Appreciating Systems

Appreciating Systems for Genuine Efficiency
Home » Archive by category 'Solution Focus' (Page 6)

How to address contemplation stage of Lean change – #3 in SFMI #Lean series

This article is #3 in a Series about using Solution Focus and Motivational Interviewing to coach CEOs into starting their own Lean journey.

#1 in series gave a broad-brush view of what I intend to write about. Please read it first.

#2 in series addressed the precontemplation stage of change.

This article deals with the next stage of change: that of Contemplation.

Background on contemplation

This stage of change corresponds to a mental state of someone who is considering change, but may not know what the change corresponds to and is still undecided as to going for it or not.

For a MI coach, the most important tasks during this stage are to:

  • acknowledge ambivalence and mixed feelings about the change,
  • explore discrepancy between present behavior and personal values or goals,
  • discuss pros and cons of change,
  • talk about ways to experiment with the change.


Previously, the CEO did not know that he was the one that needed to change. If the coach succeeded in having him move to contemplating the change of his own behaviors, the CEO should now be more opened to changing himself. Yet, commitment still need to be gained for doing the change.

Just as previously, the coach’s role is still to increase DARN talk, but with a more pressing focus on C talk (commitment), which would signal the CEO moved to the next stage of Preparation.

With this in mind, here are some tentative questions, MI-style, to ask a CEO contemplating changing for some more Lean behaviors:

  • Tell me about your current management practices. How have them helped you achieving your goals in the past? Hindered?
  • To what extent does the organization currently mirrors your management practices?
  • When comparing your previous change successes to your current Lean initiative, what’s different? 
  • How do you relate your previous management practices to that of a Lean manager (always on gemba, challenging yet listening to collaborators, coaching rather than solving problems, etc.)?
  • How do you see your current management practices evolving to suit with a continuous improvement culture as proposed by Lean? 
  • Tell me how you feel about changing your management behaviour? What would happen if you’d stay the same? If you changed?
  • Suppose you did change your management practices to fit Lean practices, how would that help you? The organization?
  • Supposing you’d like to try some new management behaviors (but the final choice stays yours), what would the firsts of them be (with respect to Lean, of course)? Where would you like to experiment them? By when? What consequences would you expect?
  • On a scale from 1 to 10, how important is it for you to change? Why not a lower number? What else?
  • On a scale from 1 to 10, how ready are you for making the change? Why not a lower number? What else?
  • What would you need to be done to move to an upper number on the readiness scale?

What needs to be kept in mind by the Lean coach is that the aim of these questions is to get the CEO moving from precontemplation stage to contemplation at which moment, he will be considering change.

The coach needs to listen carefully to the CEO talk and, through the use of Open-ended questions, Affirmations of any positive talk or behavior, Reflecting what’s been said and Summarizing, pin-point the Commitment talk of the CEO. Then it will be time, during another session, to Prepare for the change.

Stay tuned for #4 episode!

How to address precontemplation of Lean change – #2 in SFMI #Lean series

This article is #2 in a Series about using Solution Focus and Motivational Interviewing to coach CEOs into starting their own Lean journey.

#1 in series gave a broad-brush view of what I intend to write about. Please read it first.

This article deals with the first stage of change: that of Precontemplation.

Background on precontemplation

This stage of change corresponds to a mental state of someone who is not considering change, whether he has not thought about it yet or that he doesn’t feel like he needs to change.

For an MI coach, the most important tasks during this stage are to:

  • build rapport and trust
  • and increase problem awareness to raise a sense of importance to the change

Special note: when considering imposed change (some upper level of management imposing a change for instance), it may be first difficult to work with the client because this kind of situation just triggers resistance. What have been found useful in other contexts is, rather than work directly with the requested change, work on the constraint instead: “I understand you’re not the one that asked for that change. Yet, you now have a new workload to assume, in addition to the other ones you already had. Would it be ok for you if we look at what could be done to alleviate this constraint?”


Back to a Lean starting initiative context, during this stage the CEO may not be aware that what he’s viewing on the gemba reflects his own way of thinking and that of his organizational culture.

Building rapport and increasing problem awareness are the more important tasks of the coach at this stage. But the problem has to be formulated as one of the CEO behavior, not one related to other people in the organization!

