Appreciating Systems

Appreciating Systems for Genuine Efficiency
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Reblog: How Do You Get Leaders to #Change? – Chief Learning Officer, Solutions for Enterprise Productivity

Here’s a nice article on How Do You Get Leaders to Change? – Chief Learning Officer, Solutions for Enterprise Productivity.

I especially like the end of the paper about coaching and asking questions.

Indeed, when we’re told something, there are high chances that it comes to collide with some of our beliefs or mental model (because we make sense of what we’re told with our own past experience, and that often means we mis-interpret what others are saying).

On the other hand, when asked question, we are forced to bridge the gap between where we stand (our current mental model) and what the other is trying to say. A question isn’t as explicit as a statement when it comes to expressing a perspective. So when asked a question, although we feel that some perspective is at play behind the question, we’re let with space which we can feel however we want, thus bridging the gap between our own mental model and that of the questioner.

Whatever your conviction when it comes to how people resist to change, I think we all admit that it’s hard to resist to a question (though, sometimes we might end up affirming that a question is meaningless. Yet, this is an opportunity for dialogue and explaining why we think so. So even in this case, the exchange and gap-bridging occurs, from the askee or asker).

No wonder Socrates asked questions! 🙂


My GTD documents on SlideShare

I just uploaded my GTD documents (mostly in french, sorry) on Slideshare here: My GTD documents on SlideShare.

You’ll be able to find:

  • presentations (slides)
  • coaching questions (excerpted from online sources, referenced)
  • Job Breakdown Sheets for those willing to coach or train others (Ă  la TWI)
  • summary leaflets
  • etc.



Ernesto Sirolli: Want to help someone? Shut up and listen! | #Video on @TED

This is the most hilarious, serious and extraordinatry video I’ve seen in quite some time on how to change the world and help people.

Drop whatever you’re doing at the moment, and look at it now (less than 20 minutes).

That video speaks about helping people, listening, entrepreneurship, creating successful organizations, making people thrive, and hippos. Yes, hippos.

To me, Ernesto Sirolli holds the keys to successful Lean turnovers… or whatever else is needed by the people that want to thrive in their lives and work.

Ernesto Sirolli: Want to help someone? Shut up and listen! | Video on


What do you consider the three most essential practices for successful #Appreciative Coaching? | @LinkedIn #appreciativeinquiry

December 6th, 2012 Posted in Appreciative Inquiry Tags: ,

Here’s a nice thread launched by Diana Whitney: Wondering, what do you consider the three most essential practices for successful Appreciative Coaching? | LinkedIn.

I proposed a PACT:

  1. Trust the People
  2. Trust the Appreciative process
  3. Trust the coaching process (ie ask, lead, but don’t give any solution, ever)

ie, PACT: The People, Appreciation and Coaching thou shall Trust.

Finding local roots for #Lean – Everywhere (@mbaudin reblog): What about here and there too? #solutionfocus

I found this nice piece of Michel Baudin regarding finding local roots for Lean to improve acceptance of Lean: Finding local roots for Lean – Everywhere | Michel Baudin’s Blog.

But then I wondered about having people “discover” that they already invented some Lean principles themselves? Maybe they just didn’t noticed or maintained them consistently over time?

This is what the Strengh-based approach to Lean is (well, at least using the Solution Focused way).

  • When have you seen this process improving? What did you do that contributed to that improvement? (finding improvements actions that work for the people here; the improvement part of “continuout improvement”)
  • How do you manage actions that you must do repeatedly? (finding ways to remember to to actions all the time; the continuous part of “continuous improvement”)
  • When have your work been easier to do? More interesting? What did you do to help create these conditions? (findings ways to improve the work that work for the people doing it)
  • Tell me about a time where your customers where satisfied with the product or services you delivered. What was it? How did you do it? (same kind of question, but for quality)
  • etc.


Finding the perfect #systemsthinking method: is that what you really want?

There’s this discussion on LinkedIn about finding a Systems Thinking “Theory of Everything”.

I don’t know why, but it triggered something in myself that I would like to share here as well.

Let me again come back to constructivism: all these approaches and methods reflect the mental models of their conceptors. As such, they’re perfectly adapted to whoever created them along with the context in which they were primarily intended for.

