Category Archives: Transformation

Leading with Respect: The Right to Be Successful

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I recently had the pleasure of presenting a webinar on a topic I am passionate about: Leading with Respect.

The event drew over 350 attendees, the majority of whom stayed tuned in for the entire time and were highly engaged in the chat. The fact that so many people attended shows how important and pertinent this topic is today.

Considering the high levels of stress, fear, uncertainty, and change we all are going through, it is no surprise that the topic of how to effectively create a workplace of inclusion, engagement, accountability, teamwork, and amazing results is so popular.

Lead with Respect provides 7 core areas of behavior-based patterns that change how leaders, managers, and teams show up and interact. Leading with respect involves awareness of our focus and intention, and how well we are connecting with people to create an environment of mutual trust and sustained high levels of performance. This is accomplished through the application of 7 core practices:

  1. Go and See for Yourself
  2. Create a Meaningful Challenge
  3. Listen to Understand
  4. Teach and Coach
  5. Support Others
  6. Foster Teamwork
  7. Learn as a Leader

After nine years of applying and refining these practices, I am still humbled and deeply moved when I see the impact they have on people, teams, and leaders to create mutual trust, psychological safety, and camaraderie. As human beings, we all want to be included and respected while at the same time know we are making a meaningful difference.

Lead with Respect is built on a foundation of key principles about what people need to flourish. One of the attendees asked, “Under the assumption ‘People have a right to be successful,’ how do you define successful?” This is an excellent question! As applied to these practices, success is defined by each individual person. Working with hundreds of people, I have noticed a pattern emerge: practically everyone shares the same human needs and sees success in similar ways:

  • Contributing towards a meaningful purpose or challenge (purpose)
  • Feeling comfortable sharing ideas, asking for help, and reporting problems (safety)
  • Being part of a team that you care about (belonging)
  • Helping others and being helped (teamwork)
  • Taking control of how you “show up” (autonomy)
  • Learning something new each day (development)
  • Getting better at something with persistence and practice (mastery)
  • Setting and achieving challenging goals (results)

Leading with Respect provides the framework, principles, and tools to build a working environment where people come together to create amazing results because they really care about each other, their customers, and their organization!

For more information and to connect with Mike Orzen, click here.

Effective Structured Problem Solving through Self-awareness

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Seeing the Real Gap

PDCA, the unassuming four-step cycle of plan-do-check-adjust, is the secret sauce of learning and improvement. This scientific method of structured problem-solving brought us the industrial revolution, chemistry, modern medicine, physics, computers, space travel, the internet and the world as it exists today. It seems quite natural that we would apply this potent tool to our work processes to address issues around flow, variability, overburden, and non-value added work.

Indeed, the PDCA mindset captures the essence of lean problem solving. By leveraging the scientific method to address problems, we pursue the goals of lean. Habitual use of this approach builds our ability to understand what our customers value, create and flow that value, and relentlessly strive to improve – all while fostering a learning culture built on respect for people and continuous improvement.

Easier said than done. A scientific mindset searches for facts by testing hypotheses, runs experiments to validate what we think we know, relentlessly uncovers new truths, and revises our thinking based on fact-based learning. It sounds easy but it is deviously tricky, because our mind assumes our current perception and understanding is accurate and we know what we are talking about!

Here’s the amazing thing: very few people actually embrace the scientific method when applying PDCA. I certainly don’t mean to offend anyone here, so how can I make such a bold claim? My findings are based on over 200 A3s created by people I have coached, and on the numerous A3s I have personally developed in my formative years of lean practice. All of these examples used an A3 form to structure the PDCA thinking process, but failed to coach the A3 owner to go deep enough to perceive actual conditions and generate anything that might be called a discovery. These attempts at problem-solving often implemented solutions that were known before the A3 was even started. They simply captured preconceived ideas on paper and declared them as lean improvements.

