Real change takes place from the inside-out, not outside-in.
Want to be lean instead of “do lean”? You start with small and controlled experiments with a few teams and focus on fast cycles of learning. Ultimately, this is what enables leaders to lead a culture transformation that happens and continually strengthens at the team level.
Why are fast cycles of learning so essential? This is what helps teams slowly (and then very quickly) change their habits and start working together as a team to focus on the work and create more value for customers. Teams learn to do effective problem solving, run/track experiments, and embrace continuous improvement (PDCA or Plan, Do, Check, Act). They work on improving their own work and concurrently experiment with improving their PDCA learning process. Then it’s a matter of leaders on building a new management system that reinforces this robust learning process so that these teams’ new habits eventually grow across the entire organization.
Over the past 17 years, my partners and I at Lean Transformations Group have been curious about why so many companies who begin a Lean Journey don’t achieve the benefits they desire. The biggest reason by far is that we don’t see this commitment to creating a structure for fast cycles of learning. Too often, we also see no sustainability and very limited employee engagement, which explains why eventually Lean gets dropped as a company initiative.
We observe that most consulting companies use a PUSH approach, the exact opposite of fast cycles of learning. They sell you a package to adopt lean tools and principles based on making you lean. Lean cannot be rolled out as a fad program that imposes new tools and overburdens of your workforce. A PULL approach is focused on system wide problem solving that uses the First Principles of Toyota. This is what helps you to grow a new culture... not from the top down or bottom up, but at all levels.
Join us at LTG as we continue learning about how organizations can change their cultures to be able to benefit from lean thinking and practice. We've evolved our own process of working with our clients to help them make the necessary changes to get where they want to go. At the end of the day, you need to create a problem-solving culture where everything is aligned and every day, the right problems are addressed by the right teams or persons, at the right time.
What does this mean for you as a leader? All lean leaders who aspire to develop lean organizations first need to recognize the need to transform from a solutions mindset to a problem-solving mindset. Making this critical shift—and finding ways to engage others in making this shift—is probably the most important thing leaders can do.