Biomatrix seems the more systeMAtic of all those I’ve encountered, with this respect.

Now, I question the practicality of such highly sophisticated approaches. How do you teach them to people?

I don’t question their usefulness in bringing further understanding of a situation and consequently improving if with less unintended consequences than if no approach would have been used instead. But the more sophisticated an approach is, the more difficult it will me, IMO to “sell” it to some organization, either externally from a consultancy perspective or internally.

All these approaches try to do is help creating a model of a problem or situation in order to improve it. From basic principles (causal loops diagrams, DSRP…) to more sophisticated ones (Biomatrix, SoSM (System of Systems Methodology), etc.) they try to be as close as possible to reality, yet without fully embracing it (for it would be reality itself, not a map of it!) So, here again, we’re in constructivism: that of the creators of the aforementioned methods, and that of the people making up a system we would like to study/improve using one of those methods.

I have two personal convictions.

  1. The first one is that a system is its best map and that the (future) solution to its problems is already embedded i it, even if invisible for now.
  2. The second one is that you have to make a tradeoff somewhere between having a very good (ie matching the variety of the system) method to help a system see what solution would work for it, and a simple enough method that can be taught and explain to people making up the system. Too simple, it might not bring any insight, too complicated, it will be dismissed before even using it.

I personally turned to strength-based approaches to change such as Appreciative Inquiry (part of the “whole-system” change methods) or Solution Focus where the system itself is helped deliver what would work for itself.

If really needed, I can revert to some very simple models (that I use as a checklist) to help ensure some basic elements of an organization have been considered. For instance, McKinsey’s 7S might be helpful sometimes (and I don’t go further than what Wikipedia).

The fact is that a system is what it is, composed of most importantly (to me) its autonomous (sub)parts: humans. And humans construct their own reality, so instead of trying to box them into some different reality, I think we need to help them see their own boxes and help them connect them all so that they do something that matters and makes sense to themselves.

Don’t try to understand in too much details what they mean of what they want. Trust them to know better than you’d ever could. Lead them in the trouble waters of where they are to the clarity of where they would like to be. Let them identify the impediments on the way. Let them identify their strengths. Let them identify their own solutions (most of them they have *already* experimented to some extent – solution focus!). Then let them decide what path would work best for them and help them maintain the direction they chose. And then help them identify when they arrived at their destination so they can congratulate themselves.

And don’t even get me into change resistance, because that’s what a sophisticated method will probably trigger anyway!


Don’t do #Lean, Build it instead

October 23rd, 2012 Posted in Lean Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

People read a lot of books to try to know all about Lean. Indeed, I did it myself (and sometimes still do it). And that’s OK.

But then, we try to have others do Lean as we’ve read in the books.

It’s an error.

We ought to have others build a Lean organization, not do it as per the books.

Trying to do Lean is trying to push solutions onto people, which is a sure way to have them resist.

Whether trying to build a Lean organization is about helping people find their own solutions toward Lean. As I say, it’s about pulling Lean out of the people. Not the other way round.

Indeed, Taiichi Ohno told us so: we shouldn’t try to replicate the Toyota Production System, we must grow our own. That’s the main reason he didn’t want to write down what TPS was in the first place (other reason was to avoid it becoming fixed).

Why is it, then, that we try to replicate all that Mr Ohno told, except for this one fundamental, point?


#TWI used to make Construction more #Lean a @linkedin discussion

In that LinkedIn discussion, the TWI programs have been used with great results (both bottom line AND, more improtantly to me, with respect to the people side of the work). Furthermore, here are three nice questions Mark Warren provided as a sort of quick coaching process to introduce the J programs. Thanks Mark!

The act of going to the work is a “Learning to See” exercise to get people in the habit of looking for problems. Then asking a few questions.

  1. Do you have a process? (No – map the process and develop a job breakdown sheet to train staff doing the job. Yes – question 2.)
  2. Do you follow the process? (No – use JR to understand why. Is it a personal issue, or are they not following the process because of other reasons? Yes – question 3)
  3. Is the process capable? (No – start with JM, however more complex tools may be necessary to resolve. Yes – what did you overlook?)

via Just completed a mammoth TWI implementation on a large construction project in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. 36% productivity improvement within 6 months. TWI is fantastic in the construction industry. | LinkedIn.