With this in mind, here are some tentative question, MI-style, to ask a CEO considering Lean:

  • Why do you want your organization to go Lean?
  • How would it be better if your organization implemented Lean management? What else?
  • How important (from 1 to 10) is it for you to move your organization to Lean management?
  • I understand you want the situation to be changed and your organization to become “leaner”. Tell me about a successful organizational change you have been leading. What made it possible? 
  • How did you manage to lead it to success? 
  • (text below deleted on 2011/09/08 and moved to Contemplation stage)
  • How is your current Lean initiative going? What works? How did you manage to achieve this? 
  • Tell me about your current management practices. What consequences have had your current management behaviour on your Lean initiative? 
  • When comparing your previous change successes to your current Lean initiative, what’s different? 
  • Suppose you did change your management practices, how would that help you? The organization?

What needs to be kept in mind by the Lean coach is that the aim of these questions is to get the CEO moving from precontemplation stage to contemplation at which moment, he will be considering change.

Stay tuned for #3 episode!

How to begin #Lean coaching using #SolutionFocus and Motivational Interviewing (#1 in Series)

This article is #1 in a Series where I investigate the use of Solution Focus and Motivational Interviewing to coach CEOs into starting their Lean initiative. Other articles will follow, feel free to comment!

2% of Lean transformation are successful. That means that 98% of Lean transformations fail (Google search).

Can you believe it? From an approach that stresses reflection (or hanseï), it’s more than surprising that almost nobody’s looking for other ways to introduce Lean. I mean something that works better!

Actually, there are some people, for instance on the Strength-Based Lean Six Sigma LinkedIn group, but we’re few.

I would like here to express my ideas about introducing Lean differently to top management (or maybe other lower management levels) using Solution Focus and Motivational Interviewing.

Read more »

10 questions for the #solutionfocused (#lean?) #coach

September 5th, 2011 Posted in Change, Lean, Solution Focus Tags: , , , , ,

Today seems to be under Coert Visser’s auspices. Here’s another nice blog post of him about questions to help a coach prepare himself to really listen to the coachee or client:

Doing What Works: 10 questions for the solution-focused coach.

I feel it really hard not to fall in the rhetoric trap where I know what I would like them to do (Lean management for instance) but feel listening is the way to go and so I need to ask them questions.

A coach mainly works by asking questions, but not in a rhetoric way. He must deeply want to know what is it that his coachee wants, how does he see things or how he feels about the change.

Of course, there’s no other way to do Lean management than by doing Lean management. Yet, there’s more than one path to reach that goal and it’s important to use the easiest path for the learning manager (the coachee) and help him identify what worked before in the direction of that Lean management.

For instance, if the coach identifies that creating a flow is the path to follow for now, one can go for the following kind of question:

Lean teaches us that the most efficiency is achieved in a flowing process (provide details as necessary). Tell me about a time where you have experienced work flowing? What allowed it to happen?

Then, work could focus on the current process:

In the current process, what gives you hope for increasing the flow-ness of it?


#Lean idea: Treating clients as cooperative, no matter how resistant they may appear (#solutionfocus)

August 29th, 2011 Posted in Change, Lean, Solution Focus Tags: , , , , ,

Here’s is a very nice blog from Coert Visser: Doing What Works: Treating clients as cooperative, no matter how resistant they may appear, is the quickest and most promising way to encourage further cooperation.

I’m now deeply convinced that it could help a lot of Lean CEO trying to “do” Lean if their senseï or Lean coach would deal with them in a solution focused way.

The traditional Lean coaching approach has traditionally been to hit the CEO on the head until they do it and get it (maybe from a cultural approach to coaching in Japan). Surely enough, Lean has to be done by oneself to be fully understood: what a one-piece flow can bring in terms of problem detection and team work is a marvellous thing that needs to be experienced to be best understood.

Few consultants that I know can run down this path: the CEO is barely available and most often nominate someone to take care of the Lean job, or worse, let the consultants manage Lean projects on their own.

Instead, if Lean coaches would deal with the CEO first, foremost and only, it might be a slower start but a better, firmer start in the end.

As Solution Focus is about what works in terms of behavior, it may help to raise awareness in the CEO that what he sees in his company is how he thinks. And that by changing his thoughts and corresponding behaviors, he might get something else that works better for the company as a whole.

I’ll post something about Motivational Interviewing as a way to approach that first meetings with the CEO… soon.


