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A constructivist view of the statistical quantification of evidence (#Lean #SixSigma stuff)

September 15th, 2011 Posted in Lean Tags: , , , ,

Just a quick note: I’ve stumbled across this paper (free registration required to download PDF) of the Constructivist Foundations excellent magazine (which I highly recommend) that may be of interest to all the hard thinkers about evidence and the proof sought in numbers. I’ve not read the paper yet… but given the excellent quality of the journal, I’m expecting the best!

Here’s the abstract:

Problem: Evidence is quantified by statistical methods such as p-values and Bayesian posterior probabilities in a routine way despite the fact that there is no consensus about the meanings and implications of these approaches. A high level of confusion about these methods can be observed among students, researchers and even professional statisticians. How can a constructivist view of mathematical models and reality help to resolve the confusion?

Method: Considerations about the foundations of statistics and probability are revisited with a constructivist attitude that explores which ways of thinking about the modelled phenomena are implied by different approaches to probability modelling.

Results: The understanding of the implications of probability modelling for the quantification of evidence can be strongly improved by accepting that whether models are “true” or not cannot be checked from the data, and the use of the models should rather be justified and critically discussed in terms of their implications for the thinking and communication of researchers.

Implications: Some useful questions that researchers can use as guidelines when deciding which approach and which model to choose are listed in the paper, along with some implications of using frequentist p-values or Bayesian posterior probability, which can help to address the questions. It is the – far too often ignored – responsibility of the researchers to decide which model is chosen and what the evidence suggests rather than letting the results decide themselves in an “objective way.”

Key words: Mathematical modelling, foundations of probability, p-values, frequentism, Bayesian subjectivism, objective Bayes, reality.

#Lean management & #Complexity: what does it mean and why it works

Cynefin framework

Cynefin framework

Simple times

In the good ol’ days of manufacturing (or service industry), the world was seen as rather simple: you had clients that wanted widgets that you built. For different needs you built different widgets. That’s the simple domain of the Cynefin framework as pictured on the right: you Sensed what the client wanted, you Categorized his need and then Responded to it.

Craft industry was at best for this kind of environment. Few thinking was necessary at that time in order to best serve clients.

Complicated times

Then, progress made clients wanting more (in quality and in diversity). In that realm of Complicated environment, the clients’ requests had to be Sensed, then Analyzed before being Responded to.

In an effort to optimize costs, it’s been decided that making “lots of brainpower” was the way to go and that was the gold days of Taylor: some people were paid to think while others were paid to build the widgets. The best way to build was being thought by brains dedicated to that purpose.

See how thinking is included in the Cynefin framework through the “Analyze” step? Brain power was necessary to efficiently design the methods of work, yet, having it all in one place was enough (in Lean, we would say that there were batches of brainpower, instead of an on-demand usage of brainpower…)

Today: complex times

Today, with such variety in the wild, the world has become Complex because clients can easily connect to a world of other opportunities and their needs reflect that complexity of the world (indeed, they’re trying to match their environment variety to survive, just like our companies). From a Systems Thinking point of view, it means that each client contact is different and there’s so much variation in it that one brain power only cannot feature the requisite variety to properly serve the client. To survive in a Complex world, one has to probe the client’s environment to be able to Sense what’s really needed and only then Respond to the (hopefully correctly understood) need.

One can see here that the thinking has disappeared of the framework, being replaced by a probe and a sense (isn’t it what genchi genbutsu is all about?). That’s where Lean came as a force because:

  • the client needs are really taken seriously, further than just analysis, by being probed and sensed by going to the client’s gemba.
  • to respond to that richly “analysis” of the client needs, the organization needs to be able to quickly respond to it, and that means to be able to quickly adapt to the requisite variety of the client’s environment.

How to you achieve that fast-moving organization? By removing all that is either unnecessary or hindering it from performing as requested by the variety of the client demands. In Lean terms, we speak of removing muda from processes.

Connecting also to Complexity principles, it means making the organization more of an opened system (Lean talks of “extended company”) than a closed one. Closed systems fail prey of the 2nd law of thermodynamics which postulates an increase of entropy, which means more disorder hence less efficiency.

A corollary to the preceding is also that if one wants to maintain order (or even further organize / increase efficiency) and to adapt to the client’s requisite variety, one needs to bring energy to the system, thus reducing entropy.

Continuous improvement doesn’t occur by chance, one has to constantly dedicate resources to it. In a finite world of resources, that means deciding upon which resources are allocated to “work as usual” and resources allocated to improvement (fight against entropy to keep it low).

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.


Biology of Business : a Farrow Partnership presentation (#complexity #systhnk)

I found that slideware on the field of complexity adapted to business and what it means in terms of things to stop doing and things to start doing. Ideas are said to come from Complex Adaptive Systems which I yet have to investigate in detail.

Indeed, there are 11 new things one should start doing to be more efficient:

  1. Pursue agility and resilience
  2. Consciously learn from daily experience
  3. Allow solutions to emerge
  4. Pull, don’t push
  5. Seek healthy mixtures
  6. Rely on vision and boundaries
  7. Appreciate the messy phases
  8. Expect non-linear progress
  9. Cooperate to create abundance
  10. Promote grassroots initiatives
  11. Work in a place designed for humans

Reading this list, I see that I must have been deeply impressed by all of complexity and systems thinking readings since that’s what I’m tending to do these days. My natural inclination toward these have been reinforced by the justifications I’ve found in my readings.

Lean seeks to achieve perfect agility and resilience, with learning and nurture solutions from people. Do I need to talk about pull/push ? Appreciative Inquiry deals with mix of people and points of views, helps build a strong Vision and strive to messy moments (brainstorming, exchanges…)

The complete slide show along with details for each of the 11 steps is available here.

#Lean quote: “The most important person who needs to learn from shop floor experiments is the top executive visiting with the sensei” Michael Ballé

August 17th, 2011 Posted in Lean Tags: , , , , , ,

This powerful quote I’ve just read on Michael Ballé’s Gemba Coach Column.

That few of top management goes to the shop floor, let look and learn something might be the great explanation (root cause) of Lean failures.

You can only convince a top manager with blatant results and the most convincing results are those he can see and feel for himself.

If you’re not walking the gemba with top management, you’re doing work for yourself, for your own pleasure (with some results as a side effect), but not working for the long term benefit of the organization.

Lean projects are just that: projects, with a beginning and an end. Gemba walks with top management should be transformational.



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.


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

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