How Lean Leaders Manage Resistance to Change

Lean Leadership - managing resistance to change

What can two mice, two human beings, one maze and a finite amount of cheese teach us about inculcating Lean behaviours in an organisation? [i]

There’s no punchline. This isn’t a joke, but an allegory created by Dr. Spencer Johnson in the best-seller “Who Moved My Cheese?”, which has sold 26 million copies and has been translated into 37 different languages. [iii]

Dr. Johnson created this light-hearted business fable to illustrate the different ways that people handle change in the workplace and to suggest how you can unlock behavioural change within your business.

I won’t spoil this motivational narrative by revealing its denouement, expect to say that sometimes, the Haws of this world, whose natural instinct is to maintain the status quo, can change. In fact, 80 per cent of them do so when they realise that they have no other option but to alter their behaviour. [iv]

There are a stubborn few, however, who want to cling on to what they know, rather than embrace the unknown. This negative behaviour not only undermines a Lean programme, it can put a Lean transformation in jeopardy. Implementing and managing behavioural change can therefore become a hugely challenging process, but it is nonetheless essential.

 

Behavioural Barriers to Lean

Lean Behaviours

Key to ensuring cultural change is an understanding of the triggers that make some people unable to adopt a new way of thinking.

For Professor Peter Hines, the Director of the Lean Enterprise Research Centre, fear is the main barrier to change. Hines thinks that “fear drives negative and defensive behaviours” and says that “understanding resistance and working to remove it” is the key to instilling an all pervading culture of change in an enterprise.

Understanding the types of resistance in your organisation and the underlying reasons for them cannot be done from the boardroom. Nor can it be achieved through surveys alone; you must speak and interact with your team and other departments on a daily basis. You cannot assume that your employees will volunteer the information that could ultimately effect change without having a healthy, open conversation with them first.

Here are four types of resistance: [v]

1. Organisational resistance

This is when an organisation rejects and resists technology invented by its rivals, when rationally, and from a Lean perspective, it would make more sense to absorb the new newly acquired product into its business model.

Take Phillips for example. After it purchased the Sonicare electric toothbrush range, it decided to redesign the entire product, even though there was little need to do so.[vi]

Organisational resistance is often referred to as ‘Not Invented Here’ syndrome and according to Professor Hines is more to do with “loss of pride or ownership”.

 

2. Political resistance

Political resistance manifests itself when the state of affairs in an enterprise comes under managerial scrutiny. Often, when political resistance infects an organisation, the change that is being championed by senior management is seen as a threat to the existing way of working.

For Professor Hines, “Where loss is perceived, making sure that people are given the opportunity to get involved, and are supported and encouraged in their new roles, should help to alleviate it.”

 

3. Individualised resistance

Professor Peter Hines condenses this point into a simple but succinct acronym – WIFM or ‘What Is In It For Me?’

Therefore, if a senior manager doesn’t communicate his or her Lean vision to everyone in the organisation, by demonstrating not just how it will affect the business, but how it will transform the lives of all who work there, the Lean programme is unlikely to be realised.

For Professor Hines, enterprises should think about introducing “an appropriate reward structure that shows appreciation and recognition of the extra effort everyone has to put it in to facilitate change”. [vii]

In terms of reward, Hines thinks that recognition does not always have to equate to monetary reward.

“People crave genuine acknowledgement of their contribution and often value a simple ‘Thank you’ or ‘Well done’ more than a financial reward,” he adds.

 

4. Technical resistance

This is the area where Lean transformers are likely to encounter most disharmony. It can be very challenging to implement a new Lean programme, the success of which is dependent on staff acquiring new skills. Sometimes, it is not about overcoming technical resistance, but conquering fear. For example, if a Lean vision is not communicated to every worker in the organisation, a tide of fear can set in, which, left unchecked, will have a detrimental effect on instilling a Lean lifestyle.

Professor Hines says, “When employees fear that they will not have the right skills to do the job and lack confidence, (introducing) the right training and communication can help overcome this.” [viii]

 

Positive behaviours

Now that I have outlined the resistances that prevent change, what are the behaviours that will help to drive your Lean programme?

Perhaps, Bob Emiliani, author of ‘Real Lean – Understanding the Lean Management System’ sums it up best when he wrote, “Lean behaviours are simply behaviours that add or create value.”[ix]

Successfully changing behaviours in your enterprise represents the first steps in embedding a culture of Lean in your organisation.

But there’s the rub. Company culture is not tangible. It’s ineffable, and therefore difficult to measure. Therefore, if a standard work culture is based upon the social, moral and behavioural norms of an organisation built up over a long period of time and fashioned by a set group of people, how do you create and implement a brand new culture of Lean in your enterprise?

