Change is a strange animal. It is present everyday, all the time in our life. We are the people we are because of it. However, most people feel unsafe when change knocks at their door, especially if they feel they are not controlling it. This “lack of control” feeling happens very often in Lean projects. New ways of working (flow), making work visible (standards), making problems visible (visual management): all this can make everybody feel uncomfortable. Middle management and experienced staff are even more vulnerable to this sensation. The good news is that this fear to change can be mitigated.

In Lean, the amount of “change” you get is not proportional to the amount of “work” you put in place. It works instead pretty much as walking along a seesaw. At the beginning the slope is high, and every step is hard to take. A lot of energy is required to move one inch forward (Typically things don’t work the first time you try them, people don’t understand the counterintuitive lean concepts, performance and moral go down, almost everybody feels all this lean thing is a big error). Communication is key here. People who start believing and are working hard to make it happen need to be supported. They have to know that things apparently are not moving on, but this is only on the surface. Change is happening, but it is not visible yet.

Then, one day, something happens. A critical mass of people have learned how to work together to solve the initial problems and create flow. Issues are solved quicker than before, lead time goes down, less defects get to the customer, training is easier. The team has walked long enough along the seesaw to make it swing. Now the slope down is easy to walk, and more and more improvements are done with little extra effort. Change has happened. And this is great!

More information on changing and Lean can be found here:

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