Appreciating Systems

Appreciating Systems for Genuine Efficiency
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Don’t look for #change resistance. It’s bad for you.

People expect change resistance and most, if not all, change approaches recommend anticipating it to better fight or manage it.

Indeed, in a pure constructivist view, what you look for, you’ll find (one of the principles of Appreciative Inquiry). If you keep asking what might go wrong, chances are that people (willing to help you) will play devil’s advocate and throw stones at your ideas. Indeed, you’re the one that looked for these people in the first place! Further, by confronting these people, you’ll most probably dig your grave yourself. You entail yourself to critics, a sure way to lower your morale and make your project stale. In a short time, you’ll see but the bad sides of your project.

On the other hand, if you search for supporters, chances are you’ll find some, too (same constructivist principle). Supporters will praise your ideas and send you positive messages that will boost your energy. Being in a good mood, you’re in a better position to listen for ideas that may enhance yours, creating synergies among participants, fostering even more positive energy and moving everybody in that future they’re collectively imagining, thereby creating it (the fact that you might have taken these very same ideas as critics in the previous situation will, hopefully, never occur to you!).

Here’s a trick to help you find supporters: ask them what they need first and see how your ideas could provide it then show them how.

Did you know that most people love to help others? How could you find out by yourself?

Hoshin kanri is key to #Lean deployement because it respects people

October 13th, 2011 Posted in Lean Tags: , , , , ,

How many Lean programs start with an objective of reducing costs? How many of them are named “Lean” when it’s spelled “L.A.M.E“?

Management still thinks that because they’ve decided something ought to be done (such as lowering costs or increasing quality, reducing delays), that will be done without them being personally involved?

Hoshin Kanri is the Lean way of deploying objectives top-down through the hierarchy.

Yet, these should not be seen as traditional in the types of objectives (aka “SMART“), or in the method in which this is done.

How to do hoshin kanri?

First, the method is not really that of a “top-down” approach as I said above. It starts in a top-down manner, but only as a way for top to give some direction down as to where people should look after for improvement. And then, each level down should investigate where there’s room for improvement that could contribute to the top objectives and ask for improvement down his own hierarchy in the refined sub-objectives. All this goes right to the shop floor (bottom level) where people then know precisely:

  • in which direction do the improvement objectives need to be done
  • and why they are necessary (more on this below)

Only when the top objectives have been declined down to the shop floor can bottom people start thinking to how the improvement will be done and lead their kaizen efforts in the proper direction.

Of course, it could happen that lower managers (and people) know better than upper management about what the next improvement should be or in what time frame it can be done reasonably. That’s the bottom-up part of hoshin kanri where bottom people negotiate with upper people on what ought to be done. This is constructive dialogue taking place. Not dictatorship.

What kind of objectives?

Toyota's Vision PictureThe next important point in hoshin kanri to be taken into account is that the top of the top objectives are not what people could expect out of “SMART” objectives. That level of company-wide objectives is called “True North“. Often times, that kind of direction doesn’t change very often and it more importantly needs to have an intrinsic property not advocated by SMART: it needs to be motivating. This is the why of the objectives that are so deeply sought after by employees. Simon Sinek in his famous TED performance explained that “people don’t buy what you do but why you do it“. Don’t expect your people to buy-in your objectives if you’ve not sold them why you want them.

Toyota doesn’t have a company objective. It has a vision. This is maybe more clearly expressed in their Company Vision:

Toyota will lead the way to the future of mobility, enriching lives around the world with the safest and most responsible ways of moving people.

Through our commitment to quality, constant innovation and respect for the planet, we aim to exceed expectations and be rewarded with a smile.

We will meet challenging goals by engaging the talent and passion of people, who believe there is always a better way.

That’s not “SMART”. But it’s engaging. Now, every department of the company can work toward this vision, by interpreting what it means with respect to its role inside the company, to its current performance and so on.

What about your company? Are your people carving stones or building a cathedral?

A response to Youtellus: The power of questions

I really like this blog post: Youtellus: The power of questions. All the stuff about asking powerful and mind-blowing questions is true and should be practiced all day long.

Yet, this part makes me wonder:

“Leaders and managers have the obligation to always look for ways that the organization as a whole can function more effectively.To do this, they need to ask questions about practices, processes, persons and structures:
Why do we things this way?is there a better approach?”

