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Lean Transformational Leadership Webinar - Follow-up Q & A and Reading List


Lean Transformational Leadership Webinar
Follow-up Q & A and Reading List

During the Transformational Leadership webinar, many of you asked for the list of related books and articles that presenter Jim Luckman cited. He has provided the list as a chart at the end of his answers to the following questions that we couldn’t get to during the one-hour webinar.

Q. Do you have any suggestions for tips or techniques on identifying hidden assumptions?

A. The best way to discuss these assumptions is in a workshop (for example on value-stream mapping) where there is sufficient open dialogue among the participants. I have found that asking the question about unquestioned assumptions after drawing the current state is the best. Ask the question, “Are there some unquestioned assumptions driving the performance or design of the current-state value stream?”

Q. How can I impose the transformational model you describe in a lean deployment that is already underway?

A. Depending on what you see as an area for improvement or alignment of the transformational model, start with a small experiment around some business problem that you would like to fix. For example, if you have not begun the effort of A3 thinking and problem solving, Use the book Managing to Learn and begin creating a process for fixing that problem. If you have defined a very specific annual plan, I would recommend that you ask if it is an organic model of change or a “push” model. If it is “push,” depending on the commitment you have already made, consider dropping back to a smaller focus with learning being the measurement.

Q. At what level would you suggest to start a transformation? Enterprise, business, model plant, or product line? Other?

A. We have found that in smaller companies, it often works well to get senior leaders engaged in defining a specific business problem. This usually will direct the effort to the appropriate area. In larger companies, look for an opportunity of pain, sometimes by functional area, and start the effort with the owner of that area. Generally, we use a middle–up–d own approach in larger companies. We identify a primary value stream and engage the people who are inside this value stream in making improvements.

Q. In my organization, management wants a project approach to implementing lean - this seems to be opposite to what you propose. Any suggestions on how to turn them around?

A. I recommend meeting management at where their thinking is currently. You can start with a specific project, one that addresses a real business need, draw them into the effort, show the benefits of creating a team of people who take personal responsibility, and nudge the management in the direction of support these efforts. Recognize that this takes time and results will be expected. Also, create a continuous improvement effort rather than consider the project complete at the expected timeframe for results.

Q. Please expand on your statement about companies using blanket initiatives, like 5S, which my company does. How I can challenge the assumption that all departments need to do that?

A. Many lean efforts are driven like a new program, across the whole company, with a set of prescriptive moves. I recommend finding an area for making a real business improvement, engage the leaders in defining the business need, and connect them to the activity. Train them on how to ask questions properly to engage the organization in the problem solving effort. Show them, over time, that it is all about problem solving and get them in the problem solving process.

Q. Lean will roll out soon in our office. There are fears regarding lay-offs. Do you have any suggestions for allaying these fears without outright lying to people? We are hearing from upper management that lean is not about reducing head count, yet in management meetings there are plans for task transfers, etc.

A. This is very dangerous ground if management really is going to make headcount reductions. I would recommend a very slow approach to lean. Wait until the damage is done and then try to recreate an effort to engage the employees. See if you can get a real commitment to grow and use people vs. cut heads.

Q. What are gemba walks?

A. In many larger companies, leaders have lost the art of going to the gemba (Japanese for “where work is done”) and see what is really happening. A gemba walk is where leaders or managers go to the workplace to actually observe problems first hand.

Q. I recently transitioned from manufacturing to healthcare. The culture on process improvement is trying to convince people there is a problem to improve. How can I promote the PDCA problem-solving method and get the leadership engaged?

A. I have used two different approaches depending on the culture and problem observes. (1) Get leaders engaged in defining a real business problem and then create a project for addressing the problem using the people in the area where performance can be improved. Often, we use a value stream mapping approach for engagement. (2) Sometimes, it is simply a matter of getting people to see how making change will benefit them through waste reduction and reducing their frustration.

Q. Who teaches upper management how to problem solve? If they are supposed to mentor others below them, who mentors them? How do you get started?

A. We use an A3 approach to problem solving with leaders. Managing to Learn is a good book for creating the awareness of both problem solving and coaching. I believe that it is often more effective to get the leaders to identify a problem and solve it themselves. Then engage the employees only after they understand the problem solving process.

Q. Senior leaders are motivated by cost savings or growth and were trained and promoted based on results they delivered. How do we get them to think of problem solving that involves "experiments?"

A. The best way is to work with them on a performance difficulty that is preventing them from achieving their cost savings or growth goals. Us the A3 problem solving process. See if you can get them personally involved in the problem solving process, rather than delegating.