In Atomic Habits, author James Clear writes, “The challenge for anyone interested in making progress is to simultaneously have (1) the confidence to go after what you want, (2) the humility to accept who you are right now, and (3) the willingness to build skills that bridge the gap between 1 and 2.” Before you can “accept who you are right now,” you must have the ability to make that determination accurately. Not only do we need to understand and accept who we are, but also where we are. This is grasping the situation in lean problem solving.

In order to grow, a person needs to clearly see the gap between where they are and where they need to be. Gaps exist in every aspect of life: our performance, capability, trust, understanding, comfort level, alignment, teamwork, leadership – the list is endless. To see these types of gaps clearly, the level of perception we’re talking about requires a new degree of self-awareness, non-judgment and neutrality. If we want to really “go and see” to understand and grasp the current situation deeply, we must develop greater self-awareness in ourselves and coach others to do so, as well.

To develop an ability to see what is really happening and accept things as they are is more difficult than it sounds. In fact, very few of us experience this degree of mindful awareness more than a few times in our lives. Think back to a moment when time seemed to stop, and you were totally absorbed in the present moment. You were all there with no distracting thoughts or mental commentary. Things appeared to be more vivid; sounds and smells felt more acute. This often happens in times of great wonder like the birth of a child and at times of great peril like a near-death experience.

The key element which enables us to know what is really happening versus what we think is happening is mindful self-awareness. The difference between these two states of mind is enormous – it is the chasm between our prejudgments and unconscious bias, and the actual facts of the situation. In PDCA problem-solving, we are taught to continually grasp the situation and reflect on where we are in the process. Each step of the way we ask questions such as: “What is happening?” “What should be happening?” “How do actual outcomes compare to my expectations?” “How do my actual behaviors compare to my intended actions?” “What surprised me?” “What can I learn from all this?”

The answers to these questions require curiosity, insight and honest unvarnished perception of what truly exists—and not what we assume or hope is there or needs to be there. I once had a coach who called this “brutal honesty.” It was brutal because we had to face the unembellished reality however painful it might be.

The key to mindful problem-solving is pausing long enough to ask questions such as:

  1. How do we know what we know?
  2. How much of our thinking is based on evidence?
  3. How can we validate our understanding?
  4. How can we be curious about what we don’t know?

An Example 

I was recently coaching a group of highly-skilled project managers who were concerned that their performance measurement system was no longer aligned with the business. They felt disconnected with the rest of the organization and believed the measures were driving wrong behaviors.

Here is an early version of their problem statement:

The current metrics system doesn’t drive the right behavior resulting in the lack of problem-solving and inconsistent team behavior and focus.

The team was quick to suggest “solutions” ranging from developing new metrics to adopting whatever metrics were in use by the business. I asked them how they knew this was a problem. They responded by saying, “we are not supporting the business,” “there is no alignment,” and “we are not driving the right behaviors.” I felt the team was caught in a loop that looked like this:

I asked the team what the impact of no support, alignment, and wrong behaviors was. They struggled for a while to answer, so I followed up with, “how do you know the impact is negative and to what degree?”

That question seems to trigger a moment of clarity as someone responded, “our project delivery metrics have been dismal for over a year!”

Another team member asked, “so are we saying that our current metrics system is causing our poor performance? If so, what can we do to prove it?”

At that moment, I could feel the collective awareness of the team shift. It was like they were all waking from a dream. They let go of the original problem statement loop they had been stuck in and moved on to the freedom of a new way of looking at the situation.

Their next problem statement was based on curiosity:

Current project delivery performance is significantly underperforming. Over the past year, our blended performance has been at a 62 while our target is 90. The business impact has shown up as late project launches, cost overruns, and lack of promised functionality. Estimated business value of this performance gap represents hundreds of manhours and as much as four million dollars annually.

Note how the team’s second problem statement does not assume a cause (the metrics system) nor suggest a solution (fix the metrics system). It also focuses on a gap (blended performance metric) and not symptoms (lack of alignment and bad behavior). At this point the team is attempting to see the reality of the situation and identify what they need to learn to understand cause and effect.

