Saturday, September 17, 2011

Changing the Way People Work

Further Practical Tips in Producing Change in the Way People Work

The structures we create and the support we provide to sustain worker-involved change is critical to its success. Dr. Jeffrey Liker has nicely framed the key issues for leaders intent on truly changing culture that will result in "a business transformation that puts customers first and does this through developing people. People who do the work have to improve the work."

"As we are progressing on the 'Lean journey', companies are maturing from process-improvement toolkits to lean value-stream management, to employee engagement in problem solving, to aligned culture focused by self-aware leadership on the right business problems. The companies I teach are begging for guidance on leadership. They have had enough discussion of tools. They understand that path is a dead end. It is the right time for this discussion, but how do you have the discussion?

...There are tools, but they are not tools for 'improving the process.' They are tools for making problems visible and for helping people think about how to solve those problems. Whether it is a kanban or standardized work or 5S, these are tools to set a standard and make the deviation from the standard visible to the work group. Then the work group must develop problem-solving skills to identify the root cause and solve the real problem.

...Any solution is an experiment that is 'right half the time.' If the tools do not change the way people who do the work think about their own processes, the tools are a failure. If leaders do not understand how to use the tools to unleash the creativity and motivation of people, they are not leaders-they are just administering a bureaucratic process."

The Bottom Line

"You get what you accept and what you accept sets the standard."  -Joseph Bujak, MD

It is common to for leaders to speak of change in the same sentence with changing culture. But our own experience with culture change these past 6 years in the Henry Ford Production System across all laboratories of nearly 800 workers in Henry Ford Health System has taught us repeatedly that culture is a desirable but secondary outcome to changing structure and process that enables and expects employees to work differently.

It is the investment of time in training our people to work collaboratively in the structures that we create that enables a continuous push for incremental improvement. This is how leaders incentivize people to behave and ultimately defines our culture. 

Dr. Liker has shared with us that
"People development takes 10 times longer than process improvement."

So don't expect miracles from a Lean culture overnight. It takes time to train and form functional problem-solving teams. It's one small step after another that takes you toward the goal. Just never stop striving. 


Jeffrey K. Liker: Personal communication and book review at Lean Enterprise Institute of The Lean Manager: A Novel of Lean Transformation (2009, Balle and Balle)


Post a Comment

Search This Blog