Q. What types of countermeasures can you use when different parts of your organization are driven by separate metrics, meaning no center focus exists?

A. This is a very difficult problem. It takes real experiential learning to change poorly defined metrics. The best way is to get involved in value stream improvement and then identify the metrics that are preventing improvement from happening.

Q. At our facility, we employ a fair amount of temporary workers (one day to a few months duration). As a company that is just starting their lean journey, how best can be instill the lean culture in these workers? Should we give them an orientation at hire or just sit back and rely on the culture infusing them?

A. There is an implied need for mentoring in a learning culture. Possibly, the best approach is to have a full-time employee that is skilled in problem solving mentor a part- time employee.

Q. In transactional processes (office environment), how difficult is it to change the culture to a Lean Culture? How to overcome the barriers?

A. The most difficult problem in the office environment is dealing with the connections and handoffs of the complex organization. The best approach is to select a value stream that cuts across several functions. Use the experience to grow a problem solving culture over time.

Q. Any suggestions for how to drive change in a government environment?
Government is more difficult due to the re-election of leaders. The experience I had in state government was to get the middle group and lower group (value creators) engaged in real problem solving and continuous learning. Draw the leaders in when appropriate.

Q. Many people think that they're doing PDCA all the time, but they're not. What is an effective way to show them that they're not?

A. The most effective way to expose the lack of CA in PDCA is to have a deep reflection meeting at regular intervals during implementation. This will expose the problem usually of organizations not spending time to correct the process.

Reading List for Transformational Leadership







Ed Schein


Creating  the environment and personal style

Basic concept for leaders to create the appropriate environment working with others in their organization

Managing to Learn

John Shook


problem solving and coaching

Understand the A3 problem solving process and the coaching model for leaders

Chasing the Rabbit

Steven Spear


Creating the system for quality

Basic understanding of the importance of engaging the workforce at creating quality systems

The Structure of  Scientific Revolutions

Thomas Kuhn


Paradigm Shifting

Realize we are stuck in a paradigm and need to experience our way to a new way of thinking

“Profit Beyond Measure”

H Thomas Johnson

HBR Article

Results vs. Means

Understand the impact of the financial metrics vs. the means to achieve the results

Thinking in Systems

Donella Meadows


Reductions Thinking vs. Systems Thinking

problem solving at a higher level is needed for leaders to get out of the problems we currently see in our organizations today.

Systems Thinking

Peter Checkland


Reductions Thinking vs. Systems Thinking

Much more advanced read of system thinking including the evolution to use of Soft Systems Methodology, which is critical in understanding a transformational model

The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook

Peter Senge, Art Kleiner


System Thinking tools and processes

Many articles about how to engage an organization in thinking from a systems perspective

Fourth Generation Management

Brian Joiner


Command and Control  vs. Leader as a Teacher

Understand that the model of management through engagement is the evolution of leadership we are currently experiencing

Reasons and Rationalizations

Chris Argyris


Defensive reasoning vs. open problem identification

Understanding the basics of why we become very protective and defensive with our behaviors

“Combating Defensive Reasoning”

Lauren Johnson

Article on line

Defensive Reasoning vs. open problem identification

An approach to overcoming our basic tendency to be defensive

The Learner’s Path

Brian Hinken

Through Pagasuscom.com

Knowers vs. Learners

Understanding the difference between being a knower and an experiential learner.

“Competitive Imperative of Learning”

Amy Edmonson

HBR article

Knowers vs. Learners

The importance of understanding the shifting paradigm towards learning

Toyota Talent

Jeffrey Liker, David Meier


People Development

The way that Toyota develops the people

Toyota Culture

Jeff Liker, Michael Hoseus


Toyota Culture

This give an insight into the culture that evolved at Toyota

The Lean Manager

Michael Balle


Lean Concepts

A story of a manager thinking lean

For More Information:
Transformational Leadership: An Experiential Program for Lean Leaders teaches you how to create an environment for comprehensive problem-solving at all levels of the organization and how to model leadership behaviors that support such an environment.

Lean Workshops help you implement the technical tools and the management system needed to launch and sustain a lean business system.

The Lean Manager is a business novel about how to transform yourself, employees, and the company culture to sustain a lean transformation.

Follow the Learner: The Lean Dentist is the book by Dr. Sami Bahri that explores how to build a continuous improvement culture based on lean principles.

Dentist Drills Down to the Root Causes of Office waste is the LEI success story about how Dr. Sami Bahri, driven by a gut feeling that the traditional method of managing a dental office could be improved dramatically, educated himself and his staff in lean concepts, validated the approach in pilot projects, then transformed his office.


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