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We Help Operations Managers to Conceive and Actualize Their Industrial Visions Based on the Lean Manufacturing Culture

Blog Mechanic Industry

Even if they do not say so openly, many “old style” managers think that forming independent work groups is only a waste of time.

They believe that most of the time, the work meetings of a team are: unproductive, too long and lead to insufficient results.

The reason for this is that, deep down, they definitely know how things must be done and what the best solutions for the company are.

It is proved that putting change into effect means that the person or the team who must operate the change is going from the comfort zone to the performance zone.

As already explained widely in the preview of the book “Team Building for Lean Production” (see banner here below), the comfort zone can be defined as the combination of ways of thinking and habits that a person or a work team has no interest in changing.

The difficulties of a manager to trigger the change are greater when the comfort zone has become solidified over time.

In the comfort zone people are attached to points of view and ideas which prevent finding innovative solutions, therefore blocking the continuous improvement of the company standards.

Fuel for changecarburante team building

Breaking obstructive ideas and creating new ones, requires a fuel made of:

  • Motivation.
  • New skills.

In regards to motivation, this is created by mixing ideas with the reverse polar force, such as:

  • Wanting to reach a state of wellness which is more gratifying than the current one.
  • Avoiding unpleasant or painful situations in the future.

The manager, an alchemist of motivation

One of the main instruments for creating the motivational fuel is that of establishing shared objectives with indicators for clear results.

The activation of objectives and indicators will cause in the collaborators:

Motivation for “going towards”

Motivation “avoiding to…”

Excitement for the challenge and achieving the objective.

Fear of being judged by one’s manager for being incapable of achieving the objective.

Alliance with the colleagues to help each other mutually in reaching the objective.

Fear of losing one position and image in the company.

Searching for innovative solutions in reaching the objective.

Anxiety from being pointed out by one’s colleagues for not being able to reach the objective/s.


The motivational fuel can explode

If the objectives are constructed badly and they are not shared with one’s collaborators this surely leads to destructive effects contrary to those desired.

Establishing too high of an objective, creates the idea that it is impossible to reach it and even if accepted at the start, the moment that the team realizes that it is impossible to achieve this will create demotivation and resignation.

In contrast, establishing too easy an objective does not create the energy necessary to exceed the comfort zone.

The improper use of motivational factors can lead a team from its “comfort zone” to a “danger zone” in which performance crumbles, distrust in the company takes over and in this situation any change project will fail.

The damnation of the manager

A manager who completely fulfills his role and his responsibility continuously strives to have the company reach always better levels of performance.

He cannot avoid looking for improvement, this means that the focus of his work activity is often brought to having his collaborators exceed their comfort zone.

To fulfill this, as previously explained above and in the preview of the book “Team Building for Lean Production” he must surely be an expert of the “comfort zone” phenomenon and an alchemist of motivation.

Mario Mason
Kaizen Coach

If we study the various graphic representations of the Toyota Production System, Just in Time, TPM and WCM, it is possible to notice that in these models there is always the recall at the involvement of all the company people.

The neverending improving work is done to get rid from wastes and to improve the value aggregation in work activities and this is the daily focus of a company that follow the Lean Production paradigm. This work can be done efficiently and with a R.O.I. only if the problem solvings workshops are always done with a 360° vision and opennes attitude about the analyzed problems; this is the basic attitude that is required and it is necessary to develop in a lean team work.

In the company, it is possible to see the force of resistance to change at work just as soon as new ideas which in fact question the entire hierarchy, are introduced.

The resistance to change is much stronger the closer you get to the vertex of the company pyramid.

This because the managers from a point of view of the construction of their IDENTITY have much more to lose that just a “simple” line worker.

implementingIn order to understand how this phenomenon is unleashed, we can use The Matrix Model by L. Michael Hall, 2002.

This model explains that man interprets his experiences and creates from these convictions with regards to himself, to his skills, to others, to time and to the world.

The categories of the convictions, (called matrices), are the following:

The Matrix of Self. In this category the person places all his convictions on the subject: on his worth, on his self-esteem, on how he defines himself, on his trust in himself, etc.

The Matrix of Power. In this category of beliefs the person places all his ideas concerning his ability to act, doing things and being a resource. Additionally, in this category of beliefs, the person places all the definitions regarding what he can and cannot do in the world in which he operates.

The Matrix of Time. In this category the person places all his ideas concerning the time factor; the person places his professional history and his results in an ideal temporal line arriving to understand time as a friend or as an enemy, as a resource or as a limitation.

The Matrix of Others. In this category of beliefs the person places all his ideas regarding collaborators; are they a threat or a resource? Can we trust them or not? This matrix determines the ability to collaborate and interact with others as well as the approach regarding others’ ethnicity.

The Matrix of World. In this category of beliefs the person places all the ideas concerning various cultural environments he frequents and which he knows about; work, family, political affiliation, and so on. Practically, in this category, the person places all his beliefs concerning that which is external to himself. What is beyond my nose? Are there friends or enemies?

As a practical example of how resistance to change is unleashed we can speak about what can happen in the mind of a production manager when a consultant arrives at the company (not hired by him), to introduce Lean Manufacturing and the Kaizen spirit in his departments.

His mental and emotional reaction can be positive or negative, in all the possible undertones, according to the convictions that he has built and classified regarding himself.

In the table here below I have highlighted in red the possible thoughts that a production manager could have in the case of a negative reaction.

Company Event


Examples of possible thought and emotions

The arrival of a consultant hired by the owner to re-organize the production lines and the internal logistics

Matrix of Self

This means I am worthless, I am no longer a good production.

Matrix of Power

This means that I am no longer capable.
This means I no longer know how to do my job..

Matrix of Time

Everything I have built for them in the past was not sufficient.
They do not trust my abilities to face future challenges.

Matrix of Others

My collaborators think that I am not very valid.
This means that in reality, not everyone appreciates me.
Someone hates me...

Matrix of World

My family will think that I am no longer able to provide them with necessary goods.

From this table it is easy to understand the enormous resistance to change which can be unleashed in the mind of a manager subjected to something not conceived and not desired by him.

A similar reaction but of a gradually inferior entity should be expected also for all the other levels involved little by little as the base of the pyramid gets closer.

It can be understood then why the line workers, are always more favorable to the introduction of Lean Manufacturing. This type of event is something which can add VALUE instead of adding disagreement.

Lean production, in fact raises them from their simple role of operators to the role of fundamental part of the successes of the company; this is the exact contrary of what happens to the managers with very egotistic convictions.

The Matrix model is very useful to understand and prevent resistance to change.

When this model is understood, it is possible to organize a strategic plan of cultural change which prepares the different company levels to the change, without provoking revolutions or resistance such as making the project fail.


Mario Mason
Kaizen Coach

Lean Manufacturing and the Kaizen philosophy of continuous improvement are based on work groups. It is not possible to implement WCM or TPM if we are unable to manage and promote teamwork.

What are the base conditions that a good Kaizen coach must create so that the group performs very well?

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