Nancy Bruner blogs on Word | Rap. Her first (and as of this writing, only) post is titled Do They Really Want a Change Agent. Since most lean practitioners are, rightly or wrongly, expected to be change agents, the points she makes caught my eye.
The harsh reality of this is summed up in her second key point:
2. You will spend more time convincing the very people who hired you to make the changes they hired you to make than you will spend competing in the market.
I recall visiting a company a couple of years ago. As I spoke with a number of people, they all had the same question: “How can we go faster?” Yet they already had (have) a world-class expert on staff. “All you need to do,” I told them, “is listen to him and do what he says.”
And there was the rub. The company, while wanting to alter their results, was (is) struggling with the idea that the leaders themselves must change the way they manage and lead if they want a different outcome.
This is a common problem.
The other common problem is that the practitioners, while clear on the tools and methods of “lean” are far less clear on exactly what leaders need to do differently other than a vague notion of “support the changes.”
The literature, until recently, has not done much to help with this problem. The practice of leaders is starting to get more definition, but the lean community itself still has a huge inertia behind implementation methods that have been proven, again and again, to fail.
There are change agents within the lean community as well. Not surprisingly, they are finding the same resistance that the practitioners in the field complain about.