Appreciating Systems

Appreciating Systems for Genuine Efficiency
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How to #coach people and get results from your #leadership?

March 18th, 2011 Posted in Change Tags: , , ,

I love this simple post: Demanding Change: To lead people on a journey …

It elaborates on a simple well known premise:  to lead people, you need to start from where they are (read the rest of the post to know more, then come back here).

But this is regarding the beginning of the path. After starting, there’s sustaining. And then a coach I had a chance to work with once told me the following:

A coachee stops where the coach stops.

And to end with, let me give you a tweet I’ve read:

Change resistance is inversely proportional to your leadership skills.

It hurts, doesn’t it? Well, it did hurt me!

But let me ask you a question.

Imagine you were leading people without them resisting you. What would that mean as to the choosing of the leading direction?


Reblog: Lessons Learned About Building Commitment to #Change

Here is a nice article from Daryl Conner (change thinking): Lessons Learned About Building Commitment to Change | Change Thinking.

I obviously like the article because it appeals to my beliefs, that to change others, you need to change yourself first, which is letting go of strictly controlling the change (or be prepared to deal with resistance – which I don’t call change management but change coercion.)

Don’t try to feed people soup they won’t like but invite them to add their preferred ingredients to the soup, so you’ll all eat it happilly together.

It might not be your preferred soup (but even then, you might be surprised) or the one you wanted in the first place, but a soup that is appreciated by all the ones that need to eat it.

In systems thinking, some say that to change a system, you need to become part of it, otherwise you can’t.

#Lean historical document: #TWI Complete program for a plant

In the myriad of documents produced by the TWI during World War 2, there’s a one page synthesis of what a “TWI Complete program for a plant” ought to be (you can see this document in the files section of the Yahoo TWI discussion group).

What’s important to me in this document is that it highlights some key points about the specific roles of TWI and Plant Management in implementing the TWI training programs.

I get a lot of insights in these documents about why lean may not stick in today’s organizations and how we could change this (indeed, the way TWI devised their management contact procedures would behelpful for any kind of change program!). Of course, the context is really different nowadays than during war 60 years ago, but these points still are important. They probably are even more important now than formerly in order to secure change because current context may not be seen as urgent.

The aforementioned document has three parts, of which I’m only quoting the first and the last:

  1. What T.WI.I does
  2. What the TWI programs are (not quoted here)
  3. What the plant does

What T.W.I. does

  • Present TWI complete program – to top management
  • and Demonstrates program methods – to middle management
  • Starts program in the plant – for first level management
  • Checks program results – with all levels of management

What’s striking me in this section is that all levels of management get a chance to acquaint themselves with TWI programs. By this, one can ensure that:

  • top management knows what it’s all about (eases sponsoring)
  • middle management deeply knows what it is (prevents resistance and eases sponsoring)
  • results are followed at all levels to ensure that the TWI programs are kept on top of the stack in management’s head

What the plant does

  • Top management – authorizes programs and plans use (accepts training as an operating function at all levels. Designates […] coordinator)
  • Middle management – Promotes understanding and gives support (arranges convenient schedules for employee coverage)
  • First-level management – Starts training in basic supervisor skills (improves supervisory skills by continuiing use – Follow-through)
  • All levels of management – Check production results

Here, we can see that TWI fostered deep commitment from top management. Not only did the programs were sold, TWI also got top management to understand and take action to recognize that training was indeed part of management job in operating functions. Also, with a coordinator designated by top management, the work can continue without taking too much time of the sponsor, avoiding the risk of him getting upset by constant dragging into programs details.

Next, middle management, often being seen as a source of (change) resistance is here given an active role in supporting and planning the program. This is a way to both appeal to every management person’s will to help others (something I’m deeply convinced: people do want to contribute to others and to something bigger than themselves) and to ensure that the program is well fitted to each and every specifics of all departements of the company. Nobody’s overlooked in the process and everybody gets a change to contribute. From a systems thinking point of view, one could say that TWI complete program for a plant had requisite variety!

As for first-level management, it is clearly stated that their role will be to put the programs in continuiing use (for there is no results otherwise). There are other TWI documents related to how Follow-Through is supposed to be done.

And lastly, all levels of management need to check production results. That’s not a check of how many people were trained, but really a check of what kind of production improvements were done by way of TWI programs: increased production, man-hours saved, reduction in training time – tool breakage – scrap – grievances. So, in the end, it should be clear in everybody’s head that TWI helps solve production problems, as defined and viewed by all management levels in the company.

(The document is dated February 10, 1944, so it’s not modern rocket science!)

I hope this review of one of TWI documents will shed light on their training program efficiency and that you took some ideas home for improving your own change and lean programs.

I plan to comment on other TWI documents, so stay tuned!

Reblog: Michaël Ballé “The Trouble with #Lean Experts”

This month column of Michaël Ballé on is very interesting (well, like all of what Michael writes!) and deals with Lean experts and the change resistance they’re creating and how to overcome this.

I can’t help but relate this to TWI. If I may remind readers of this blog, TWI setup 4 training programs and worked hard to develop companies at helping themselves:

  • instruct a job (job instruction-JI)
  • improve a job (job methods-JM)
  • maintain good relations with workers (job relations-JR)
  • build a training program (program development-PD)

Indeed, relations at work was of such paramount importance for TWI that they turned it to a whole training program (JR).

