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Sunday, January 26, 2014

How to survive change fatigue

Lean Nation,

Today's blog will focus on the inevitable change fatigue. If you have followed the advice in either of my two publications, "Taking Improvement from the Assembly Line to Healthcare", or "Lean Leadership for Healthcare".  Or followed my advice on earlier blog posts.  You will now understand that creating a lean culture has some clear and distinct steps.

First, link the strategy to improvement by defining your strategic outcomes aligned to true north.  Select and map the key value streams to deliver the required improvement to your customers. Complete A-3 thinking using a combination of projects and rapid cycle improvements.  Then sustain the gains with standard work and visual management.

But what happens after a year of rapid cycle events?  The entire value stream has been "changed". The management energy now required to maintain standard work seems overwhelming.  Aren't we finished? Haven't all the changes been completed?  Don't we need a break?

In short, No!  The break organizations take after the end of the first pass of improvements through the value stream is what kills many lean initiatives.  Are you perfect? Hardly.  So more improvement is necessary.  But what about this fatigue.  There is no energy left to make the next level of improvement. Change fatigue comes from many sources but the common ones include the following:

  • No change in management day to day practice.   The same culture of going to meeting after meeting exists.
  • No leader standard work. Management does not know how to do their jobs.
  • Lack of staff engagement.  Management is forced to hold everyone accountable because the staff has failed to won the new processes.
  • The rest of the organizational management practices have not yet changed.  Despite working in an improving environment,  the rest of the organization ( HR, finance, scheduling and staffing, materials management, etc.) operate in the same inefficient manner taking management away from gemba.
  • Lack of senior management focus.  The daily priorities change day by day causing lack of focus.
Change fatigue is an excuse.  Rather than understanding the root cause of the problem,  management "quits" and calls for a break on new change.  This disrupts the momentum of improvement and make future improvements extra hard to obtain.

You might argue that root causing the reasons for change fatigue is taking a break.  This is incorrect, fixing any problem is improvement.  My advice is to push through this initial resistance.  Once you come out the other side this "change fatigue" phenomena will not return.

Lean blessings,

Ron Bercaw
President and Sensei
Breakthrough Horizons Ltd
Shingo Award winning author

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