In my post The Road to Lean, Part 1, I wrote about improving improvement and what it means to ‘do Lean.’ Specifically, we looked at improvement processes along three key dimensions, i.e., velocity, engagement and magnitude, and how the first two interacted.

This time, let’s continue focusing on velocity and engagement and see how different combinations of them create very different cultures and dramatically impact change management efforts. Check out this 2×2 matrix.

Improvement Cultures

Low Engagement, Low Velocity – ‘Stagnation’ is the watchword here; another good one might be ‘Whatever.’ After making numerous improvement suggestions that go nowhere, people just live with inefficient processes. They disengage and, perversely, enjoy embarrassing problems and events like big customer returns because they’re an ‘I told you so’ to the powers that be.

High Engagement, Low Velocity – ‘Frustration’ is rampant because people only get one bite at the apple every couple of years and if their idea doesn’t get included, well, that’s that. They have to live with the new system and hope for next time. Problems are accepted as limitations of the latest change and improvement ideas go on a list for future big projects.

Low Engagement, High Velocity – ‘Tiger Teams’ create anxiety because people’s work gets changed whether they like it or not and they’re not going to have much say in what happens. Improvements are typically determined by ‘process experts’ who’ve never done their job. People worry when problems happen because they increase the chances that it’s going to be their turn next. People hide problems or try to blame others for them.

High Engagement, High Velocity – Lean is exciting, engaging and collaborative. People, based on agreed-upon metrics, change the way they do their own work using a standard set of principles and tools.  Problems, which are visually obvious and impossible to hide, are seen as opportunities to increase customer value and eliminate waste. Frequent change also means that while someone’s idea didn’t get implemented today, there’s always a chance to contribute tomorrow.

Lean Accelerates Change Management

While an idea might be great, it’s worthless if people won’t accept and implement it. The four cultures above accept change (or not) very differently.

Low Engagement, Low Velocity – People aren’t accepting of change in a stagnant culture; they’re resistant or cynical. Improvements efforts are disruptive to routine or seen as ‘too little, too late.’ Commitment to change is low. Management spends a lot of time selling change and trying to get people pumped up.

High Engagement, Low Velocity – To avoid frustration, people jockey for position whenever an improvement opportunity comes along. They talk up their ideas to decision makers in offices, meetings, break rooms and the cafeteria. They know there’s limited money and time and look for advantage to get their ideas implemented over their coworkers. Stephen Covey would say this environment has a ‘scarcity mentality.’ In the end, the people who got their way are happy and embrace the change. Those that didn’t drag their feet.

Low Engagement, High Velocity – While Tiger Teams can come up with great ideas, it can be very hard to get people to accept them. Remember ‘People don’t mind change; they mind BEING changed.’ This approach is only ‘high velocity’ as regards to coming up with solutions. Resistance to implementation and acceptance can be stiff and last a long time. Management spends a lot of time convincing people why they should implement and accept the new way.

High Engagement, High Velocity – With Lean, people change their own work and therefore acceptance is built into the improvement process. The focus on increasing customer value and tools like gemba walks and value stream mapping create empathy and accelerate change as well. People (finally!) understand how what they do affects their coworkers and customers.

What culture does your organization possess today? What behaviors do people exhibit? What change management challenges do you regularly run into?

Let’s Ride!

Todd Hudson, Head Maverick