I was just reading a blog post over at Beyond Lean that asks, “What do you do when change is needed but no one will change?” There are probably more articles and blog posts on this issue than just about anything other topic in change management, I’d guess.
After about 30 years in the field of change management, my answer is: There isn’t much you can do other than to find someone else to work with.
I need to lose about 20 pounds. Actually, I could stand to lose 50 pounds. That’s been true for, oh, about ten years now. I know how to lose weight…it’s really straightforward…use up more calories than I take in and eat right. I’m clear on the benefits of losing weight and don’t doubt for a moment that I would, in fact, realize those benefits if I lost the weight. I’d look better, feel better, be more energetic. So, the question is…what can YOU do to help me lose weight that I can’t already do for myself?
I knew a guy once who’d had two open heart surgeries…and still smoked. What could any of us do to get him to change that, I’m sure, everyone he knew was already trying?
I had a client that agreed a component supermarket would provide substantial benefits to flow and throughput. Implementing the supermarket meant painting some squares on the floor and putting pallets of the component in the squares. Two years after deciding the supermarket was needed…the squares were still not there.
Now, let’s look at an example or two from the other side. Another client had two “factories within a factory”. I was working energetically with the supervisors at one of the “factories”, trying hard to gain some traction for workplace organization and visual factory. The other factory had two very astute, very energetic supervisors. I would spend a few minutes with them on Monday of one week telling them what I had in mind. By Friday of the next week, they’d show me how they had implemented my ideas and the data regarding the results they were getting. So, in that “factory”, I was a consulting genius. In the other “factory”….not so much.
Managers will either change or they won’t. There is nothing about lean that’s difficult to understand. The tools are all very straightforward (except for heijunka…I still haven’t gotten my head around that one yet). The tools always work. Yes…always. (Just like that set of socket wrenches in my garage always works. The fact that a lot of stuff around here goes unrepaired is not the fault of the socket wrenches.) Managers are either actively using the tools or they are letting them sit idle in the garage.
If you are a manager reading this and you’re organization isn’t progressing well on lean…it’s on your shoulders. You’re either going to change your own behavior and require behavior changes on the part of those who report to you or you aren’t. Don’t blame the tools, don’t blame the consultant or your Lean Director. If you’re stumped, get some coaching and instruction. But eventually you’re going to have to do something different. You.
If you are a change agent reading this and you can genuinely say you’ve done everything you can to affect the needed behavior change (provided the knowledge of tools and potential results and been energetic in helping with all the day-to-day tactical stuff) and it’s not occurring…there’s nothing else you can do. Maybe they’ll “get it” eventually, maybe not. But eventually they’re going to have to do something different.