Article Series - Lean Change
- Why Don’t We Make the Lean Change?
- Succeeding with Lean Thinking Requires Changing Our Stories
- Tell New Stories to Make the Lean Change
Norman Bodek is concerned that companies are not taking up a lean way of working. This is in the face of overwhelming evidence that a lean approach is one of the best ways of working. What gets in the way? Norman attributes it to middle managers who resist change. He says the resistance is manifest in saying, "No," to employees' proposals of improvement. I don't buy it.
Norman is right when he says the people get in the way of change. It is not organizations that resist change. Only individuals can choose to not change. But why? Why in the face of overwhelming evidence that lean is a better approach would someone not embrace the change? Fear is the first answer. People see that something is at risk if they embrace something different. That makes sense, however when firms get into real trouble — the threat of bankruptcy — managers find a way to get behind a change to a lean approach. In the face of big stakes people come through.
Success is an impediment to change. "If it ain't broke don't fix it," is not just cliche it's our common sense. We also say, "Success breeds success." It's not that we resist change, change just doesn't make sense. Only exceptional people change when they are successful.1
And then there is our biology. There's an expression, "Flying by the seat of your pants." I'm not a pilot. I'm told that it means that our body is telling us something that is contrary to what we should be doing. In other words, our common sense betrays us. But it's worse than that. People new to snow skiing lean back rather than forward when going down hill. Consequently, they have less control over their skis…just the opposite of what their body is telling them. We pay attention to the feelings in our bodies and don't do what we intend or are taught to do.
But none of this fully explains why we don't change. The biggest impediment to change is our historicity. Huh? Human beings make sense of their place in the world in the stories we tell. These stories originate in the conversations of our families, particularly those of our maternal grandmothers. Our mothers learned 'mothering' from their mothers. Our experience, our mothers' experiences and our grandmothers' experiences shape how we make sense of our world today. And what does this have to do with our openness to change? Everything. I'll say more tomorrow.
- Tiger Woods rebuilt his swing at the top of his game. [ ⇑ back ]