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Change Management: Is it Necessary?

by Katrina Appell
March 2, 2016

Change Management: Is it Necessary?

by Katrina Appell
March 2, 2016 | Comments (5)

There are varying views on the role of change management in a lean transformation. On one end, some say if you are doing everything right you won’t encounter resistance and shouldn’t even need change management. On the other end, others say change management is essential in all circumstances. Personally I think both of these sides have merit in their own rights. Evaluating them raises a couple questions:

  • What is “doing it right?”
  • When needed, does the change management process matter?

Let’s start with the first bullet. I presume that if you are “doing it right” it means you are approaching lean in a way that is embracing the pillars of the Toyota Way – respect for people and continuous improvement. Said another way, you are creating an environment where people are respected, engaged, and supported while there is continuous change. In situations like this, change is continuously being managed.

That’s easy to say, but the real question is, how do you do it? For those “doing it right,” can you articulate what “right” is and be explicit on how to do it? Can change management models help us to understand how to respect and engage people through continuous change?

Which brings us back to the second question: Does the change management approach we take matter? In my opinion, it depends on what you are trying to achieve. Some change models seek to effectively tell and sell the change. Some change models seek to engage people in the change. What behavior is your change process modeling?

For a model for change that enables the support of a lean culture I am partial to the D x V x F > R change formula, which is the overarching model for Kathleen Dannemiller’s whole-scale change approach.


  • D is dissatisfaction with the current situation
  • V is vision of a positive possibility
  • F is first steps in the direction of the vision
  • R is  resistance to change

Essentially this states that for the organization and all individuals; the product of the dissatisfaction of the current situation, vision for what is possible, and first steps towards that vision has to be greater than the resistance to change.  If any one of these aspects – dissatisfaction, vision, or first steps – does not exist, you are missing a component necessary to overcome the resistance, which will inevitably always exist.   

Many lean tools align with this framework. When used while engaging people in the process it can support a lean culture.


Lean tools that engage


Value Stream Mapping - Current State Map

A3 – Background, Current Condition

Kata – Current Condition


Value Stream Mapping - Future State Map

A3 – Goals / Targets

Kata – Target Condition

First Steps

Implementation Plans, Action Plans

Experiments using PDCA


There is always a reason behind resistance, and it holds incredibly valuable information to help you improve. By respecting and seeking to understand resistance while engaging people when using lean tools, you will catalyze their current-situation dissatisfaction, vision, and first steps while decreasing their resistance – enabling continuous improvement through PDCA experimentation.

And to close, a couple of questions for the lean community:

  • If you don’t need change management, what are you doing that makes it not necessary?
  • What change management models do you use to support a lean culture?
The views expressed in this post do not necessarily represent the views or policies of The Lean Enterprise Institute.
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5 Comments | Post a Comment
kevin kobett March 02, 2016
1 Person AGREES with this comment

I would start by telling lean stories from other companies. These stories would include the resistance experienced by the heroes of these stories. It is much easier to discuss resistance exhibited by strangers as opposed to resistance from coworkers and bosses. People must know that resistance to lean is futile.

Once the workforce knows that we can idenity and correct resistance to lean, I would idenify the 5% of the workforce that have a natural inclination for problem solving. 

Next step, Quality Circles. The 5% will be appraised to find the facilitators that can expand the program.

At this point, we would start discussing if all employees need to know about the Lean Tools you mentioned in your post.


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Mark Graban March 02, 2016
4 People AGREE with this reply

Many "Lean failure" stories are, from what I've seen, really "change management failures," which is to say "leadership failures."

Proper change management doesn't mean forcing people to go along with your line... it means engaging, listening, collaborating, and leading.

The ADKAR model is useful for looking at an individual's acceptance of Lean (as a transformative approach) or acceptance of an individual change. Individuals come through these stages:

Effective leaders help bring people through these stages (or look at other change models) rather than just forcing them to "get on the bus."

Effective change management (or change leadership) means more successful change.

I've been teaching more workshops about change management... we can't just know "what" to do, but we also have to know "how" to lead.


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kevin kobett March 02, 2016

The lean stories I refer to are specific from role models. Isn't that what we want, lean role models for our employees.

Most of the lean stories I have seen are not stories at all. They are summaries of lean implementaion. Not helpful to an employee.

Why do you always make Lean so difficult?


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kevin kobett March 02, 2016


andrey castañeda March 14, 2016
1 Person AGREES with this comment

Hello to all

I am a Lean practitioner in Colombia. I found the blog and comments very interesting. The relation DxVxF>R, its for me a clear prove of the roll that management has in this implementation process.

D = Why are we doing this? Why do we need to change?
V = Where do we want to go?
F = How are we going to get there?

this 3 questions involve directly the management, and if they are not answer the transformation will certainly not succeed. In my experience, this is the hardest part, how to work with a management that think they have not part in this process, because it is a matter for supervisor or operators?

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