The current state section of the A3 is waiting for them to dive deep into the symptoms and detailed characteristics of the problem. After performing this work, the team may discover the need to modify their problem statement again. That is a good sign. Changing your belief based on new evidence and learning is a wonderful thing (and the essence of PDCA)!

If we fail to develop our self-awareness, we are sentencing ourselves to life in a prison of our own making. It may be comfortable to see the world in a way that confirms our limited and current  beliefs, but this safe perspective prevents us from gaining access to the underlying truth of what is really happening. This path of comfort comes at a cost—we miss the insight, the breakthrough and the joy that comes from seeing deeply what is real and responding to the facts.

As lean practitioners, we owe it to ourselves and to the world to honor the process, practice PDCA and engage the scientific method with deep respect and mindfulness. All we need to do is pause, become aware, practice, and persist!

Mike Orzen is a lean practitioner and coach who has been experimenting with lean, respect for people, mindfulness and coaching for almost 30 years. He can be reached at mike@mikeorzen.com.

 

 

 

 

Change Fatigue, Psychological Safety and the Leadership Void: Why Most CI Initiatives Don’t Last

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Continuous improvement has been around for decades, and yet there are few examples of organiza- tions that have successfully created a lasting culture of problem solving, learning, and improvement. Many books, blogs, and workshops are available on these topics, and there is no shortage of resources on the tools and techniques of Lean process improvement. We understand the mechanics of improvement, but stumble when it comes to connecting with people so they engage and participate.

What are the factors that hold people back from investing themselves in a culture of continuous im- provement? For many years, I have served as a coach, trainer, and consultant to numerous organizations across many industries and have consistently encoun- tered three key barriers to creating a new normal, which includes daily problem solving, employee initia- tive, and higher levels of participation.

In a CI culture, improving the way we work is more important than doing the work! Most people spend their day doing their work and view improvement as an optional “when I have time” activity.

Change Fatigue

Over the years, multiple programs have been rolled out (e.g. Lean, Six Sigma, Operational Excel- lence, Agile, TPS, Total Quality, etc.) with prom- ises of making work less chaotic, creating work- life balance, and making things better. While these initiatives are well-intentioned, over time people be- come exhausted with the new “flavor of the month” and no longer get excited about the envisioned benefits of process improvement.

Psychological Safety

People need to feel comfortable sharing their thoughts, expressing when things are not working, discussing problems, asking for help, making suggestions, and even disagreeing with the way work is done. It is not easy speaking up when one feels it is risky to disagree with their boss, question current policy, or simply ask why something is done a certain way. The freedom to ask “What if ?” is not something most of us are com- fortable doing when we are not certain where the con- versation will lead.

Here’s the key: it is precisely this level of safety we all require before we will step out and speak up. The engagement and participation that is so crucial to a CI cul- ture will only develop in an environment of psychological safety and nowhere else. Improvement requires learning, learning requires experimenting, and experiments seek to better understand cause and effect. The process starts by asking questions. But no one will ask questions or speak up if they feel it is unsafe.

Leadership Void

Leaders, managers, and supervisors set the tone of the workplace and must model the behaviors necessary for a CI culture to grow. Yet all too often, they unintentionally do the very opposite. Leading with Respect is a collection of specific leader behaviors that create an authentic con- nection with people to develop a background of mutual trust. Trust is the basis of all relationships. It is the glue that makes a team a team.

Building a great organization requires effective leader- ship. A key element that is often misunderstood is what it means to lead with respect. This involves awareness of a leader’s focus and intention and how well the leader con- nects with people to create an environment of mutual trust and sustained high levels of performance. This is accom- plished through the application of seven core practices. We’ll explore why leading with respect is essential in a suc- cessful transformation, what respect looks like in practice, the seven core practices, and how they impact people to drive lasting change for the better.