 

The birth of the Toyota Way

This was a question that Fujio Cho, the Honorary Chairman of the Toyota Motor Corporation, wrestled with for many years. Cho had spent many years working for Toyota in America. It was while working in the United States that he began to realise that the Toyota Way, the values had been successfully inculcated in the hearts and minds of Toyota’s Japanese workforce, did not manifest itself in quite the same way on Toyota’s American factory floors. [x]

But why? Cho discovered that in the United States, workers changed jobs much more frequently than in Japan. Indeed, it was not unusual for many skilled engineers in Japan to work for Toyota for their whole careers. In terms of implanting a Lean culture, this meant that they learned the culture on the job and from a young age. However, for anyone else, understanding and buying into this unique culture, was much more challenging.[xi]

Cho realised very quickly that if Toyota was going to further expand, he would need to make the Toyota way of thinking universally accessible to all of Toyota’s employees.

After much thought, in 2001, he introduced the Toyota Way, which he described as “an ideal, a standard, and a guiding beacon for the people of the global Toyota organisation.” [xii]

In his book, Developing Lean Leaders at all Levels, Jeffrey Liker, says that at heart of Cho’s vision, lay five key values:

  1. Challenge

  2. Developing the Kaizen Mind

  3. Going and seeing

  4. Teamwork

  5. Respect

Cho succeeded in instilling these key values in every continent, and the culture which is now deeply ingrained in Toyota’s global workforce has helped the Corporation overtake Volkswagen to become the biggest carmaker in the world. [xiii]

 

Beacons of Lean culture

According to Professor Hines, to ensure that a Lean culture pervades throughout your organisation, the culture you create and instil must not only be in keeping with the “narratives, myths and legends” of the enterprise, but also the “design, structure, systems and procedures” of the organisation”. [xiv]

Hines, who cites Cogent Power, a supplier of Electrical Steels, as an example. He recalls how the company upgraded its restrooms and canteens as part of its Lean transformation.

The refurbishment of facilities was symbolic. It demonstrated to employees that senior management cared for them and had a respect for them.

Another key brick in the Cogent Power Lean foundations was the creation of a dedicated Lean Centre, which for Hines, was symbolic of the company’s “commitment and seriousness” to implementing a long lasting Lean culture.

 

Executive Training | Leading the Toyota Way - Jeffrey Liker

 

Sources and Citations

[i] Who Moved My Cheese?
Author: Dr. Spencer Johnson
Published by Vermillion, February,7th, 2002
[ii] Staying Lean: Thriving, not just surviving
Author: Peter Hines, Pauline Found, Gary Griffiths, Richard Harrison
Published by Lean Enterprise Research Centre Cardiff University
Pages: 34-46
[iii] Who Moved My Cheese Wikipedia page
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Who_Moved_My_Cheese%3F
[iv]  Staying Lean: Thriving, not just surviving
Author: Peter Hines, Pauline Found, Gary Griffiths, Richard Harrison
Published by Lean Enterprise Research Centre Cardiff University
Pages: 34-46

 

[v] Staying Lean: Thriving, not just surviving
Author: Peter Hines, Pauline Found, Gary Griffiths, Richard Harrison
Published by Lean Enterprise Research Centre Cardiff University
Pages: 34-46
[vi] Not Invented here paper
By Jed Brubaker
http://www.jedbrubaker.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/Day8-NotInventedHere.pdf

 

[vii]  Staying Lean: Thriving, not just surviving
Author: Peter Hines, Pauline Found, Gary Griffiths, Richard Harrison
Published by Lean Enterprise Research Centre Cardiff University
Pages: 34-46

 

[viii] Staying Lean: Thriving, not just surviving
Author: Peter Hines, Pauline Found, Gary Griffiths, Richard Harrison
Published by Lean Enterprise Research Centre Cardiff University
Pages: 34-46
[ix] Real lean: Understanding the Lean Management System, Volume 1
Bob Emiliani
Published by Center for Lean Business Management, LLC, The (1 Jan. 2007)

 

[x] Developing Lean Leaders at all Levels

By Jeffrey K. Liker with George Trachilis
Published by Lean Leadership Institute Publications, 2014
Pages 4-5
[xi] Developing Lean Leaders at all Levels
By Jeffrey K. Liker with George Trachilis
Published by Lean Leadership Institute Publications, 2014
Pages 4-5
[xii] Developing Lean Leaders at all Levels
By Jeffrey K. Liker with George Trachilis
Published by Lean Leadership Institute Publications, 2014
Pages 4-5
[xiii] Developing Lean Leaders at all Levels
By Jeffrey K. Liker with George Trachilis
Published by Lean Leadership Institute Publications, 2014
Pages 4-5
[xiv] Staying Lean: Thriving, not just surviving
Author: Peter Hines, Pauline Found, Gary Griffiths, Richard Harrison
Published by Lean Enterprise Research Centre Cardiff University
Pages: 34-46

This entry was posted in Lean Manufacturing and tagged Lean, leadership, Lean culture, Peter Hines, Kaizen, Jeffrey Liker, change management, lean transformation, on February 15, 2016 by James Gordon

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