Posted by: Knightbird | January 23, 2016

Learning to See the Importance of Change Management

A Lean Leader will encounter resistance in their transformation. No ifs, ands or buts. You will. It may be direct and confrontational. It may be indirect and hidden from you. The nature of leaders and employees is to resist change, unless it is initiated by them. And for change that has already been initiated by them, they will be very protective. An important skill for a leader is to recognize the difficulty of change and to have a plan for introducing it. I have advocated for a strategic initiative for implementation Lean Management, in whatever form. What I see instead follows a predictable pattern. Someone hears a lean presentation. The are impressed. They hire a consultant. They conduct Kaizen. The get enough improvement to get by. And they slow down.

I almost fit this pattern. I am one of a handful of executives who achieved a Lean Cultural transformation. That is, except for board comprehension. That’s another story. Among employees, improvement events began to be self started. An employee would talk to a Lean Champion and their supervisor. An improvement event would be scheduled, and carried out. The improvements would be reported in a way that I had access to. When I started, I discussed the implementation of Lean with our Executive staff. For the most part, they agreed. But 2 were closet oppositional. They wouldn’t discuss their concerns with me directly, and both eventually left the organization, one out of frustration, and the second because of oppositional behavior. I also asked the board to adopt a strategic initiative. We planned to become the best managed Native non-profit in the state of Alaska. I believe we achieved that within the 8+ years I was the CEO.

What is Change Management? It’s actually becoming an academic study area today. I hear a lot about team management. I agree with the concept of teams, but it’s more than teams. Change Management requires moving approximately 80% of your employees to actively practice Lean Management. About 20% of employees will be active resisters. 60% will sit on the fence and adopt a wait and see attitude. If you are successful, the active resisters will gradually leave the company, or you may have to ask them to leave. For the most part, they are not happy in a Lean Culture. It doesn’t feed their individual need of achievement. They will see plenty of team achievement, bit for some reason that is not fulfilling enough. Here is how I started.

Once you understand what Lean Management is about, and have a rudimentary understanding and are committed to a proper implementation, talk about it with your leadership. Then train them. It is a completely different method of management than they have ever been exposed to. It they are not convinced by the many success stories out there to try it, attempt to include them in Kaizen. If you have your 80% at least willing to try it, start with a problematic process and bring in an experienced Lean Champion. You can start training your own at this time, but use an outsider with strategic experience. By strategic experience, I mean able not only to see the breadth of the organization, but project improvements into the future. Discuss what you are doing with your employees, and make sure you include some active resisters in the event. It will either drive them out of the organization or change their status to at least non resistant.

Learn how to measure improvement. When you schedule a process improvement event, make it a 5 day event. After all, you are pursuing change management. YOU WILL GET IMPROVEMENT. Guaranteed. Your future state will probably yield from 50 to 300 % improvement. And I have seen higher levels of improvement. But you will get improvement. And here is where an experienced facilitator will help you achieve as much of that as you can in the one week time frame. And you will leave with a fully vetted A-3 that tells you how to proceed with capturing more of the improvements you have envisioned.

And it is important to make the improvements visible. Your employees are all competitive, and they will want to achieve their own improvement. And ultimately, you will want to see if your Executives have truly embraced Lean Management. Results will speak for them, not words. If you have true performance measures, and a very Visual Management System, the 60% will start to be drawn on board. Most of all, as the CEO, do your job. I have written before about Leader Standard Work. It requires going to the Gemba, either participating inn or visiting Kaizen, and a weekly stand up session for all leaders and regular visits to division process control boards. Performance measures should include historical. Show how your process improved initially, and how it continues to improve.

I also recommend taking your most interested and accomplished participants and starting to train them as Lean Champions. Eventually, you want them to conduct Kaizen. Our process for training included accepting volunteers and training them using Training Within Industry. (TWI) We had a Training Matrix and showed as they Champions progressed through five levels of training results in about 10 different skills. We would train Champions how to do a process map, a swim lane, spaghetti diagram and other skills exactly the same way. Then we would have a Champion plan and co-facilitate an improvement event.

And as you proceed with your implementation, Learn and Adjust. Plan, Do, Check and Adjust. Never assume you have all the knowledge you need to continue to lead the implementation. Talk to more experienced executives. Get rid of you arrogance, if you have any. Lean to stop blaming employees for problems. Take training in the areas where you feel you have a need. One training experience you should seek is “Humble Inquiry (HI).” If you understand HI, you are on your way to becoming a respected, charismatic leader who will achieve outstanding results.

You leadership style should evolve as you evolve. If you have access to an experienced coach, seek them out and pay them for their time. Or try to have one put on your board. Perhaps they can help move the board to a greater understanding of the Lean Management process.

Good luck. More on the topics included in this post will come.

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