Lean IT Forum 2018 – Closing Keynote

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Accelerating Innovation with Lean, Agile and DevOps

From the perspective of Lean IT, Agile, and DevOps what is innovation and why is it important? Lean IT, Agile, and DevOps provide a solid collection of tools and methods to create more effective IT teams and value streams, but what steps and tools can we leverage to drive innovation and rapid advancement within IT? This talk explores the central drivers of accelerating innovation and provides specific examples of its application in IT environments. How do I make sense of the various methods of Lean IT, Agile, and DevOps to drive innovation? Discover a unifying model you can use to pull these disciplines into alignment and avoid confusion from the “big three.”
Join Lean IT pioneer and innovator Mike Orzen as he pulls together themes from the day’s great speakers.
Thrilled to have Pierre Masai, CIO of Toyota Europe, begin the summit with a talk on “The route from Toyota Production System to Lean IT, Scrum and DevOps!” I have known Pierre for several years and always learn a great deal whenever I hear him speak. What a privilege to have him attend this year’s forum.

Authentic Leadership – Effective Leadership for Agile, Lean & DevOps

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A Valuable 2-Day Masterclass for Leaders and their Direct Reports – 

Getting results applying Agile, Lean & DevOps is common but usually relies on a handful of people who carry most of the weight because they are excited by the new tools and methods. These early adopters act as champions of change and are essential at the start of an IT transformation. For change to persist, innovation to be sustained and continuously improved, everyone needs to be engaged!

This is where effective leadership is crucial. Using hands-on exercises and role play, this workshop will position you to understand and experience the key behaviors needed to effectively lead Agile, Lean IT & DevOps teams through an enterprise transformation.

Currently, most DevOps, Lean IT, and Agile transformations are not led by CIOs. They are often led by the director of operations, chief architect, or director of development. It is good these people have been given the authority and/or responsibility to introduce a significant change in the way work gets done. But there is a potential downside: without the vision, alignment, and commitment a CIO brings to the discussion, these efforts can collapse for many reasons including lack of commitment across the entire IT service delivery value stream, conflicting priorities, entrenched silos within IT, lack of internal coaching and support, and overburden of bottleneck resources (just to name a few).

The success of the transformation begins and all too often ends, based on the degree the CIO and their direct reports actively lead and authentically connects. To lead people effectively, leaders need to understand the “Why,” the “What,” and the “How.” This is a mindset, skill set, and toolset that needs to be learned, practiced,  and adjusted based on the culture of the specific organization and the challenges they encounter. Leaders throughout the organization must be able to connect with people at a very real and meaningful level that fosters trust, transparency, respect, and new ways of working across silos. This is tricky stuff for almost everyone and the CIO is the pivotal influencer of how seriously and deeply people will go to make their transformation succeed.

 

 

Lean IT Summit – Lean IT Master Class: Building Your Lean IT Roadmap

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Program Description: The most difficult step to take in a Lean IT transformation (be it agile, DevOps, service management, etc.) is the very first one. Organizations fall into the trap of learning lean concepts and talking about the possibilities, but the initial excitement fades and the transformation never gets off the ground. Lack of alignment to organizational purpose, inability to figure out where to start, and fear of making mistakes all conspire to keep companies from ever getting started in the first place.

This one day workshop, based on the book, The Lean IT Field Guide by Mike Orzen and Tom Paider, will provide participants with an understanding of the foundational elements needed for a successful lean transformation and practical experience identifying and executing the key activities of pre-launch and day zero activities.

The workshop will focus on preparing you to implement a solid foundation of a sustainable lean transformation, not just focus on terms, definitions, and theory without application!

Benefits: In this interactive workshop you will:

· Gain understanding of the core elements of the Lean IT Roadmap and how to apply it to your DevOps/agile/lean transformation
· Identify your organization’s current strengths, challenges, and readiness to begin a Lean IT transformation
· Learn to apply key concepts, methods, and tools critical to successful transformation
· Acquire the skills to plan and launch a lean transformation using a case study simulation
· Reflect on how you will apply these concepts and tools to get started on the right path or to check/adjust in your organization

Who should take this class? Agile, DevOps and Lean IT practitioners of all levels + those responsible for leading real change in IT

Accountability: Not What You Think it is…

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Accountability. It’s a word often feared in society for being associated with the blame game – being singled out when things go wrong, even if the reasons are beyond your scope of control. It seems we are always hearing about the importance of creating a culture of accountability.

