Enthusiasm for Lean: Improving Project Team Buy-In

For many lean leaders and coaches a primary concern is obtaining the full engagement of everyone on a project team in lean practices. Despite best efforts at directing people toward lean behaviors universal lean buy-in is hard to achieve. What people are looking for is a way to create enthusiasm for lean.

Enthusiasm for lean is no different than enthusiasm for any endeavor, whether it be family, sports, or more broadly, life. So if we want to create enthusiasm for lean we need to look for examples where enthusiasm has been in place. Fortunately examples are available. Daniel Brown’s The Boys in the Boat, the story of the 1936 men’s Olympic gold medal rowing team is one such example.

Another example, closer to the lean world, is Toyota Motor Corporation. Before Taiichi Ohno walked onto the factory floor the foundation for the holistic aspects of lean as it was developed at Toyota was put in place by Sakichi Toyoda, his son Kiichiro, and others. The founders of Toyota Motor established basic practices that continue to serve as a catalyst for sustained enthusiasm for continuous improvement and innovation. Importantly this enthusiasm has survived several leadership generations.

We have observed four basic practices, rooted in human nature, that can be found at Toyota and elsewhere such as IDEO, and can be methodically created within project teams. We have labeled them Connection, Challenge, Commitment and Cognition.

In a lean project team context, Connection is about having real relationships with the other people on the project, including an understanding of a shared team core identity. Challenge is choosing an objective that is only possible with significant learning, growth and team Connection. Commitment is the practice of understanding with increasing clarity how and why a team works together. Cognition is the practice of awareness of the broader picture of life, including the alignment between each person’s core personal identity and a meaningful purpose.

We recently reviewed several International Group for Lean Construction (IGLC) papers and were able to find examples where even one of these four practices were deliberately employed, resulting in the improved engagement in lean practices. Those small successes give us optimism that a deliberate program that put in place the practices of Connection, Challenge, Commitment, and Cognition would result in a deeper, broader and sustained use of lean practices. We hope to identify a team eager to test that optimism in the near future.

To learn more about this research into an approach for creating enthusiasm for lean on project teams join us for a Lean Construction Blog webinar February 21. More information is available at https://leanconstructionblog.com/webinar-creating-enthusiasm-for-Lean-on-project-teams.html.

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