“Resistance to change” is a common theme of discussion among practitioners on various online forums, as well as in emails I get from readers.
One thing I see fairly often is that a practitioner will be suggesting a visual control or a specific application of a “lean tool” as a “better way” in the process being examined.
“They can just look it up on the computer,” say those holding on to the status quo, “why do we need to put up a board?”
So the practitioner tries to make a logical case, and often comes away frustrated. “Leaders aren’t supporting the changes” is a common lament at this point.
But let’s break down the problem and see if there is more we can do.
We are often debating whether or not a particular solution is better than the current way.
But in our “implement the tools” approach, we tend to make “lack of a specific solution” into a problem.
Whoa. Let’s back up a bit and see if we can head this off.
Do you have agreement on a clear target objective, one that all parties can describe? Do you know how the process should be performing?
Note I said “should” not “could.”
“Could” is potential.
“Should” is an unmet expectation. Big psychological difference there.
If everyone agrees that the status quo isn’t getting it done, and also agrees on what they want to achieve instead, then the next question is “OK, what is stopping us from taking the next step?”
This shouldn’t be an abstract exercise. As you watch the people in the process try to reach a higher performance level, look for “What just got in our way?”
You need to help the leaders, and your other constituents see it with their own eyes. Don’t expect them to take your word for it. You wouldn’t take theirs without your own observation.
If everyone can see, for example, that a team member gets too far behind to recover before anyone else notices, or that a machine is experiencing stoppages or excessive changeovers, for example, then you can start discussing solutions.
Perhaps the team leader needs to make quick status checks periodically, in a way that is not intrusive.
What is stopping him?
Well, that’s difficult right now, because everything is buried in the computer, and often updated in batches after the work is done.
Hmmm.. What could we do to make things more visible, in real time? Is there a way we can set up the work area so the team leader (and the worker, and anyone else just happening by) could readily see there is an issue here?
Now, and not before, is the time to start discussing solutions. But you can’t just make the logical argument. You have to get agreement each step of the way.
That might very well take longer than you want it to. People are funny that way.
But the bottom line is this: “Lack of your pet solution,” no matter how many books and name-brand authors refer to it, “is not a problem.”
We create a lot of our own resistance by running into things, and leaving fires behind us.