Unfortunately, when managers and associates hear the term, they often flinch! Expressions such as “We’re holding you accountable” are often seen as code for “You are liable and will be blamed if things do not go as planned!” This is a major problem for any organization that is serious about creating and sustaining a lean transformation.

If we consider the lessons of LEI’s Transformation Model (shown above), we see that the entire foundation rests on the basic thinking and fundamental assumptions (both overt and unseen) that drive current culture. For leaders who wish to transform from a command-and-control culture to a more participative one, a key assumption is that, when treated respectfully, people will align to a common purpose, deeply engage in both doing the work and improving the process, and assume higher levels of accountability.

The image includes employees taking on tasks without being told to do so, showing initiative to improve quality first and efficiency second, and genuinely caring about their customers, team members, organization, and community. This basic assumption that is so central to a lean transformation becomes null and void when accountability is seen as a liability that management assigns, rather than a self-assumed role that people undertake of their own volition.

When there is evidence of intentional avoidance of accountability, it suggests that people don’t trust the intentions of the organization, leadership, or even fellow teammates. They may be avoiding the risk of potential conflict that comes from taking on a task which the outcome is uncertain. This is true problem solving and it can be scary enough without the fear of being blamed if things don’t work out well. It is interesting to note the role that trust plays in all this.

Creating a lean environment is essentially creating a learning environment. In a learning environment, we move away from experts who tell others what to do and towards learners who run experiments (rapid PDCA cycles) to better understand root cause(s) and validate effective countermeasures. Accountability must be self-imposed in order for people to truly grasp the concept, take ownership, and take on appropriate levels of commitment.

But this can only be done when the fear and apprehension most people associate with words such as accountability are openly addressed. When reflecting on your own organization, here are a few questions to consider:

  1. Do we blame people when things don’t go as planned?
  2. Do people self-assume accountability or do we assign/delegate accountability?
  3. In our current culture is there fear, anxiety or hesitation around accountability?
  4. Do we ask people to be accountable before asking if they are capable?
  5. Do accountability and authority always go together? When should they?

To learn more about creating a culture of accountability and respect through effective leadership, sign up for Mike Orzen’s pre-summit workshop, Lead with Respect: Practicing Respect for People to Enable Engagement, Teamwork & Accountability, at the 2016 Lean Healthcare Transformation Summit this June. Learn more about Lead with Respect and other Summit workshops on the summit webpage.

Note: this article also appeared in the Lean Enterprise’s Lean Post in February of 2016.

The Importance of Work Systems, Sequence, & Adaptive Lean IT Systems – Part 4

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This is Part 4 of Sequences, Behaviors and Integrating Adaptive Lean IT Systems – an updated article originally published in the Lean Management Journal in October 2015.

In the previous blog entry, team huddles and a visual management system were mentioned. These are both examples of work systems designed to encourage the specific behaviors we want to cultivate. There are many work systems that comprise a lean management system including problem solving, daily huddles, leader standard work, training, recognition, visual management, strategy deployment, measurement, and monthly performance reviews, just to name a few.

It is these work systems that impact people’s behavior most significantly by emphasizing and reinforcing those actions we want to see everyday from everyone. Where many organizations get into trouble is in the sequence and timing of how and when to introduce these systems.

SEQUENCE IS CRITICAL

Over the past twenty-four years, I have tried many approaches and witnessed what works and what doesn’t. Here’s the bottom line: each organization has its own culture, history, and work environment, so one size does not fit all. There is no standard deployment sequence or collection of work systems that apply universally. That said; there are some fundamental concepts applicable to all organizations.

1) Start by establishing a clear purpose throughout the organization. This is a prerequisite for success.

