Jun 11 2013

Most, if not all of the literature I have read suggests that any Lean transformation requires a Lean Champion; in general I would agree. Most of these books & articles provide some sort of a list of activities that the champion should do, others are more prescriptive and go into great detail on how the champion’s role fits in with the wider organisation.

I would suggest, that as in any other aspect of a transformation, it depends. The maturity of the organisation, it’s culture, the urgency for change both from a business perspective (current performance) and from the culture perspective (how willing/able are people to change rapidly). Interestingly, if these two aspects aren’t aligned, there are likely going to be significant problems in the transformation, but I digress.

Personally, I see the role of the champion, and in many cases the consultant plays that role, as being the guide, the coach & the police. The guide provides direction based on the needs of the business. The coach provides the understanding required to implement new processes. The police ensures that commitments are delivered.

The champion will have many answers, but often only ask questions;

“What will you do here?” – “Why?” – “Why haven’t you done what you said you would?” – “What is stopping you from doing what you believe is most important?” – What are you doing about that?” – “What is your target condition?” (or in many cases “When will you have a target condition?”) – Etc…

The frustrating thing I have found, in many organisations, what they want is someone to actually make the necessary changes for them. Someone to create new processes and then magically get the front line staff to follow them, without actually requiring the leadership team to do anything different. Eventually, they (the Leaders) can “take over from there”. Rather than guiding, coaching & policing, the champion becomes the one doing.

While there are some cases where this is appropriate, I would argue they are few & far between. The more the champion does the implementing, the driving of change, the more the organisation relies on him/her, their knowledge, their expertise. So the question remains, should the champion be engaged in the doing, or remain as a facilitator? Is it a mix? Somewhere in the middle being the most likely optimum. Or is it?

I know where I stand…

photo credit: vincent guillocher via photopin cc

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