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Jon Miller

Ask the behavior change experts, not the lean experts

By Jon Miller, - Last updated: Thursday, April 9, 2015 - Save & Share - Leave a comment

The question “How do you undo traditional management behaviors to change to behavior as a lean manager?” is an important one for the success of lean endeavors. However this is not really a question for lean experts. This is a question for behavior change experts. Lean experts can (although we rarely do) attempt to define a set of agreed lean behaviors, but it is not our place to explain how behavior change happens.

I have suggested to people who asked this to read Charles Duhigg’s book The Power of Habit. In essence, habits are formed or re-formed through a reinforcing cycle of triggers or cues, routines or behaviors and rewards.

I recommend looking at undesired behaviors and identifying the triggers (cues) and rewards that cause them. Let’s look at an example of habit formation in management terms. A manager is yelled at or punished by an executive for not making quarterly numbers (cue or trigger), a manager receives a pat on the back or a bonus for making the number (reward), and these reinforce non-lean behaviors which could be any number of short-term manipulations of the outputs of the production system to make the numbers (routine).

As a non expert on behavior change or habit formation, my advice is to study the best advice of experts in this area and make interventions in the cues and rewards that are driving the undesired (non-lean) behaviors.

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