I mean, do we really need to ask people questions about practices, processes and structures? I guess that if we do, we’d find problems. People rarely get interested in these (I do, but then, I’m a Lean coach, so that doesn’t count because I’m not “normal” 🙂

To be a bit more serious, I was interested in processes at the beginning because I was a sort of productivity geek. But then I understood that improving processes with Lean or Six Sigma was not a matter of using tools. Even further, it was not a process matter.

Improving organization is a people thing.

I don’t mean a social or psychological thing (though these may help, but at the same level as can IT for instance – heck, I am in IT now!) When I say “people” I mean real people, with a head and a heart!

Improving organizations is about taking care of your people and what they care about.

And in the sentence “what they care about“, the important word is not “what” (it’s none of your business) nor is it “care” (how they do it: again, it’s personal to them). What’s important is “they“.

  • If you want money in your pocket as a manager, you won’t be able to motivate people.
  • If you want to improve your organization’s efficiency, you won’t be able to motivate people.
  • If you want to serve your customers better, you won’t be able to motivate your people.

In order to motivate your people, you need to help them identify their WIIFM factor: What’s In It For Me?

You need to ensure your people have identified what motivates them (but they’ll tell you only if they want to). You need to provide them with the support they need from you.

By instituting a permanent Dialogue between your people regarding what and how they want to contribute to the world, you will be able to fuel the change your organization desperately needs. By building on what works for them, they’ll build an organization that will also:

  • work well (efficiency)
  • provide your customers what they want (efficacy)
  • and help them fulfill their dreams
  • which may, in the end, provide some earning for you (and them) as a side effect.

Of course, you need to trust your people to be able to come to an agreement about making a profitable company. But do you sincerely think they’ll imagine something that can’t pay their salary?

If you don’t trust your people, they’ll notice and they won’t trust you. Self-fulfilling prophecy.

Try giving first and see what happens. Only a bit, something that you won’t regret afterwards. Notice how it comes back, sometimes bigger. Then, next time, gives a bit more. And a bit bigger next time.

Then ask your people now that you’ve rebuild a trust relationship what they would like from you first.

And then give it to them.

Then see.

Enjoy.

 

#Lean is social constructivism and constructionism (#stwg #systemsthinking)

A few days ago, I attended a Lean conference in Paris (with Michael Ballé) and had an insight with respect to what Lean senseïs (such as Michael) are trying to do.  Or, to be more accurate, I attached some specific meaning to a senseï-deshi relationship (which should be that of a manager with his collaborators, by the way). The details of this kind of relationship and what it entails is well described in Toyota Kata by Mike Rother (a book I yet have to read as I can’t keep pace with the TAKT of Toyota books being released… More info from Mike Rother is available on his own homepage for Toyota Kata with summary slides).

What is it that I had an insight about? Well, one recalls that:

  • a manager should spend most of his time on the Gemba, coaching his collaborators
  • the coaching consist mainly in having people repeat the PDCA loop: grasp the situation (by going to the gemba again), make hypothesis, test solutions and adjust/genealize through standardization where applicable.

One utterly important point (to me) is that the manager/senseï always stresses that grasping the situation, hypothesis formulation, solution testing and standardization must be done with all people impacted, on the gemba.

Testing is where constructionism as a learning theory occurs and co-thinking on a problem is where social constructivism happens. Let me explain below.

On social constructivism in Lean

Lean is very high on socialization of workers (and managers! Western companies should learn from that) and the A3 document is where this most evidently occurs: the A3 holder should not work on his problem on his own but meet with all stakeholders with the A3 as a central point of discussion and summary of discoveries about the problem.

What this process is all about is plain social constructivism: people make meaning of their work environment by constantly exchanging between them about it, either in groups (in Obeyas) or face to face.

Here’s what wikipedia says about social constructivism:

Social constructivism is a sociological theory of knowledge that applies the general philosophical constructionism into social settings, wherein groups construct knowledge for one another, collaboratively creating a small culture of shared artifacts with shared meanings. When one is immersed within a culture of this sort, one is learning all the time about how to be a part of that culture on many levels. Its origins are largely attributed to Lev Vygotsky.

(emphasis mine)

Sounds familiar to Lean people, huh?

Social constructivism is a way of seeing knowledge as meaning made out of social interaction. Any other “knowledge” is just hypothesis making and needs to be confronted (dialogued) with other people to check for validity and build meaning “into” it.