2) Acknowledge that the bedrock of lean is learning and that problem solving capability is the skill to cultivate if you are serious about transformation.

3) Strive to balance the two pillars of lean: continuous improvement and respect for people. Don’t make the common mistake of falling in love with tools of continuous improvement and ignoring respect for people.

4) Create a culture of accountability by building work systems that position your people to succeed, to learn, and to grow. This is true respect for people and promotes high levels of teamwork, engagement, accountability, and ultimately performance.

5) Work systems must be designed, built, maintained, and improved by the people doing the actual work. Outside support is fine, but the frontline people must do the work.

ADAPTIVE LEAN IT SYSTEMS

Whether you are considering bringing lean IT to your organization, currently applying it to IT operations, or determined to build a lasting transformation, awareness of the lean IT diamond and the importance of behavior, work systems, and sequence will significantly increase your odds of success.

At the end of the day, Lean IT is all about effectively responding to change by continuously improving adaptive systems. In order to be effective, IT must change its behavior and functional capabilities in response to its environment and the needs of the Business. When IT reshapes systems and technology, the adaptive change is directly relevant to achieving the goals and objectives of the organization.

SUMMARY

For IT organizations to evolve and become more responsive to the changing needs of the Business while simultaneously maintaining the stability and security they are held responsible for, IT professionals need to understand and embrace the behaviors, as well as the thinking, of Lean IT.

For additional information on how to mobilize a Lean IT transformation, see The Lean IT Field Guide – A Roadmap for Your Transformation.

 

The Importance Of Behavior – Part 3

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This is Part 3 of Sequences, Behaviors and Integrating Adaptive Lean IT Systems – an updated article originally published in the Lean Management Journal in October 2015.

At the end of the day, all change comes down to altering our established patterns of behavior. Anyone who has attempted to make a lifestyle change (such as quitting smoking or eating healthier) can attest to how difficult this is.

It is interesting to note that most transformations tend to focus on training people in the new ways of doing things. We assume that if people know about a new (presumable better) way of doing something, they will automatically adopt it as their regular way of acting. Nothing could be further from the truth. If knowing about a better behavior caused people to change their actions and develop new habits, no one would be overweight, use tobacco products, or run on less than 6 hours of sleep!

We are all creatures of habit and become very comfortable with the way we’ve always done it, even when our routines become outdated, broken, and painfully frustrating. Why? Because it is really difficult to change the behavior of others or even ourselves. This resistance to change is a universal condition that, unless addressed directly and openly, puts all transformation efforts at serious risk.

MAKE/BREAK, CADENCE, & PREDICTABILITY

There are three factors you need to know about to effectively address this issue: make/break, cadence, and predictability. So what does it take to make or break a habit? I have confirmed it requires 40 days of practicing a new behavior before we can even begin to change old habits. At 90 days we have confirmed and strengthened the routine. At 120 days the new habit becomes deeply engrained as a part of our identity (how we see ourselves). At 1,000 days we have mastered the new behavior. Here’s the secret: the days must be consecutive! That’s right – if you miss a day, any day, the next day is Day One and you start counting from the beginning. I have personally used this approach to successfully affect change at both organizational and personal levels and it works.

Why is this approach so effective? People like routine and predictability – we are hard-wired to repeat what has worked before and to be skeptical of anything outside the conventional pattern. Most people drive to work using the same route, walk through a grocery store selecting the same items, watch the same TV programs, and go to bed at the same time – you get the picture. By enforcing a new routine and deliberately changing our behavior, we gradually provide the predictability and structure our human nature innately desires. When the changes make our work better, faster, less stressful, and prove to be more rewarding, that further reinforces the value of the routine and new habits begin to take deeper root.

As new work processes yield better results including more consistent quality, less rework, variability, and overburden, predictability of outcomes increases and we receive yet another dose of reinforcement – increased customer satisfaction!

