Posted by: knightbird | August 23, 2010

Resistance to Lean Initiatives

I had a recent “modern” conversation (social networking) with a friend who was let go from a job. This person is one who cares passionately about their customers and revealed information to me about the command and control managers in their workplace. Personalizing criticism, blaming behaviors, yelling and screaming are some attributes of command and control managers. Managers and employees (Resisters) who have learned how to “game” the system are typically heavily invested in current management practices, and resist change. They have learned how to claim any credit available for improvement and lay off blame for the problems, typically ending up with someone losing their job that is not the “gamers.” Rarely are such Resisters “team” players. I ran into this a lot at Chugachmiut. Gamers spend a lot of time communicating with their peers and managers seeking personal support and to find out what are the best workarounds to problems they face, and to lay blame on specific individuals.

Sometimes Resisters have to go. Team players almost always buy in quickly to Lean. They go through one or two Kaizen and immediately see the benefits for their customers. Resisters realize that they could lose the special benefit they accrue by becoming Team players. They sabotage the Lean implementation in any way they can. Professor Jim Collins has excellent advice in his book “Good to Great,” which is to get the right people on the bus and the wrong people off the bus. I learned this lesson the hard way.

As we were going through our Lean transformation, I received a couple of anonymous communications from what I guess was a then current employee (I have my suspicion). One communication was a Sally Forth cartoon showing Sally as a team oriented manager, and the big boss Ralph (a reference to me) as a command and control, shame based manager. The message was to just let employees do what they want to do. Another was a Fred Flintstone and Betty Boop doll, intended to refer to me as ancient (Neanderthal) in my management practices. The Betty Boop doll was intended to represent on of my outstanding Division Directors as a blind follower. A number of other anonymous communications were sent to my board of directors. Every one of the processes that these anonymous communications referred to are now exemplary processes managed by the employees who work in them, and are heavily involved in our Restoration to Health strategy.

Some employees take a direct and open approach. They use whoever has political influence among your board to try and hold on to their advantages. Fair is not important to them.

Employees can be valuable partners in addressing the needs of our customers if we treat them with respect and educate them to the possibilities for great management. Resisters will fight you every step of the way because they start to see a loss of their competitive advantages in the workplace. I constantly reminded our employees that the job was not about us, it was about serving our customers. If we did that well, we would have our jobs for as long as we wanted them.

In my next post, I will talk about what it takes to bring good employees on board for your lean transformation.

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