Sensei Facilitation Style - Scary or human?

dentist picI recently facilitated a five team, week long kaizen event. The teams made some very significant improvements (more kaikaku than kaizen). There was one team that I was especially concerned about from the very beginning - their scope was fairly expansive, the challenges not trivial by any means and the team members not exactly lean experts. So, I stayed on them quite a bit, coaching, cajoling, poking and prodding.

In the end, the team on the "watch list" implemented a number of great improvement ideas and transformed the target process from the perspective of flow, visual and capacity management, standard work and leader standard work. Frankly, I think they surprised themselves! They definitely progressed in lean understanding, kaizen, change management and confidence...all necessary things if you're trying to create and sustain a lean culture.

After the report out, the team leader likened me to a dentist, "We hate [the experience] until the tooth is fixed and then it's not so bad." Not something I wish to put on my tombstone, but I'll take it. I consider myself typically a "Cho-san style" facilitator.  Bob Emiliani, in his book Better Thinking, Better Results, differentiates between two basic facilitation styles. One being the "suzumura style," ostensibly named after a zealous disciple of Taiichi Ohno, Kiko Suzumura and meaning "scary style." Suzumura style is characterized by "strict, demanding, short-tempered, insulting and demeaning" behavior.  Cho style, after Fujio Cho, now Chairman of Toyota Motor Company, while still demanding, incorporates and even temper, respect, humility benevolence, and humor.  Of course, depending upon the predominant culture, resistance to change and size of the performance gaps, sometimes one style is more appropriate than the other.

So, what's your experience with facilitation styles? What have you found to be the most effective?

Other relevant posts: Stretch, Don’t Break – 5 ways to grow your people, The Human Side of the Kaizen Event – 11 Questions for Lean Leaders

There are 10 Comments

Jamie Flinchbaugh's picture

I think your experience is perhaps more about the kaizen process as a whole. It is uncomfortable people to stay with one problem that long, look that deeply, work on it that intensely. It's uncomfortable and especially when the team isn't entirely getting along, painful.

As a facilitator of many, many kaizens, and a sponsor of even more, I have to say I would often hate the process, but love the outcome. Perhaps this is "no pain, no gain."

Jamie Flinchbaugh
www.jamieflinchbaugh.com

markrhamel's picture

Hi Jamie,

You're right about the, "No pain, no gain," reality. While some people really relish the kaizen event experience and thoroughly enjoy the process from beginning to end, most know (or will soon know) that there's a lot of blood, sweat and tears. Most things worth doing are hard.

The pain part can be minimized through effective pre-event planning, including establishing relevant, high leverage targets (with linkage to value stream improvement plans and the like), proper scoping, team leader and team member selection (considering stakeholders and their representation, fresh eyes, experience, chemistry, etc.), sufficient pre-work, training and communication. Obviously, the actual event execution is critical and is impacted by things like work strategy and kaizen event standard work that addresses things like kick-off meetings, team leader meetings, plus delta reviews, etc. and of course facilitation effectiveness.

Thanks,
Mark

Mark Welch's picture

Ohno (as in "Oh, no!") is not my style - much more like Cho, but as you say it all comes down to what will work with the predominant culture. I work in a hospital and very early in my career an Ohno-style guy from a Kaizen Kowboy style consulting company came in and managed to offend and alienate most of the team in a few short days. He had absolutely NO FEEL for the people he was working with. I later learned he "no longer worked for that consulting firm." Infer from that what you may.

In my opinion the short-tempered, demeaning, insulting style completely violates a significant portion of the respect for people maxim. It promotes fear and can kill teamwork, and how is that in keeping with lean?

markrhamel's picture

Hi Mark,

Thanks for sharing your experiences! Yes, the Suzumura style is a bit tough to handle, especially for U.S. folks. In fact that's why Wiremold's Art Byrne first exposed his troops to himself and the late Bill Moffitt (one of my sensei) before introducing the Shingijutsu people. If the style is a barrier such that the organization has problems absorbing and applying the Lean principles, systems and tools, then there is a big problem.

Thanks,
Mark Hamel

Paul Cary's picture

Hi Mark, I was a lean consultant for MEP for 10 years and am now the full time lean guy at VIBCO for the past three and a half years. I find that my facilitation approach is much different as a full time in house facilitator. As a consultant I didn't have asmuch time to get to know the team members and although I prefer the Cho approach and I have always used it, the better you know the DNA of the team members the better the chances of success. As an in house facilitator I carefully consider the makeup of the team leveraging the strenghts of some to pull others along.

thanks, Paul Cary

markrhamel's picture

Hi Paul,

Thanks for your insight. VIBCO's got a great Lean pedigree from what I hear! What you say makes a lot of sense. An effective facilitator reads the situation, team chemistry and capability, cultural milieu, etc. not only for the purpose of achieving the kaizen targets but also to develop the team members.

Best regards,
Mark

Evan Durant's picture

Hi Mark,

Being still relatively new to the facilitator role, I can really appreciate your story. I'm certainly the mild-mannered type, but having been raked over the coals a couple times by the Shin guys, the dentist analogy rings true. It was certainly not pleasant, but in the end the authoritarian presence of a perceived "guru" helped to galvanize the team and shift thinking in ways that I as a team leader could not have done on my own. So I think there's room for both styles. Still, I don't think I'll be yelling at any teams in the near future.

Thanks,
Evan

markrhamel's picture

Hi Evan,

Well, being raked over the coals often does make the teaching memorable and provides for great stories later on...after the pain subsides. Harsh, abrupt treatment is warranted at times, especially when teams need a substantial paradigm shift relative to bias for action, batch versus continuous flow, applying the proper rigor to truly understand the current situation, etc. There isn't a whole lot of time in a kaizen event for patience, especially for concrete heads. That said, I'm definitely in the Cho camp.

Best regards,
Mark

markrhamel's picture

Hi there,

Hope the blog is of value. I finally set up a Twitter account, but have yet to get much beyond that. One of my colleagues is going to give me quick tutorial and then maybe...

Best regards,
Mark