(Pssst! Want to be let in on a secret about how to develop lean leaders?) PDCA works. Not Plan, Debate, Criticize, and Argue (as tempting as it is!), but Plan, Do, Check and Adjust. This allows experiments to happen in a controlled manner, which results in meaningful, lasting positive change.
Three years ago the leadership team at Cardinal Health asked if LEI would help them create a program specifically designed to develop lean leaders. Our first step was to use A3 thinking to clearly understand the problem and come up with and follow through on effective countermeasures. PDCA! Now, we are about to launch our third wave of candidates into the program.
- A3 + PDCA = real progress.
As in progress you can actually see, explain to others, and build upon… not progress by chance or progress dependent on just one individual. The A3 forces us to clearly define the problem we are trying to solve. In this case: What are lean leaders? Why do we want to create them? What’s in it for the lean leader? Who are good candidates? How are they going to learn? What are they going to learn? How do we know if we are making a difference? We asked these questions and more when we socialized the A3 with stakeholders. We also defined the target characteristics of a lean leader by creating a conceptual model of how strategy translates to actions within a business, explaining the lean leader’s role in making this happen. This socialization led to a logical, well-conceived plan, but we still didn’t have all the answers. We had just done enough homework to give the organization confidence in our initial Plan. Only then were we given the go ahead to proceed to Do, Check, and Adjust. Rather than endlessly debate what might be done down the road, we created consensus and confidence to try something.
- Real problems + coach support + effective coaching = changed thinking.
It can be hard to capture and hold the attention of a top leader, even for the purpose of their own development, even if they know it’s for their benefit and the organization’s benefit. But when the problems a top leader really faces day-to-day are the focus, and that leader has the support of a capable coach who can guide them through the learning and problem solving process (while addressing real problems), then it’s much easier to get and keep their attention. The question of every top leader, “Why should I care?”, gets answered. After a few successful cycles of this type of one-on-one coaching, you see a marked shift in how the leader thinks and engage others. It’s rewarding for all involved: the leader, coach, everyone in the company. Another benefit of this approach is just-in-time tool training. Rather than train leaders in a variety of lean tools, the coach carefully introduces only those tools that are needed to address a problem. This makes the learning more experiential and durable. Again, it’s about changing the thinking.