Homepage Forums Public Article Discussions A Strength Based Approach to Lean

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    David Shaked
    • Total Posts 3

    Introduction Never before has there been such a strong call for a culture of continuous improvement in the private and public sectors across the globa
    [See the full post at: A Strength Based Approach to Lean]


    Simon Elias
    • Total Posts 34

    A strength-based approach to continuous improvement using Appreciative Inquiry I think has the potential to add a positive dimension to lean, which can suffer from the negatives associated with wastes and problems. It will be also interesting to see if any practitioners can manage to blend this approach with ‘traditional’ lean and also if there are specific contexts where is can be particularly effective.


    Robert Kovari
    • Total Posts 3

    I like this idea. I recommend this
    article, it is a similar approach.

    Some thougths concerning the srength based lean idea:
    “We live in a world that is moving at great speed. The rate of change and innovation is faster than ever.” is true. “There is simply no time to collect data, analyse it, identify root causes and fix them.” is something I don’t really understand. I hope “no time to” does not mean “not to do”. If world is changing fast we need to have faster data collection and evaluation, because I think even if we are working with a strength based approach, we need data and information. I think to be fast shouldn’t be a big challenge nowadays, i think about big data or smart data.

    I am not sure i understand the difference between possibilities and problems. Is it like (very simple example):
    Traditional: I observe that our colleague “A” is not respectful, not polite to the customer. It is a problem, we should find the root cause and solve it.
    Strength based: I observe that our colleague “B” is polite to her customer and they like it, they are satisfied with the service. It is a possibility for other colleagues to follow this behaviour.


    David Shaked
    • Total Posts 3

    Dear Robert,

    Thanks for commenting on my article and for sharing the article about learning from success (which is excellent and very much aligned). My apologies, I only now spotted your comment. Firstly, let me reassure you that I do not advocate not analysing data (of either failures or successes) – we can still do it and there is value in it although the sort of analytical skills I gained from the strengths-based approaches is distinctly different from the analytical skills I learned from Lean or six Sigma. They focus more on the narrative and the lived experience of the success that occurred and less on quantifying root causes of the case. Either way, analysis is useful. In my article, I tried to highlight the speed at which positive change happens when we approach a situation from a strengths-based approach. If we pay the same level of curiosity and interest into our highest moments of performance and our best examples of internal practice as we do to our lowest performance and failures, we gain incredibly useful insights into “what works here”. This makes extrapolating “what could work even better” easier and faster. When we analyse the root causes of our failures, we only know what we shouldn’t be doing but we’re still in the dark about what we should be doing instead. We then have to spend time guessing, experimenting or studying other external best practice and find ways to bring new insights – all can take quite a while.

    With regards to your examples of colleagues A and B: Yes I would absolutely inquire into what colleague B is doing. In fact, I would encourage B’s colleagues to inquire together. However, I would also engage with colleague A using different questions… rather than try to understand the root causes of his/her failures and then make assumptions on what could solve these issues, I would ask colleague A to tell me about a time they were able to respond respectfully and attentively to a customer request. I’d get them to focus on that experience – what was happening? How did they respond? What did they do that worked well? Who helped them solve the problem for the customer? How did they know so well what needed to be done etc. etc. by following this sort of inquiry, colleague A could find their own solutions and feel more confident that even though he wasn’t able to perform recently, he too knows how to handle customers well and can do more of what works and adds value.
    In other words, a strengths-based approach can be applied to colleagues who are exemplary as well as colleagues who are not considered so (they too had experienced better performace at some point).

    to summarise – my call to my fellow improvement practitioners is to pay as much attention to our best performance and what is wanted more of rather than what isn’t wanted. We talk about creating value, flow and quality but we pay almost all of our attention on what we do not want to have (waste, bottlenecks and defects) and thus ignore a huge resource of knowledge so easily available to us.

    There is a quote I like which conveys the message well. It is by Martin Seligman (father of Positive Psychology which is a related and fascinating field of research):

    “Beauty is not just the absence of ugliness; bravery is not just the absence of cowardice; well-being is not just the absence of misery. It’s the presence of real things” 🙂

    I hope it makes sense and would be very happy to continue the conversation here or off line.


    Robert Kovari
    • Total Posts 3

    Dear David,

    thank you for your answer and the details of your approach. I think I found another article that describes something similar: an article about effective and efficient and the difference between them. It says “Effectiveness is doing the right thing. Efficiency is doing things right.” It is possible, that if we talk about the strength based approach we describe how to be effective, how to do the right things (things customers need)?
    I work sometimes with experts who create customer journeys and think about this strength based approach: e.g. we create a journey without waiting because we aim to have a positive customer experience not because waiting is a waste to avoid or to eliminate.
    We try to understand customer demand first, we try to be effective. Later we take this journey and create (internal) business processes that support this journey. We can do it with strength based thinking, we don’t really need to know and use the waste categories. We should ask ourselves “what works here” (if we don’t know we should go and see and ask) and “what could work even better easier and faster” (again we should go and ask, we should involve people who know the answer).
    May be we all should learn the 4D as well: discover-dream-design-deliver 😀

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