Sustaining, or “Walking and talking the talk”

The CFO and VP Manufacturing at a new client are frustrated; two plus years into their lean journey and they aren’t seeing the benefits they expected and tools put in place aren’t being used. Visual boards are old and stale, tool shadow boards are in place but tools are scattered all over, set ups that once had been cut from over an hour down to less than 20 minutes are now averaging over 40. Why is this happening? What to do?  I think what I’m seeing is a classic example of middle management resistance to change, leadership mixed messages, confusion on roles and responsibilities. The leaders are bright, caring, articulate, and supportive. The line workers are by and large willing, hungry for knowledge, and capable. Supervisors and the line leads care too, but they’re busy staying out of trouble. Middle management’s priorities are often personal survival. “What do you want production or _____ ?”, fill in the blank with the initiative of the quarter. When I talk with the supervisors they all acknowledge that they’re too busy. Their bosses talk to them regularly about meeting the production schedule, "How much did you ship today?", rarely do they get questioned about their improvement assignments. My top ten principles for Change Management:

  1. Address the “human side” systematically
  2. Start at the top
  3. Involve every layer
  4. Make the formal case
  5. Create ownership
  6. Communicate the message
  7. Assess the cultural landscape
  8. Address culture explicitly
  9. Prepare for the unexpected
  10. Speak to the individual

My recommendation to the CFO and VP was to show their subordinates verbally, physically, and financially that lean sigma is one of the major tools in how safety, quality, and productivity are being attacked, and explain (again and again) why it is vital for survival that everyone gets on board. Both leaders need to telegraph to the middle of the organization that there are rewards and consequences for getting with (and owning) the program. They have to demonstrate out on the floor that little things like 5S and quick changeover are important, just as important as safety, quality, and delivery. In other words "Walking and talking the talk." Thoughts?



One Reply to “Sustaining, or “Walking and talking the talk””

  1. I agree.

    Managing is very much like parenting. Children learn more by example than by speeches. A hands on attitude by Senior Management is fundamental. Middle management has seen coming and going many fads along the years. Why will this new Lean Sigma stuff remain this time?

    One last comment. If we see Managers more as teachers. Are we sure we taught correctly the new ways the first time? Did we show them the benefits? We must remember that each of us learn in a different way (visual, auditory and kinesthetic learners) and favour more starting with a channel versus the 2 others but we need the 3 of them.

    I think the teacher-manager must hold and demonstrate a deep believe that the new way will pay-off. If not people will see thru it and they will not hold the line.

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