Tuckman’s Model for Kaizen Facilitators

tuckman-modelThe Kaizen event is a focused, short-term workshop that involves people from multiple functions and levels of the organization in working together to address a problem or improve a process focusing all resources towards a narrow and specific objective. These events may be a day-long affair or take as long as an entire week, depending on the level of improvement needed.

At the beginning of Lean implementation several companies are turning to a quicker, one day long, high speed problem solving approach, to shift paradigms and quickly demonstrate results. The intensity and urgency overcomes the resistance to a new paradigm. People have little time to think of reasons for delay. It forces solutions.

This approach however has its limitations.

First of all, the training part is necessarily short. There is insufficient time for deep learning of principles, tradeoffs, and lean methodology.

The team dynamic is totally different. The team members will go through Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing and Adjourning stages (Tuckman Model for team dynamics) but they can drop back to earlier stages, normally storming at anytime and multiple times. The challenge of facilitating a one day Kaizen is to get through the Forming and Storming stages as quickly as possible so that you can get to the Norming and Performing stages. Many Kaizen events fail due to the team getting stuck in the Storming stage.

If you understand the stages, you can plan your agenda and approach around these and use them to your advantage to have an effective Kaizen event.

The Forming stage is like the first day of school. No one knows anyone and everything is new. When a team first convenes, it’s all new and a little uncomfortable. Being the facilitator, start with some training where you are leading the presentation. This directs their attention to you. So instead of them versus the whole room, they only have to worry about relating to you, one person (single channel). They will warm up quicker, you can build trust – which you might need later – and they can converse with you directly. You can get the team “Formed” quickly by directing the attention towards you.

After the team is getting comfortable with each other you want to force them into the Storming stage. The Storming stage is basically a contest. At this point, people start to compete for their position in the group. This is good, you want this and you have to have this to get people fully engaged and reach a successful outcome. However, you want to do this in a controlled manner and do it quickly so that you can move on to the next stage. If you don’t plan for and manage this stage of the dynamic, you may lose control and never get anything accomplished. So how do you effectively force a ”fight” in a nice way? First, you need to change roles. During the training, your role was that of an instructor. Now you need to become the ”instigator” and mediator. Instigator is a little harsh, but I’m trying to highlight the shift in role. Second, it is time to shift the team’s attention from you to each other. During the Forming stage, they got to size each other up by watching how they interacted with you. Now it is time to interact with each other. The simplest way to force the interaction is through a simulation. A simulation will get the team interacting, talking and working together. You need to use a simulation that requires discussion and problem solving. Guide the simulation to keep it moving, but during the discussion and problem solving, LEAVE THE ROOM! Take a break and walk away. If you stay in the room, they will come to you for safety. If you walk away, they will be forced to interact with each other and establish their roles and positions in the group.

Now that you have the team storming, you need to pull them out of it. This is where you need to make sure your simulation is very robust. No matter what they come up with, they need to be successful. If they can come out the other end successful, you will have solidified the team and prepared them to get some real work done and move on to the next stage. Getting through the Storming stage is critical but that doesn’t mean you’re done. The first thing to remember is that just because you’ve made it through a stage, doesn’t mean you won’t slip back into one. This is common, just like any relationship you will have good and bad times. Understanding this will help you keep your focus and not ease up. If you turn your back for a moment the team may slip back into Storming and you are behind schedule. It is not a problem in a five days Kaizen event, but in case of a one day event it can lead to a failure to achieve planned results. Your schedule is tight…very tight.

Like the other phases you need to change your role again. In the first stage you were and instructor or director if you will, then you became an instigator or maybe a hard coach is more appropriate. Now you need to become a teacher. The team is now in the Norming stage. What does that mean? In the Norming stage, the team is starting to solidify. They finally have their team dynamics worked out. Everyone knows their role and place on the team, but not necessarily what to do. This is where you come in. The team is in a state of transition between unconscious incompetence and conscious incompetence. They need your guidance and they are willing to be taught. Give them some guidance but let them figure it out. If you take over and do it for them you will fall back into the director mode (Forming stage) and you focus their attention on you and not towards each other. If this happens, you can actually throw them back into the Storming stage.

We’re finally on to Performing! But how do you know? What is the sign? In moving from one phase to the next, it’s less of a binary switch and more of a subtle shifting over. In the Norming phase the team is working well together but relying on you as to how and what they should be doing. In the Performing phase the team is becoming self sufficient and self confident. Again your role and approach will change. You will now shift from being a teacher to a coach. Your role is to enhance the performance of what they know how to do. You will provide the tips, tricks and words of wisdom to help them become more effective and efficient. In this phase of the event, the team is at a point of conscious competence and there are several things going on to which you need to be aware. First, while the team, “gets it”, they haven’t developed yet the experience and routine to handle all situations they may encounter. You have to watch the team and help them work through the one offs, every Kaizen event has, that could get them discouraged and delayed.

There is an interesting effect going on during the transition from Norming to Performing. This has to do with the cultural change you are driving and the team you need to help foster the growth. Watch your team during the shift from Norming to Performing. This is where you will start to see the combination of those who get it and will lead it. It is kind of an unintentional interview process. If one of these folks is on the team, they will assume your role and start leading the team.

If your long-term goal is to grow a community of lean professionals, THIS IS WHERE YOU CAN FIND NEW RECRUITS.

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