Since writing the blog post about one of the more prevalent enemies if change, the behavior pattern of the significant one, I have been living with the question of how to offer possibilities that can be heard. As a recovering significant one (some parts if personal mastery and self awareness are hard and admitting to unuseful behaviors and patterns is one of them) I found myself remembering two questions my boss used on me:
This isn’t exactly on how to create flow in an organization, more about why it can be so hard. Agile and Kanban aren’t that difficult to learn – they are pretty well mapped out and easy to adopt yet the promised effects of applying them often don’t really materialize simple because change needs people and people don’t change easily. Not because people don’t like change but because we don’t know how to change! To change you need to stop doing what you have always done … only you mostly can’t stop doing what you have always done because your actions are based on your thinking and the way you think becomes so hard wired into your brain, so familiar and so ‘you’, that people don’t even consider it to be an option that can be changed! To change the people, change the people because people can’t change!
We can’t do anything without language! Whether we are speaking or writing we need language! Language is a form of acting, we use language to act!
With that in mind, language as action comes in 5 forms:
- Requests & Offers
Shifting from waterfall into a flow based delivery mechanism is an exercise in change management and change management is as much about the people as it is about the new process or tool. In fact, it could be argued that until the people align their beliefs and thinking to the new processes, the impact of the change will be minimal. Which brings me to the issue of language and words.
Words are how we communicate what we are thinking, what we need and want and what needs to get done. Language also creates ‘position’ in a team.
We are in an era of continuous change only we live with a very old-fashioned understanding of change. What do I mean by old-fashioned ? We are still living in a frame where change happens, then it all stabilises for a long while and then we go through the effort of change again. Only that isn’t how it all works these days, change is continuous. Gone are the days where we could relax and let the process take care of it. These days, before the process has been designed the conditions have changed and then what does arrive as the new process is no longer effective. All of which means that to cope in todays world we should be cultivating one key skill, being permanent learners.
To change is to be able to see if things are having the impact you were expecting and to adapt!
To change is to learn!
But what does it take to live as a learner ? What are the patterns and anti-patterns that Coaches need to look out for ?
One of the experiments we are contemplating is creating custom Kata that focus on specific objectives that we would like team’s to build a competence in. In a way this goes against the very specific Toyota Kata that the wise Mike Rother discusses (yet another reason to attend the Lean Summit as he is guest speaker), yet we haven’t really found another way that offers something as simple as a Kata format.
One of the simplest ways I have found to engage team’s and start them shifting into new ways of work (and so Lean thinking) is by asking them questions that they may not be able to answer. And my favourite, ‘go to’ question is “Are you ahead or behind ?”
Most team’s know that they are behind, but they can’t really show it…which is what we are trying to do – see where people are behind and how come.
I often follow that up with something along the lines of “How could I get this answer for myself, without having to ask anyone ? ”
This is round about the time when teams can start to look nervous, because you know we never show why we aren’t on time, we always ‘spin it’. Unless you want to stop surprising your leadership and start to show people how come it isn’t your fault – if this were the case, then what would you need to start showing on your wall ? Who are you waiting for, for how long ? Where do you spend most of your time waiting ?
Once we have that visualised the teams naturally fall into asking how they can start to resolve these waits and start to impress everyone with how well they are doing.
And it all started with…. Are you ahead or behind and how do you know ?
What is your ‘go to’ coaching question ? And how does it play out in your space ?
Perhaps you have experienced this, when you mention the word ‘coaching’, people get fidgety and nervous – “I am a manager not a coach” or “That isn’t how we do things, I am the Lean Specialist, I know what is going on, my job is to tell the team and get them to implement the tools”. All popular frames for how to implement Lean, but I would suggest, not necessarily the most effective – especially looking back at our companies Lean implementation where we started with a Consulting House and a very structured, project style approach that brought in 6 or so specialist Lean resources who spent 3 months with the team, doing intense investigations and diagnostics to document what wasn’t working in the teams and then implementing detailed interventions to correct these. The end result ? Some change, in some teams…but the moment the Lean team left, the team’s reverted to their old ways of working.
Enter coaching as a framework to support the changes in the teams – because Lean isn’t a project, it is a change in how the team’s think about their work and go about working and to change habits needs consistent, regular support.
What I love about coaching is how the right inquiries can stimulate the passion and creativity of team’s. Because at the end of the day, being a coach is about finding the questions that, if answered by the team, will shift them into new possibilities.
Just that one change in Lean Specialists, from telling to curiosity about what the team knows and how the team will change it, can shift the lean implementation significantly.
We are experimenting with this in the form of Lean Kata, structured, standard inquiries that allow leaders and lean specialists to gain experience in curiosity without having to ‘be coaches’. Will let you all know how it goes and what we learn as we go.
How are you deepening the coaching competence in your spaces ?