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By Nicola Balloch


In any organisation, change is inevitable! But, often employees become accustomed to ‘the way things are’. They get used to the people, processes and technology that impact their job, and so may resist any attempts to change these things. As a result change initiatives often face backlash, and the majority of them fail altogether.


It is usually high-level executives that decide on the organisational changes to be made and how best to implement them. In reality, however, they can rarely make these changes happen without the support of employees. Therefore, it is important to make sure that the people who will be implementing these changes on a day to day basis (e.g. mid-level managers and frontline staff) are on board. In this sense, organisational change is as much about people as it is about processes.


Undergoing a Lean Transformation (i.e. moving from old ways of thinking and working to the Lean ways) creates a lot of change within an organisation. It is vital for the success of this transformation that your team understand and support what you are trying to do. So, in this blog we are going to discuss getting people on board.



What does it mean to be on board?


Firstly, it is important to understand what we mean by people being ‘on board’.


In short, when faced with change people can either be accepting or resistant, and their response can be either active or passive (see the table below). For example, someone who is passively resistant may procrastinate and feign ignorance, whereas someone who is actively resistant is more likely to argue against the changes and try to block them. Someone who is passively accepting may go along with the changes but not be very engaged and provide little feedback, whereas someone who is actively accepting is likely to be enthusiastic about the changes and engaged with the process (e.g. providing constructive feedback).


You are most likely to produce effective change when peoples’ opinions and intentions align with your change initiative (i.e. they actively accept it). Therefore, having your team on board with the impending Lean Transformation is hugely beneficial.



What prevents people from getting on board?


But why do some people staunchly resist changes that could benefit them?

Sometimes, resistance to change is based on concerns about the new process or technology, but often it centres around something else. In her book ‘The Change Masters’, Dr Rosabeth Moss Kanter outlines 10 of the most common reasons for resistance.


These reasons for resistance also go hand in hand with some common excuses:



It is important to understand it’s specific cause of your employees’ resistance and excuses to overcome them effectively. So have regular conversations with your team, especially team members who are showing resistance. Once you can understand why they feel this way you can decide on the best course of action.

Also, check out our wall of (no) excuses for tips on the best mindset to address these common excuses.



So how do we overcome these challenges?


We have been recognised as experts in our field for over a decade. In that time, we have been involved in numerous successful Lean Transformations. Of course, they haven’t all been without challenges! But we have developed various tools and techniques to get people on board and deliver effective change by generating support and tackling resistance within teams. These include:


Focusing on the People:
  • Ensure that your staff understanding the change process and what Lean is about
  • Establish good working relationships between staff, executives, and the Lean team (open communication is key)
  • Encourage the team doing the work to own the outcomes and deliver results
  • Commitment from senior management should be shown clearly and consistently
  • Utilise Lean champions to spread the word. Lean champions are often a vital part of successful Lean transformations. They help create and maintain a culture of continuous improvement through their knowledge, leadership, vision and dedicated focus. To maximise their impact, it is common for Lean champions to have varied responsibilities and come from different areas of the organisation.


Make use of Places:
  • Undertake Gemba visits. In Lean, ‘Gemba’ (the Japanese term for “the real place”) refers to the most important place for the team, such as workshop floors and offices. Gemba visits allow you to see where the real work happens and build a relationship with the workers. Plus, you can better appreciate how the proposed changes will really effect things and collaborate openly with the team to identify problems together.
  • Organise external site visits. See how other Lean organisations operate first hand. If possible, discuss the experiences and benefits of their Lean transformation with front-line staff. This will give you real examples to share with your own team.
  • Visit our place. Sometimes it helps to address issues on neutral grounds. Creating a sense of equality between workers and bosses can make it easier to facilitate honest, constructive conversations. Plus we have coffee and biscuits!


And, importantly, pick the right Lean Team.

The right Lean Team will:

  • Create a safe non-judgmental environment and provide an experienced, outside-ear that is often crucial in managing change.
  • Highlight to staff that ‘we are where we are, no one is to blame’. Rather than focusing on how we got here and what caused the issues, focus the team’s attention on going forward.
  • Create motivation, guidance, momentum, challenge, direction, and enjoyment
  • Encourage perseverance. Good things take time so they need the endurance to get the results you want.


Remember, Lean is as much about people as process!


Have you ever struggled to successfully introduce change in your organisation? If you would like to find out more about how we can help, you can contact us here. Or why not share your experiences with us on Twitter @LeanUni.

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