Covey said it best: “Begin with the end in mind.”
The adoption of a lean practice sometimes starts with a problem to solve. Other times it starts with a new tool (“To a man with a hammer everything looks like a nail”). Plans are made to train the workforce and great expectations are often set.
There’s a hidden danger with beginning with the end in mind.
The plan is to train the workforce, so that they can change the way they work. Message maps and slide decks are created. Work schedules are adjusted. Training records are completed. The new practice is implemented. After a short time things go back to the way things were.
A group of professionals was provided with training and clear expectations that a new method would be used, and it doesn’t stick. This is a situation that happens over and over in organizations everywhere.
It seems that there’s a great emphasis on training in lean transformations. The thinking is that the operation will change if people receive the right instruction and encouragement. Completing the training, ticking the box and filing the training record becomes the goal. And a goal, once reached, no longer receives significant attention.
Beginning with the wrong end in mind will leave us chasing our tails. This is the danger of jumping to countermeasures thinking.
What is the end we should be thinking about?
Training is a way to overcome an obstacle that lies between the organization and its goal. Before it begins we must envision, the long term goal. It’s up to leadership to communicate it clearly to the rest of the organization.
Adopting new methods will require training. The focus, though, is on the intended future condition of the workplace. Obstacles will come up. Problem solving and scientific thinking will be needed to overcome those obstacles and people need to keep working toward the goal.
The challenge is in leading the workforce through the change after the training is done. Organizations need to be reminded often of why and how things are changing.
Fundamentals in the use of lean tools, or any other work skills, will need to be practiced. People will need dedicated, observant coaches to support them through the transition until they are comfortable with what has changed and no longer need the support.
Training brings awareness. Proper practice is where the real learning occurs. Teaching needs to be followed up with skilled coaching until proficiency in sustaining the new practice has taken hold.
The end in mind should be the envisioned condition.