We all know how senseïs work hardly at breaking our (often wrong) mental models and replacing them with 1) Dialogue with stakeholders and 2) genchi genbutsu. This is where the second part happens.

On constructionism (learning theory) in Lean

With Lean senseïs striving for everybody to meet on the gemba where the real stuff happens, Lean is rooted in constructionism as well. Constructionism as a learning theory is defined as follow by Wikipedia:

Constructionist learning is inspired by the constructivist theory that individual learners construct mental models to understand the world around them. However, constructionism holds that learning can happen most effectively when people are also active in making tangible objects in the real world. In this sense, constructionism is connected with experiential learning, and builds on Jean Piaget‘s epistemological theory of constructivism.

(emphasis mine; the page further elaborates on problem-based learning… hint, hint)

What this means is that those that do something learn and know (quite) for sure. What you know in your head without prior testing is only belief (which unsurprisingly rythms with bullshit in Michael speech…)

I recall having read about or heard some of the most impotant questions regarding A3 thinking:

  • how do you know this is a problem? Have you gone to the gemba to check?
  • what are you going to do to test your hypothesis? (constructionism)
  • how will you convince your co-workers about your solution? (constructivism)

Merging social constructivism together with constructionism

The beauty of it all is to have both social constructivism and constructionism learning combined into the same management principles: meaning making occurs on the gemba with people dialoguing together.

That’s what a Lean senseï is trying to do: design learning experiments on the gemba where his deshi could learn something.

Footnotes

Here are some other notes that came to my mind while writing this post. Causation or Correlation? Probably both, the reader will decide…

Michael’s doctorate work on mental models

Michael is the son of Freddy Ballé who introduced Lean in France and Catherine Ballé, an organizational psychologist. Michael did his doctorate thesis on change resistance, especially in the context of introducing Lean into manufacturing companies. That work resulted in the writing of a book (french only it seems): “Les modeles mentaux. Sociologie cognitive de l’entreprise” (which could be translated as “Mental models. Cognitive sociology of organizations”) where these topics are described in deep details along with hypothesis, experiments and their analysis – all on manufacturing gembas. Already.

TWI Job Break Down Sheets improvement by Toyota

Looking back into Toyota history, one can compare the way teaching is done today to how it was done at the time of TWI at the end of World War II.

  • TWI’s Job Breakdown Sheets originally had two columns: “Major Steps” and “Key Points“.
  • Toyota’s JBS have one more: “Justification for key points“.

They obviously realized early that meaning at work was very important for employees. This of course also relates to their “Respect for People” pillar which implies that people know why they’re asked to do things…

Now, I hope you’ll understand better what is meant by “mono zukuri wa, hito zukuri“: “making things is about making people” (Toyota saying as said by Mr Isao KATO here [last page]).

 

#Change resistance in others is proportional to our own resistance to change one’s mental model (#stwg #systemsthinking)

Most Change Management activities are geared toward informing, explaining and training people into the change that ought to be done. It’s more or less Coercion Management to me (they conveniently share the same initials by the way).

There’s also the saying that goes “People don’t resist change, they resist being changed“. How true!

It occurred to me that the change resistance we most often sense in others may indeed be the reflection of our own resistance to change our mental models with regard to the situation that needs to be changed.

Which comes down to the assumption (a mental model as well) that there is a reality “out there” and that some view of it may be right when that of others may be wrong (the changer here supposing to have the right – or a righter – view of the situation and thus being allowed and empowered to force the change onto others).

Indeed, the more we push our (unilaterally designed) change, the more people resist. How come? I see two main reasons for that:

  • lack of people involvement in designing the change, with various consequences
  • personal belief to one view of reality only, violating the Law of Requisite Variety (Ross Ashby). Read more »

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 »

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! 😉

Psychological flow and #Lean from suppliers and customers points of view

August 17th, 2011 Posted in Change, Lean Tags: , , , , , ,
Challenge vs Skill Diagram

Challenge vs Skill Diagram

Based on a comment by David on a preceding article on the same subject, I was challenged to think of the psychological flow of suppliers and customers of an organization’s processes.

Customers first

When dealing with customers, their needs have to be taken into account first and foremost. This means that the organization’s processes must not prevent the customers to experience flow (or even support it).

