Many organizations recognize that the change part is toughest to crack in their lean improvement projects. Getting in the right support by professional certified coaches to support the change will increase the success rate of sustainable lean implementations.
What can a coach do for you in your lean project:
- A coach challenges assumptions
Lean practioners are familiar with not accepting assumptions on face value but looking at actual situations (that is why we ‘go to Gemba’). It is often tough to make a sustainable change because of the ‘resistance in the organization’.
A coach is trained in challenging assumptions by exposing them and opening them for investigation and let you choose if you want to hold them.
New ways of working are often blocked by assumptions about ‘how things work’ and are often opposed to ‘drive the change’. Peter Senge calls these ‘mental models’ in his book ‘the 5th discipline’. Assumptions have a strong root in past and current experiences, have a reason for being and do not capitulate to the opposition they experience from the ‘transformation project’. They may hide for a while, but they don’t go. This is often seen in short term results, that rapidly deteriorate when the transformation project or consultants are gone. A coach is trained and skilled in drawing out the assumptions and exposing them for investigation and choice and support a sustainable change.
- A coach supports a safe learning environment.
Lean is about learning. That is one of the reasons why we want to shorten cycle times. Less cycle times means more cycles means more opportunity to make mistakes and learn. However, the culture in many organisations does not allow for safe learning. A lot of focus is on exposing mistakes and negative reinforcements. In this case many cycles have the adverse effect of an increasing pile of hidden ‘mistakes’ and decreased creativity. A coach is trained in focusing on what works and bridging from success to success and creating a safe and supporting environment in which people are willing to be creative, experiment and make mistakes to learn.
- A coach holds you accountable for change.
In continuous improvement projects I often hear the word ‘accountability’. A coach will support you holding yourself accountable for your choices. This is vastly different and more sustainable than the top-down accountability many teams or organizations use. Top-down accountability allows to be ‘at the effect’ of what is happening, a victim with no influence on the situation. A coach will support you holding yourself accountable ‘at cause’ to what is happening and take ownership of the situation. The accountability coaches support is softer and harder at the same time. They will help you align what you want and what you do.
Many organizations recognize that the change part is the part they have the least grip on in the lean improvement projects. Addressing this is not a matter of ‘chance’ but a matter of choice. But the first question is: do you really want the change your lean project is delivering? Are you ready for the change and willing to commit what it needs to get there? Maybe have a good conversation with a coach on this before you embark on the lean journey.