But, more important to me is the fact that in almost all of TWI documents, one can read between the lines and see that keeping good working relationships with people was something deemed important.

Michaël reminds us that LEAN = KAIZEN + RESPECT. All too often are we and our own management focused on the KAIZEN part, to the detriment of RESPECT. Indeed, respect is most often not even in the mind of people doing the work. The Lean Promotion Office is often seen as a team of consultants that come and put people back on the right track. How respectul is this?

Lean experts need to remind themselves that people they’re helping, teaching or coaching are not dumb. They know their work, they know where problems are and they have plenty of ideas on how to improve it. There may be other problems elsewhere (which they didn’t investigate because nobody told them they could or gave them time to do so), but, from a constructionist point of view, their reality is… well, theirs! So, should a Lean expert come in and sell them something else as the “real reality”, it’s no wonder s/he gets so fresh a welcoming!

Moreover, when teaching Lean, one must not just teach Kaizen and show Respect. One must teach Lean, which means teaching Kaizen and Respect. TWI knew that; it’s embedded in the documents, for instance when you read on the Job Methods card:

Step 3 – Develop the new method

5) Work out your idea with others

6. Write up your proposed new method

Step 4 – Apply the method

1. Sell your proposal to your boss

2. Sell the new method to the operators

3. Get final approval of all concerned on safety, quality, quantity, cost.

(emphasis mine)

Nowhere in here can you feel of something being enforced onto operators. Isn’t this teaching and showing respect for others and taking into account their skills and experience?

Last thing, teaching respect does not means letting people think you feel they’re not respectful. It’s teaching them how to investigate respectfully other parts of the process than their own, it’s teaching them that they need to do nemawashi (as it’s called in japanese) which is sharing their improvement A3 or proposals (as written in the JM card) with others and amend it where necessary (and better yet, go and see in the first place in order to capture the reality rather than fixing it later in the proposal). People are too often in a nonrespectful environment and tend to act in the same way. Trying to change behaviors with respect to this (and changing them respectfully!) for everyone’s benefits seems to me of utter importance.

#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.


Donella Meadows: #vision is a necessity before any other #systemsthinking method (sort of #AppreciativeInquiry)

Reading through the Systems Thinking World LinkedIn Group, Gene Bellinger (SystemsWiki owner and group owner) posted the link below to a video of Donella Meadows talking about Vision.

Meadows is a renowned systems thinker whose main work is the “Limits to Growth” book about how our continuing use of non renewable resources will bring a brutal stop to our growth.

In the video posted (, Meadows talks about the very importance of always having a vision in mind before trying to do something and how this helped her discover things that she thought she wouldn’t have otherwise. Read more »

Practicing the #change you’re advocating: beware of the hidden risk!

January 7th, 2011 Posted in Change Tags: ,

During a coaching session (I was the coachee), my coach someday insisted on the concept of Integrity: you shouldn’t preach something that you don’t do perfectly yourself because you’re not deeply credible. That might be on an unconscious level of yourself and others, but still, she said lip service, even unknown to others, is a sure way to fail.

I tend to agree with that, though I envision a case where, being fully convinced about something because you pratice it well, you run a high risk of creating even more resistance about that you want others to adopt: the more you push, the more they resist. That’s classical change resistance of course: people will want to show you that they know better than you think and that they can continue with their way rather than your way. Also called the NIH syndrome (Not Invented Here).

Simple exercise for you: next time you come to an elevator, please notice:

  • how you press the calling button despite it’s already lighted (you being the victim of the NIH symdrome)
  • others pressing the button you’ve just pressed before, possibly before their eyes!

So, practising what you’re advocating others to do is surely necessary, but I feel you also need to refrain yourself enough so that they come to you to pull knowledge rather than you trying to push it on to them.

Now, with this paragraph, I’m just pushing my own knowledge onto you and not practicing what I’m preaching! 🙂

Can Chris Argyris theories relate to double-bind and provoke avoiding behaviors related to #Change?

Few! What kind of title is this?

Chris Argyris is a renown expert on Organizational Learning and he developed an explanation of change resistance as a difference existing between what he calls the “espoused theories” of people and their “theory in use”. You can read more about that on

Espoused theories can be anything that got the interest of a manager (for the purpose of this post). An acknowledged need for change is a form of espoused theory. There may be different methods for conducting the change but I’m not going to talk about the ones where all the change management burden is shifted on some dedicated people, maybe external to the company (consultants). It’s known that few of them succeed at bringing the change to an end. I’m more interested in those (few) cases where a manager espoused the theory that he needs to lead the change himself. Indeed, although that looks like the best way to conduct a change, my thinking led me to discover what appears to be a risk of things not going that well (the so-called “change resistance”).

Argyris told us is that despite espoused-theories are numerous, the theory-in-use always is quite the same, of the Model I kind (see article on, which is governed by four main values:

  • Achieve the purpose as the actor defines it (ie. “stick to the letter”)
  • Win, do not lose
  • Suppress negative feelings
  • Emphasize rationality

The main consequences of these values (again, according to Argyris) are:

  • Defensive relationships
  • Low freedom of choice
  • Reduced production of valid information
  • Little public testing of ideas

(you can read all of that on the excellent page about Chris Argyris alongside with the Model II governing values that would prevent these consequences and benefit to the organization).

So, what is the point of view of the people impacted by the change (employees mainly, subordinates to the manager that espoused the change)?

Read more »

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