Appreciating Systems

Appreciating Systems for Genuine Efficiency
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#Change or die! A paper from #FastCompany

January 27th, 2011 Posted in Change Tags: , , ,

How resistant people can be? FastCompany published some time ago a very interesting paper on that topic. The paper relates a study done on people in danger od dying because of their overweight and bad eating habits (paper available here).

People would think that when one’s in clear and imminent danger of death, one would be more likely to change? The response is surprisingly “no”.

Just telling someone they need to change is not enough to make them change, even in the face of a personal death risk.

People need to be coached out of their current habits and into the new ones for the change to be sustained with time.

Should I refer to the PDCA model (Shewhart or Deming circle – Yes, I know PDCA is from Shewhart, but a lot of people still thinks it’s Deming’s invention. Hence the two names)… Back to PDCA, I would say that:

  • a lot of energy is expended in the Plan phase, often without too much consideration to whether tghe plan is acceptable for people or maybe just easily feasible. There’s Ashby’s law of requisite variery at play here (stuff for another post byt I’ve already mentioned the Viable System Model as usueable for change)
  • then, as the Plan was not that much adapted to the variety of the things that need to be changed, a lot more of energy needs to be expanded into forcing the Plan down the throat of employees (hint: may this be the cause of employees choking?). Some says it’s the “Do” phase…
  • when we’ve gone through the two preceding phases (and assuming the change did attain its objective), there’s usually not much energy left for Checking the results. Moreover, if the objectives has been attained, there’s nothing to check, as it’s ok, right? Should the objective not been attained, who’s willing to check and hurt oneself in the process (shoot oneself in the foot)?
  • lastly, I guess nobody even considers doing the Act or Adjust phase. Should we get there, some changed already occurred, and “people just need to copy what’s been successful in the pilot team”. Only the other people will suffer the “not invented here” syndrome: because the plan has been forced onto the pilot team, it’s adapted to them. Not to the rest of the organization (requisite variety again, plus people not been involved in it’s conception). Should the initial plan failed, who’s going to throw money at studying a dead body to understand what went wrong? There’s business to do, no time to fiddle with a dead corpse. Move on!

So, how do get that plan into place? I’d say there are at least two possibilities I can see today: one of them is using the famous Kotter model of change in 8 steps or change your paradigm and let the very people of your organization define and conduct the change that’s needed: Appreciative Inquiry is good for that.

Regarding John Kotter, I’ve just read “Our iceberg is melting“: a short novel about change in a penguin colony, very entertaining and explanatory of the model.

Regarding Appreciative Inquiry, that’s a whole domain in itself, please check the Appreciative Inquiry Commons where there’s a lot of material available for free.

Reblog: Compassionate #Coaching Evokes Better Results | Business News Daily (#appreciativeinquiry)

Here is a very interesting article on BusinessNewsDaily about coaching people for a positive vision, backed with research on brain imagery: Compassionate Coaching Evokes Better Results | Business News Daily.

Coincidentally (or not?), the research was done at Case Western Reserve University, home of Appreciative Inquiry.

Applications in parenting and management is cited in the article.

Don’t push #Lean onto #management: #coach them to pull it from you

Morning thought: I occurs to me that Lean consultants (whether internal or external) often try to push a Lean transformation onto management and most often (98% of the time) fail due to so called “change resistance”.

But it’s no wonder people resist when you try to force something onto them.

The paradox here lies in the fact that Lean experts have a detailed vision in mind of how to do it and what the final objective might be (Yeah, I know Lean is a trip and not a destination, but a one piece flow throughout the company makes for a kind of objective for me).

The problem for me is that Lean people try to force management into a vision that they don’t have in mind. Even when it’s an intellectually convincing vision, since it has not been grown inside management’s heads, they won’t accept it.

Aristotle said that to convince someone you need to use (in that order I think):

  • ethos: who you are and what credibility lies in you and your message
  • logos: what you’re going to say and whether it’s logicial and intellectually sound or not
  • pathos: an appeal to the audience’s emotions.

So, to convince people, you need to be credible, be clear in your explanation… and make people feel they want it. Not just need it. You need something from intellect. You want it from emotion. And what’s better than building a vision for creating emotions?

That’s probably why waste walks with a coach/senseï work so well. Or seeing a Lean place (or building a model line if you can) and, more than ever, continually:

  • going to the gemba to see what happen by yourself (second hand reports are intellectual, not emotional unless the reporter is good at storytelling);
  • looking at the process (not just wandering around);
  • talking to the people… just because emotions will come from interacting with others!

So, there’s no need to try to push the whole Lean management system onto management people. It’s complex and overwhelming. Bounded rationality will have them fly away (if not the double-bind you’re creating by doing so).

I think that proper coaching could help management emotionally connect with their people and see how they could help them fix the broken processes they’re trapped into. People love helping and teaching others. Only you need to provide them with the required skilled to do so (skill in the job and skill in teaching/coaching). TWI understood this long time ago. And it’s only when everybody’s started to take care of their work environment that I think you can teach them to connect processes to create a (one-piece) flow.


#Lean may need real coaches at the beginning

December 14th, 2010 Posted in Change, Lean Tags: , , ,

There are things that we just do more easily when someone is doing them with us or accompanying us in order for us to do them. These are generally the not-so-sexy-things-to-do: fat-loosing-sports, medical appointment, and on a more general scale, anything that is not bringing us satisfaction on the short term. Like continuous improvement.

If it doesn’t hurt enough, you won’t change.

So you really need to be in a catastrophic situation to ponder the possibility to change (and even then… but that’s for another article).

What’s the problem?

I think we have some very experienced Lean senseïs or Lean consultants. A whole bunch of them can be seen on The Lean Edge. I know some of them and I wouldn’t call them… gentle. Experienced? Efficient? Right to the point? Definitely! But not that pushy for clients not ready to commit deeply to what Lean requires from them. These consultants are more on the style of “either you badly want it or I leave”. Which is somewhat fine since there are quite a number of people wanting to embark on the Lean journey and there are indeed very few of these consultants. Which is a way for them to filter their clients, I guess (or a form of Lean efficiency: don’t accept bad products from the preceding step in the process – the defects there being a lack of motivation to do Lean).

What we have here is a self reinforcing loop whose limit is the maximum number of clients the consultant can handle:

Lean consultant fame system dynamics diagram

Lean consultant fame system dynamics diagram

Like all growing loop, this one exhibit an exponential growth behavior:

Lean consultants fame graphic

Lean consultants fame graphic

Of course, there’s an increasing stock outside of frustrated clients that can’t be served by the famous consultants.

We also know that there are a whole lot of clients that tried Lean and failed to continue with it. We can blame the clients for not doing what Lean required of them (deep commitment). And this is in some way true and the underlying assumtion done by the famous consultants I spoke of just above (or the easy way for them to select clients). And, by coming to this conclusion, this is also the underlying assumtions of the (not as famous but still skillful) other consultants. Indeed, by accepting unmotivated clients, you get fewer results, which confirms you that your clients were unmotivated. This is indeed a self-fulfilling prophecy.

But what would happen if we’d take the assumption that the clients are willing to do Lean but need some motivation to do it before doing the real stuff?

Read more »

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