On the Skill axis, the processes must be designed in such a way as to make the customer feel like they are skilled in changing them. That doesn’t mean you wait for customers to offer advice, but that you actively seek it, in non intrusive way of course (with prevailing ISO 9001 certification, customers are inundated with customer satisfaction surveys). In Lean terms, this is where genchi genbutsu rules on the gemba of the customer: go and see him use your product in their environment and stay long enough to learn. That’s longer than you just thought.

The Challenge axis is a bit more tricky to me. Of course, we don’t want a customer to feel un-skilled and the process to be challenging to change (Anxiety zone). I feel the challenging part need to be understood as the way the organization challenge the requests of the customer.

In coaching, there’s a well-known difference between a customer request (what s/he is asking of you) and his real need. One need to work out the request to get to the need.

In systems thinking, this is also known as moving from the problem to be solved to the purpose sought. Often the problem masks the purpose. When the purpose is highlighted again, then a new path is often found which dissolves the problem. But this need the organization to be ready to ask challenging questions to the customer.

Suppliers

The customer part was probably the hardest. The psychological flow of the suppliers looks easier to me. To be in a flow, work with your organization should be easy (they need to feel like they are skilled to work with you) and, they need to be challenged and feel empowered to serve you at their best.

If your require the lowest of them, chances are you’ll get it, which will require few skill and will be less than challenging to them: a clear recipe for an apathetic supplier. But broad requests with a strong dialog between you and them where you share your customers’ vision and make them part of your extended enterprise will surely allow them to seek their most powerful skills to serve you and accept the corresponding challenges.

In conclusion

I sense a form of respect for people in both of these approaches: that in which you don’t accept fatality in your relations (you on one side and customer on the other – or you and “them” (suppliers)) and reach out to build that extended enterprise everybody’s talking about in the Lean literature.

My recipe for an extended psychological flow from suppliers to customers:

  • Co-create visions with suppliers and customers
  • Establish an extended Dialog between suppliers, your organizations and your customers
  • Praise and share results by focusing on what works to do more of it

Incidentally, this is also my recipe for successful changes

Relating Motivational Interviewing, Stages of #Change and #Gestalt

During my recent readings, I stumbled (again) upon information on Gestalt Therapy, which I am not familiar with. Reading further a bit, it occurred to me that it’s mainly about patients needing to first become what they are in order to become what they want, later (I bookmarked some articles, including one that make the link between AI and Gestalt on my delicious tags for Gestalt).

And so I made the connection with Motivational Interviewing that itself is built on the Stages of Change model. MI does not force clients into change, but rather:

  • take them where they are and
  • help them understand the pros and cons of where they are

Only when people move to Contemplating change are they helped building an intrinsic motivation for the change.

Some recent discussions on Appreciative Inquiry forums also mentioned cases where AI practitioners had to deal with negative feelings first before moving on to positive. I see a form of Gestalt practice in this where it helps people recollect who they are now (including negative aspects) before recollecting their best selves and building on them. Also, it’s a way of acknowledging the fact that the system is locked in a deficit-based way of thinking and that it obviously obsesses it to the point of needing to explicit it and dig it out. A form of second level of acknowledgment of the need for positivity (first is stop being into problems, second is stop thinking about finding problems to grow).

I’m writing this blog entry to try to articulate how these fit together. It seems to me that, with respect to change, a change agent or change practitioner would be better to:

  • help the system acknowledge where it stands now, both on the problematic/deficit side and on the life-giving side (what it is when it is at its best). Also, acknowledging the system’s need to be always deficit-based without ever considering the strengths may further help build that gestalt image of itself (if gestalt experts are reading this, I’d be grateful for their comments!)
  • only after when that here and now recollection has been done should the work with AI be allowed to continue (make meaning of the strengths, Dream, Design and Destiny)
  • all of this could be done with the help of the MI techniques that take the system where it is without forcing him through stages of change to which it might not be ready to go to.

I, myself, through (limited) AI experience, sensed some form of resistance in people I facilitated to move to a strength-based approach (I’m in a highly problem-solving skilled environment, and so not dealing with problems… is problematic!). I’m also wondering whether or not I may have created this myself in expecting it from the people I facilitated (social construction, again!) Hence the need to always listen, listen and listen to the system and always take it where it stands, nor where I would like it to be…

Thoughts still wandering…

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