A Lean Consultant’s Open Secrets: Partners in Our Lean Journey Towards Change Pose Their Questions to ILE

August 6, 2019 • ILE LAB • Boaz Tamir

The methodology of “process consultation”, designed by Edgar Schein, serves the ILE team as we support and guide our customer-partners through a Lean transformation process.

In order to make the principles of this system available to all, as well as to clarify how it differs from systems based on traditional organizational consultation, we have chosen to bring you our answers to questions that we have been asked from time to time and are of concern to many of our customers:

  1. How do you different from other organizational consultants?

The basic assumptions, professional values and perspectives of a consultant who follows Lean principles differ from those of the traditional organizational behavior and management consultant.  The basic assumption:  The “industrial engineering” (operation excellence) experts focus on efficiency.  In contrast Lean activists and coaches focus on effectiveness in order to build an effective relationship with customers, assessment, while investing resources in those activities that create value for the customer.

Values: Lean facilitations (senseis) do not present themselves as experts who provide solutions for the problems that the members of the organization have not been able to handle; rather, they work on building capacity for independent decision making and encourage taking responsibility that exceeds formal authority, at all levels of the organizations.  In the words of Jim Womack:

“In my experience the most productive role for consultants is to help create line managers who can establish stable processes through rigorous daily management. And they should do this before they focus on helping managers improve every process from the current baseline. This path inherently shows slower results than just fixing problems right now, but it creates the stability and line responsibility that can sustain improvement in the long term.

  1. How is it possible to change organizational culture in a brief period of time?

Changing organizational culture (basic thinking) is not a quick process.  It is the ongoing result of a change in the view of management; this is a long process to enable organizations to cope with the business challenges and complexity in the 21st century.

If so, how is it possible to allocate funds to this long process in the context of pressure from management within the organization along with the external pressure of the competitive market?

As you can see from the illustration below, the practical way to change basic assumptions within an organization begins with changing to work processes in order obtain tools and standards that, through exercise, will become behavioral norms.  Since Lean thinking is intended to cut down the waste and to create value for the customer, a change in behavior will bring about a cutback in waste and will improve the functioning of the group, even in the short-run.

The Lean methodology changes the order of the stages in the process designed by Edgar Schein for change in organizational culture – changes in work practices and behaviors that will lead to changes in values.

In his article, How to Change a Culture, John Womack presents the principle of cultural change through behavioral change – using the story of the Toyota plant in the United States as an example. The ILE team acts as a partner to those managers-change leaders who seek to Be the Change in the World in a journey that begins with small, practical steps.

  1. Your charge for hours devoted to studying the organizational environment, including basic thinking, values, attending and observing meetings and tours of the area. Why do you charge for those hours of internal learning, which take place behind the scenes and are not part of the individual or group learning that you provide?

In contrast to traditional organizational consultation, which focuses on immediate solutions and facilitation of workshops, process consultation is intended to support organizations in their development work while attending to the root factors.  This is in order to bring about long-tern change, rather than merely taking care of problems that exist in a specific moment in time.

Systematic study of the organizational environment and an in-depth investigation of the organizational work culture are basic requirements of any consultation intended to created value.  We believe that this is the only way to adapt the Lean work method to the specific needs of the organization, rather than imposing ready-made solutions that do not meet the specific circumstances.

The study of process-oriented facilitation is described in The LNG Program: A Guide for Organizational Change.  We view observation and understanding of organizational space and environment as a vital part of value-creation and inseparable from our work as facilitators.  Thus:

  1. We are careful not to provide file-drawer solutions; rather, we work with the managers and work teams to develop a work standard that is commensurate with the current counter measures, while taking into account the improvements that will be necessary in the future.
  2. Creation of a work standard as the basis for change and improvement of processes is based on familiarity with the organization’s character and unique needs. This familiarity is based first and foremost on observation.  This is the methodological base for the production of a suitable response that will suit the needs of the organization-customer.
  3. The importance of the presence of the managers in the field cannot be overstated.  The professional term for this is “Gemba” – the place in which value is crated.  Watching and observing the ways in which the organization conducts itself are integral to becoming familiar with our Gemba, and it is a basic principle of the Lean practices.

We will conclude with Jim Womack’s description of the role of the organizational consultant according to the Lean approach:

“We can stop thinking that a lean management system can be put in place in the same time frame as lean tools through kaizen – in other words as another fast program. This is because new management methods and mindsets need repeated coaching in order to become second nature. Thus, coaching line managers is a continuing practice, not a one-time event. Given this fact, higher-level managers need to be patient, while asking questions about the coaching process for their managers rather than focusing on short-term improvement results.”

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The Purpose of ILE:  Make Things Better Through Lean Thinking and Practice

The ILE – International Lean Enterprise – team functions as an international team working on various projects in Israel and throughout the world.  To fulfil the purpose of ILE, we seek to serve as a source of information that is open to anyone who wishes to create a space for learning and improvement in his or her organization.  As Lean facilitators, we believe in transparency and shared information: we share our work methods and we will be happy to explain the principles that are at the base of our work and to think and learn together.

 Boaz Tamir, ILE.

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