Effective Change: Sustain Lean Improvements by Building Business Maturity


Many organizations can see the fruits of Lean implementation reflected in ongoing improvements to their balance sheets and increased customer satisfaction. Yet, even as these improvements are being made, we discover that full potential can only be reached when critical human elements are addressed at the same time.



The impact of systemic change on human dynamics, if not considered and properly managed at the outset, can potentially jeopardize the success of your Lean implementation. If you adopt a model or approach that is specifically intended to harmonize change with organizational culture, you will:

  • Help avoid or solve a myriad of problems, challenges and conflicts
  • Ensure that everyone involved in, and affected by, systemic change will be better able to implement the concepts fully
  • Everyone will understand his or her role in attaining and supporting the new focus of the company



Lean creates an overall positive outcome within the organization. However, most organizations, regardless of their size and population base, will experience reluctance or strong resistance to a change at some point in its implementation. Successful Lean companies recognize the benefits of educating their people and encouraging them to become involved with this new direction.



Sustainability of these changes will become a reality when employees reach comfort levels with the Lean process and the new state of the organization. These comfort levels vary for different people or different parts of the organization. Comfort grows with the use of Lean tools and procedures and, importantly, with work on the human dynamics of the organization. It's the human side of the implementation that brings necessary ownership of the processes and changes.


At the value-stream mapping stage, our experience has shown us that organizations with inefficiencies in their decision-making usually operate in silos. For those organizations to succeed, they will have to transform to a culture of trust and effective communication. 



The best way to achieve sustainable Lean transformation is by acknowledging and implementing needed cultural shifts. We call this Building Business Maturity – working with leaders in enabling organizations to tackle the human side of change.

See how prepared your organization is for change. Look over this list and check off the things that you currently do well.  Are there areas where you want improvement? How will you go about making those improvements?



Companies who are successful at change must do the following:

  • Articulate compelling vision, mission, core values and strategic objectives for their organization
  • Build a strong organizational commitment and plan for achieving this vision
  • Communicate and understand the concepts of a new leadership model for teams and individuals; a model that encourages organization-wide responsibility and accountability by building trust and Can-Do attitudes
  • Develop in-house mastery of the roles of coach and mentor for individuals and teams in support of organizational maturity, individual success and increased productivity
  • Assess, evaluate and know how to respond where needed to ensure strategic alignment to the vision, mission, values, and goals
  • Increase productivity and decrease conflict by developing the Emotional Intelligence capabilities of employees so they understand better:
    • How they see and manage themselves
    • How they see and manage organizational relationships
    • How others see and react to them
    • Foster relationships and partnerships between teams, departments, and individuals in the organization
    • Develop employee understanding of the important relationship between corporate strategy, customer satisfaction, employee performance, the organization and its culture
    • Develop high levels of proficiency in communication across the organization (use powerful tools such as inquiry, dialogue, deep listening, and effective feedback)
  • Help employees to use Self as the pivotal lever for organizational, cultural and behavioral change, creating new levels of responsibility and accountability
  • Build high performance and self-management in work groups and teams as well as individual mastery in employees to create an empowered, highly motivated work environment.



I call these steps the Business Maturity Competencies for the New Leadership Model. The model is designed to establish strong organizational commitment to a strategic vision and the plan for realizing it. Employees share a common picture or story about the future of the organization and communicate that vision with a common language. The organization acknowledges agreed-upon values that influence organizational behavior in delivering the operational plan for achieving its vision.



In summary, experience has shown us that an organization that has the ability to operate in a common language with all stakeholders and has a common understanding of the benefits of their new system will continue to thrive. Educating the employees, with effective and proper behavioral strategies, results in buy-in or ownership of any new changes.



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