In January, Karyn Ross published a new and very important book entitled How to Coach for Creativity and Service Excellence: A Lean Coaching Workbook -- It is a self-contained workbook, in which the reader completes twenty-one days of practical exercises and activities focused on creativity, Lean, and coaching (one set per day). These exercises enable readers to develop their capability and confidence to be creative, adapt Lean principles, practices and tools to their unique service organization, and coach others to do the same.
I had a chance to meet and discuss the book with Karyn during the recent KataCon5 conference in Savannah, Georgia. One of the questions I asked her was: “Why do service organizations struggle to translate Lean principles into sustainable practices?” Here is her complete and enlightening answer:
Michael, that’s a great question. And, as a Lean coach, consultant and practitioner who has only worked in services, I could give you any of the traditional answers you might expect:
• Lean is for manufacturing.
• Senior leadership doesn’t really support it.
• Lean is just another "flavor of the month."
But while all these may be contributing factors, over the years, I’ve come to understand that the real reason people in service organizations struggle to turn Lean principles into sustainable practices is the same reason people in manufacturing organizations struggle: They aren’t able to overcome what I call the long list of "I can’ts" -- those underlying assumptions that each of us has about what is and what isn’t possible. Possible for our organization, our team, and for each of us as individuals:
- “We can’t possibly customize our service for every customer. There are too many of them!”
- “I can’t ask my team for 100% accuracy. It’s demotivating and they can’t do it.
- “I can’t work more efficiently. I know the way I do this is the best way.”
As a Lean community, we’ve spent a lot of time focused on tools and some time on principles. But, we haven’t spent any time at all helping people learn how to use their innate creativity. That’s why this book, written as a workbook, focuses so heavily on two factors:
- Coaching people to use my simple, disciplined, practical approach to PDCA so that anyone, at any level of the organization, can generate creative ideas to overcome those “I can’ts."
- How to then turn those creative ideas into more effective and efficient ways to work by adapting Lean principles such as flow, leveling, and standard work in services.
These factors ensure that customers are satisfied – now and for the long-term -- and the organization will be able to fulfill its purpose. And, whether you’re in services – or manufacturing – that’s exactly what sustainable Lean practices are all about!
Do any readers work for service or transactional organizations that are applying Lean principles to achieve excellence? What do you think of Karyn's perspective?