The magic of social constructivism (#appreciativeinquiry #solutionfocus)

I have 1 hour of commute time each morning and each evening between home and work. I invest that time in reading. Which means, at 2 hours on my hands every work day, that I read a lot!

So, reading this morning about Solution Focus, it reminded me about something I’ve read elsewhere about social constructionism and how appreciative inquiry helps you change your own world.

In fact, you can reverse the path of time and have the future influence your present.

In AI terms we say that we move in the direction of what we repeatedly ask questions about. When we build a clear and detailed vision of the future, it becomes so powerful that it influences our present and allows us to move into the direction of that (new) future. The more positive is the vision, the more forceful is the move.

Now, when combining this with Solution Focus that helps people see bits and pieces of the future already occurring now or even having occurred in the past, I can safely update the preceding quote and say that:

The future can change the past.

How is that? Well, the future we can know only in our mind. And, without any further consideration, it influences your choices in the present moving you into that direction of that future you have in mind (AI stance).

But with deliberate action, imagining a preferred future can help shed a new light on your past by  seeing how it already occurred (at least partially). Indeed, your past don’t really change, but the way you see it from now changes, which is all that counts and which will bear new consequences on your future to come.

By thus noticing that that preferred future of yours has already started to realize itself in your past, you get a further boost of energy and confidence to choose your present and follow a new path to that very future.

This is the magical power of the mind and the constructionism stance toward life.

Further, that constructionism magic is fueled by human energy that appears to behave like radioactive matter: the more you bring together, the further more energy is created in a chain reaction. It’s not just additive, it’s exponential! So is, in my mind, the power of social constructionism.

(Of course, there’s a dark side to that magic through demeaning words and behaviors: these can bring power and results in the short-term, but is self-destructive in the longer term). Positive social construction is powerful now and later.

What’s more, you don’t need 7 years in Hogwarts to learn that kind of magic! 😉

AxiomNews is going to further improve its positivity ratio!

August 24th, 2011 Posted in Appreciative Inquiry, Solution Focus Tags: ,

That’s what I’m understanding after reading one of their latest blog post about “changing the nature of news“.

In the post, they mention the Arab Spring. This made me wonder: what if mainstream news media had, since the beginning of the events, exclusively focused on positive and what worked for people during the different social changes that took place in these parts of the world (and still occurring at that very moment)? Wouldn’t it have brought more energy to these changes? Wouldn’t it have further empowered people to build the kind of society they most longed for? And as a result, it may well have shortened these events, thus preventing casualties…

AxiomNews is a corporate generative journalism company that helps organizations improve themselves by digging for and refracting successes and achievements, each and everyday, in company news media.

On their website, they also post news of positive change occurring here and there.

A great company to follow!


A curse anatomy: #Systems Dynamics view of Micro-management #systhnk

Systems dynamics diagram of micro-management addiction situations

Systems dynamics diagram of micro-management addiction situations

The (real) situation

A friend of mine (middle manager) himself is subjected to micro-management from it’s own manager. Given the high number of projects and subjects ongoing in his perimeter, it’s a pain for him to follow all of them at the level of details required by his own upper manager.

A tentative model

Upon analysis with a systemic diagram, I found a horrible picture where the more a manager would go into micro-management, the more it will feel the urge to go. Here’s the explanation why (click on diagram to open it in a new window to follow explanations)

At the beginning, there is a micro-management need, either from a personal inclination and/or from a high hierarchical position that naturally prevents someone from having detailed information about project.

Balancing loop B1: the manager being in micro-management need take on the micro-management of activities in need (from his point of view), which will, hopefully and again, from his point of view, fix any issues on these activities hence relieving the micro-management need.

This is the main reason which a micro-manager start micro-managing in the first place. Only that this triggers three different reinforcing loops that we will now describe, resulting in a classical “fixes that fail” systems archetype…

Reinforcing loop R1: out of that micro-management need, some activities are felt in need of being-micro-managed (because of perceived problems for instance). The more the manager thus focuses on these micro-managed activities, the less there’s a focus on other activies. As a consequence, issues on other activies start to raise (we’ll see why in the next paragraph). The more other activities have issues, the more they are felt as activities in need of micro-management, which increased the need for the manager to micro-manage activities.