THE KEY SYSTEM – PROBLEM SOLVING

An example may serve to clarify this approach to creating new habits. Let’s assume you have introduced lean problem solving to your IT group as part of your transformation. People have received training in basic lean concepts including PDCA, A3, and root cause analysis. The assumption is that once people understand lean problem solving, they will use it in their daily work. This rarely happens. In most cases about 10% of your people will be self-starters and try to apply lean practices on their own. The vast majority of people attend the training and think, “That’s interesting…” and then go back to work using their normal ways of getting things done. They quickly fall back to their comfort zone, which excludes the ideas and tools shared in the training workshop.

Applying the make/break, cadence, and predictability concepts, we would include problem solving as an essential element of our daily team huddles and visual management system. On a daily basis, the team would be coached by responding to questions of inquiry designed to foster new ways of applying what was learned during the training on problem solving. The only way people learn lean is by doing lean!

In the final post of this series, we’ll explore the importance of work systems and sequencing to build adaptive Lean IT systems.

Transforming IT Is More Difficult But Not Impossible – The Lean IT Diamond – Part 2

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This is Part 2 of Sequences, Behaviors and Integrating Adaptive Lean IT Systems – an updated article published in the Lean Management Journal in October 2015.

Today, many companies are actively seeking the benefits of lean IT and are undergoing constant transportation in their IT group. They are often familiar with lean and/or Six Sigma and have had some success with process improvement in other areas of the business such as manufacturing, accounting, and supply chain.

However, the landscape of IT, the complexity and dynamics of technology, the interdependency of its functional silos, and conflicting priorities when working with the Business, all combine to create a perfect storm of distinctive obstacles.

There is a key relationship that exists in all organizations. When understood and appreciated, it can provide clarity and direction to a lean IT transformation.

Let’s look at the components of the lean IT diamond and why it can be so helpful. At the top of the model, we begin with Purpose. A shared purpose is essential to create and drive a common intention, alignment, and commitment. Everyone in the IT organization (as well as the Business) needs to very clear on why we are in business, why we are transforming, and where we are vs. where we need to be.

If this shared understanding is not in place, you can be certain to see different behaviors, erratic degrees of engagement, and the consequential mixed results. Without a widely understood and collective purpose that people can clearly see within the context of their daily work, everyone is left on their own to identify what matters most and determine what they should do (or not do) about it. If you have ever witnessed pockets of improvement (aka islands of lean in a sea of waste), you can be assured there is a lack of understanding around shared purpose.

The next component is People. It may seem obvious that people are a central ingredient in building a highly effective organization. What is not so obvious, or at least publicly acknowledged, is that many work environments are abundant with uncertainty, disengagement, mistrust, apathy, fear, and political gamesmanship. In our first book, Lean IT Enabling and Sustaining Your Lean Transformation, I noted that people are often the only appreciating asset in an organization. When we treat people with respect and create systems and processes that position them for success, we cultivate trust, engagement, teamwork, and high levels of performance. Perhaps the most essential element in a successful transformation is to ensure the initiative is behavior-based. See the next post in this series for a discussion of behavior-based change.

Process represents the work we do to create value for our customers, to collaborate with our partners (the Business, vendors, supply chain, and outside resources), and to ultimately fulfill the mission of our organization. When processes are undefined, unclear, or not consistently followed, the effort required, the time it takes, the quality of the outcomes, and the frustration of staff and customers all become highly unstable and inconsistent.

The final component of the lean IT diamond is Information and Technology. It is useful to think of these two elements as distinct yet highly interdependent. With respect to information, IT is the mechanism that transforms raw data into useful and actionable information. IT, when done well, is the connective nervous system that joins people with actionable information.

Concerning technology, IT is the enabler of the business – capturing, organizing, and storing immense amounts of data, routine tasks, building transactional records, enforcing business process rules, managing secure access, all while providing work process functionality and visibility to all functional areas of the business.

The flow of complete, accurate, timely, and actionable information is a key determinant of the flow of customer value and organizational performance. When IT stops, the Business stops. When IT flows, information flows and the Business is positioned for success (of course it takes more than just great IT).

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