So how, how is that, I mean, how is that different, you know, Toyota uses temporary labor, but I think it's usually more of a extended contract, but without the guarantee of quote unquote, you know, permanent employment or, you know, Toyota will in, in down times let go contract labor while protecting full-time jobs. How, how does this fit into to concepts like that?

Gauthier Duval (51m 37s):
Yeah, so we're absolutely not a staffing agency or agency that it we're absolutely not that. Because the way we create the digital marketplace is that you as a business get to choose who goes into, we call it a labor tool. So you basically contract with operators and you write those operators just like, you know, Uber rates a driver. So you'll find the operators that you need and those that you like, you then put into a labor pool. And the idea is that this labor pool is slightly equivalent of a supermarkets, but it's for labor and you pull from that labor pool when and where you need labor.

Gauthier Duval (52m 27s):
So it's a very, very different model than the temp now. So yeah, we are absolutely not about, you know, sta staffing.

Mark Graban (52m 40s):
So I'm, I'm just curious to think a little bit more a use case of, and talking about customers or clients. What, what, what types of companies would utilize labor? Is how skilled are we looking at, you know, relatively unskilled roles or like, what, what's the range of, of labor within these labor pools or markets?

Gauthier Duval (53m 4s):
It's, it is, for now at least, it's general labor, right? And we, we specially work only for industrial and logistics customers. So we specialize in industry and logistics. But yes, a lot of our, a lot of our people on the operator side are just general labor. So we don't have consultants, for instance, on, on the platform.

Mark Graban (53m 34s):

Gauthier Duval (53m 36s):
Yeah, it's an hourly labor.

Mark Graban (53m 38s):
And would, would that labor pool have an expectation? What, what would their expectations be in terms of how much work they would have over the course of the week or how many different environments they, they might be in over time?

Gauthier Duval (53m 53s):
Well, that's a very interesting question mark, because I think one of the reasons we're doing quite well in terms of growing, I mean we're in the US mostly southwest, southeast, Midwest, and now starting in the northeast is a lot, lot of the workforce today values flexibility, battle above all, not everybody, but there's a, a large number of workers who have just been treated so poorly, I think, in terms of being imposed over time for long and long periods. And they've said, I don't want to work every weekend.

Gauthier Duval (54m 36s):
I don't want to have overtime every day. And so a lot of them, and some of them also have family, family responsibilities are family reasons for not wanting to have a fulltime job. So for various reasons, there's a large, a large number of workers today who are not looking for full time and, and that's the kind of people you'll find on the platform.

Mark Graban (55m 4s):
Yeah. So is it, is it set up in a way that, it sounds like the intent is for it to be win-win, not just for the companies utilizing labor on demand, but also for the people providing their labor and

Gauthier Duval (55m 20s):
Correct. And by the way, I mean the, the rate at which the op we call it is, is priced is it's, it's a market situation. So I mean, I'm a, if I'm an operator and I have a minimum threshold and I'm going to look for only ops that meet my earnings threshold, and I can, by the way, I can also respond to business bidding, offering an op with a counter bid or say, Well, I'll do it, but I wanna pay that much.

Mark Graban (55m 57s):
Yeah. So is there the equivalent, I mean, as a Uber user, sometimes you get hit by surge pricing. Is there a similar concept then within, within that? Nothing

Gauthier Duval (56m 7s):
Like surge pricing, no fees. I mean, we take a percentage basically, but there's yeah, no obligation, no commitment on either side. Yeah. And as opposed to Uber, I can actually, so I, if I wanna take the ride a certain price, I can say, I'll take you as a driver at that price.

Mark Graban (56m 30s):
Ok. Well it's very interesting, but it sounds like it's, it's a unique model and something for, for, for organizations where, like you said, if they, if they can't level load in different ways, you know, depending on customer needs, customer delivery requirements, this, this provides maybe a different degree of flexibility, not just materials, but people, you're not doing anything on the, the equipment space on that third piece,

Gauthier Duval (56m 56s):
We're not doing anything, but there's nothing really that prevents this concept of using digital marketplaces to extent. It's really about extending the concept of just time.

Mark Graban (57m 5s):
Yeah, Yeah. And then I guess, you know, final question, when it comes down to, you know, en engaging employees, I mean, it seems like there, there could be a possibility here of you think of what, what somebody from a labor pool is bringing to your company. Not just the ability to follow a job instruction, but you know, to, to participate in improvement. I'm wondering what your experience or what your intent would be in terms of using the minds of, of people who are getting placed into a, into something through Veryable.

Gauthier Duval (57m 39s):
Yeah, I mean, I, I love that because I don't know if you've had the same experience, but I've always had the experience that the people who are most creative and who bring the best ideas are usually in their first few months of employment. Like new employees,

Mark Graban (57m 55s):
Fresh eyes.

Gauthier Duval (57m 57s):
If I can get them into Kaizen, I will definitely do that because they usually burst with ideas. I think, you know, that's always the issue when you go every day, day in the day out in the same environment, you kinda lose that, that cutting edge.

Mark Graban (58m 14s):
Yeah. Yeah. And I, I would hope companies in any industry or any setting are open to learning from new employees or temporary employees. I've run across, you know, the, the two alternatives in healthcare to make it black and white. You know, I, I remember talking to quote unquote traveler, they'll use that term in healthcare contract person medical technologist was working in this hospital laboratory. And, you know, I'm there as a consultant, I am engaging people and trying to understand the culture and getting them to participate in improvement. And, and this, this guy lamenting, you know, he would work at places for a couple months at a time and he is like, yeah, I mean he, he had such a breadth of experiences in different organizations to have ideas to bring in from the outside.

Mark Graban (59m 5s):
And he's like, Yeah, nobody, like nobody would ask him for that input. It's just, it's a, it's an example of, I think waste wasting talent, wasting human potential. And I have been in organizations that, that very consciously and intentionally say basically, Hey, you're new here, you're gonna see things that we are now situation situationally unaware of. If something is confusing or seem like there, there's, you know, please point out anything, there might be a good reason why we do it this way. But you also might be highlighting, Hey, we've missed that. Here's a kaizen opportunity.

Mark Graban (59m 45s):
And, and boy, that, that is something organizations are better offered tapping into. Yeah. So I will climb down from my soapbox and we will come in for a dismount on the, the episode here. So again, we've been joined by Gauthier Duval, the director of the Lean Center of Excellence at Veryable, and encourage you, if you wanna learn more about them or, or their model, go to There'll be a link in the show notes and, you know, good to you, if people wanna reach out to you and learn more about this, if, if they wanna talk to you about it, how, what's the best way to reach you?

Gauthier Duval (1h 0m 21s):
Well, you can go to the website and there's a, you can reach me directly there, there's a form to contact me, contact the Lean Center of Excellence. We're doing all kinds of very interesting experiments trying to create new tools for lean as it as it relates to labor. So,

Mark Graban (1h 0m 45s):
Alright, well, I hope some folks reach out to you, Gauthier, it's been nice getting to know you through the process of prepping for the episode and doing it here today. So thank you. Thanks for joining us.

Gauthier Duval (1h 0m 54s):
Thank you for having me, Mark.

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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


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