Reinforcing loop R2: the more a manager increase his micro-management need, the less his direct reports are motivated. Which results in a decrease in management of their activities and further increase issues. Side note: an issue on an activity need to be considered from the point of view of the micro-managing manager. This further adds to the micro-management need in the first place.

Reinforcing loop R3: when the motivation of direct reports decreases (as seen in R2), so does the trust on the micro-manager in them, which further increases his micro-managing needs.

So, there we are in a situation where the consequences of micro-management further reinforce themselves.

The solutions?

So, where do we go from there?

Traditional way of dealing with “fixes that fail” archetypes is to try to anticipate the unexpected consequences (of micro-managing in this case). Here, that would mean informing the micro-managing manager of that systemic situation. As we’re talking of a personal inclination (whose psychologic causes may be diverse) it’s not sure that the person will change his behavior (further, pushing the model onto him may just raise it’s resistance to the much needed change, hence locking the situation even more).

It maybe the case that the current situation is one in which we’re dealing with a symptom instead of addressing the root cause. In that case, we’d be in a shifting the burden systems archetype situation with new possibilities arising. I’m for instance thinking of teaching people how to “properly” manage their activities such as not to trigger micro-management needs and teach the micro-manager that he needs to teach rather than do himself, just for his own sanity (hereby addressing the WIIFM: “what’s in it for me”).

It may be the time for some Solution Focus work with the micro-manager and/or the micro-managed people: what behavior worked for you in the past? How can you do more?

Or some coaching, maybe using Motivational Interviewing style where the micro-managed manager is brought peacefully to recognizing that he needs to change (for his own and his people sanity) and then coach him to change?

Have you ever been face with a micro-manager? How did you manage that situation without flying away?


Strength-based #PDCA (#lean)

Lean is traditionally viewed as being problem-focused. That is, it works on problems to solve in order to improve efficiency. The core of Lean management is Shewart‘s cycle or the infamous Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) Deming cycle.

Yet, I posit that Lean is indeed also very strength-based when “done properly” (that is, it’s LEAN not LAME – Lean As Mistakenly Executed). There’s a LinkedIn discussion group on Strength-based Lean Six Sigma which I encourage you to follow if you’re interested in the subject. I hope to write about this as well on this blog. Later.

What I’d like to ramble on today is on what the basis for a strength-based Lean could be. First of all, I must explain the difference between strengths-based and solution-focused:

  • Strength-based is about doing something by focusing on people’s strengths rather than focusing on their deficiencies or their problems. The strengths movement mainly came out of the CSV handbook (check what your strengths are on VIA for free!) though other companies devised their own list of strengths (Gallup or Clifton’s Strengthsfinder for instance).
  • Solution-focus is about identifying behaviors that worked in the past (or work in the present) and use them again. It’s not really about replicating a (technical) solution that worked in the past (though that could be the case. Yet, in Lean, standards are supposed to be your company’s best practices, so there’s no point in looking for solutions elsewhere).

So, what would a strength-based PDCA look like? Rather than giving directions, I’d like to propose some questions for each step that should elicit responses from people based on their strengths. or what worked for them. It’s a blend of Solution focus and Strength-based questions with a bit of Appreciative Inquiry in the beginning.


  • What works well in this job?
  • What first attracted you to this job?
  • What makes you “tick” about it?
  • Apart from this job, what do you love to do?
  • What do you think you are good at?
  • What would your friends and co-workers say about what you’re good at?
  • What are your wildest dreams for this job?
  • What three wishes do you have for this job?


  • What are you willing to do about this job?
  • What behaviors of yours have you seen successful in helping changing something you care of?
  • How are you going to approach what you want to do about this job?
  • What needs to be true (preliminary steps) for your wildest dreams for this job to come true?
  • What are the next physical concrete action that you need to do to advance on these preliminary steps?


  • Where are you on your path to achieve your plans?
  • What worked? How did you notice?
  • What have you done that made it work?
  • How are you going to continue measure progress?
  • What next?


  • What have you learned from what worked?
  • What have you learned from what you did that made it work?
  • How are you going to use that again with what’s left do to?
  • What do you know now that you couldn’t before taking action? What might be further on the road?
  • What new opportunities does it bring for your plans for the future? How are you going to improve your plans, then?

There’s so much to say about strength-based Lean and how you really can put the “respect for people” first in your Lean management so that your work experience skyrockets…

Mail List

Join the mailing list

Check your email and confirm the subscription