Don’t teach #Lean

genchi genbutsu

Now, thinking about it, how long have companies been trying to replicate Toyota? That’s easy fact to find: get the publication date of “The machine that changed the world” from Womack, Jones & Roos: 1991.


It’s been 21 years that people try to teach Lean. And few succeed. Yet the teaching and education business is longer than that. Should we have known a bullet-proof way of teaching, we’d know by then, don’t you think?

So, instead of trying to find the root cause of why Lean teaching fails (besides, it doesn’t really fail: it’s just that knowledge learned that way cannot be put into motion), let’s turn to what works instead. What do successful Lean coaches tell us about turning a company Lean? It simple, and I guess anyone in the Lean business knows it:

現地現物 !

Or, as I read elsewhere:

Go to the real place, look at the process, talk to the people.

Why does teaching Lean doesn’t work?

Trying to teach as systemic a thing as Lean is very difficult. Every single tool or practice is connected to every other one: Just in Time helps with flow, but also raises problems (that the purpose, by the way!), so you can see them, but you’d need visual performance management board as well, which means you need to learn and practice Five Why’s root cause analyses, Pareto, and Ishikawa. So, you’d discover that your training is lame (Job Instruction!), your batches are too big and because your die changeovers are too long, so you must SMED them, and so on.

So, when someone’s trying to teach Lean, they’re mainly trying to have some square pegs forced into round holes. The peg being the Lean material, and the hole being the people’s brain they’re trying to indoctrinate. People will have a hard time making sense of their knowledge with what they have in production. Teaching them is also mostly diverting their mind from where the true work needs to be done: the floor (gemba).

So between using new and non-practical knowledge or continuing to do what they’ve already done (and that they perfectly know how to do from their perspective), what do you think they will do? They will continue to do business as usual of course!

So, what to do about Lean knowledge?

Should we stop teaching Lean? No, of course, otherwise we’d be short of Lean experts someday. But what’s important is that the ones having Lean knowledge don’t try to push it onto people (besides, pushing isn’t the best Lean practice, by the way), but they must try to have people pull knowledge. And not pulling knowledge from the mind of their Lean consultant, but from their own! Which means the Lean consultant must change job and become a Lean coach. The role of a coach being that of a guide that doesn’t give solutions, but helps and encourages on the path to understanding. Of course, the Lean knowledge of the coach is useful: it helps him/her to ask the good questions at the most efficient moment so that the people can discover and learn Leanin the context of their own work.

Here’s one example of what I meant by the diatribe above: Michael BallĂ©’s one of the most respected Lean coach on the planet, but it took me quite some years to fully understand what he meant by repeatedly and bluntly telling people (like myself!) to go back to the gemba and work there. But for people like me that are more interested in learning than in producing, that wasn’t pleasant a discourse as I wanted it to be.

Now I know how I can have learning AND teaching at the same time: by going to the gemba and patiently and relentlessly showing the direction of Lean to people, but by coaching them to discover what would work best for them, in their own context. Hopefully, I have different tools in my toolbox to help me along the way, like Appreciative Inquiry to work out with people why do they do what they do, Solution Focus to help them remember what do they do that already works for them from a Lean perspective or Systems Thinking to nudge them into considering the whole system rather than just their silo and have them get out of their own way to truly build that systemic way of the company by 1) going to the real place, 2) looking at the process and 3) talkig to the (other) people.


Will speak at LKFR12: Hands-on experience on Strength-based Kanban: a Metaphor and Tool to boost your lean implementation coaching skills #lkfr12 #lean

I will be a speaker there along with David Shaked from Almond Insight.

You can read about our common presentation (and that of others) on the LKFR Speakers page. We intend to do a highly interactive session, à la workshop where we hope attendees will get back home with a huge number of ideas that will work for them.

Our intervention will be a “Hands-on experience on Strength-based Kanban: a Metaphor and Tool to boost your lean implementation coaching skills.”

The agenda and list of speakers is incredible, make sure you come exchange with us!

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