What can derail your transformation effort?

what can derail your transformation

Currently, I am planning a complete site assessment.  It is a preliminary step before the creation of the transformation roadmap.   While working on it, I couldn’t help but remember an experience I had various years ago.  During that time, I was the leader of the continuous improvement transformation. Despite my best effort, it was not successful.  What did I do wrong?  Where did we fail as a team?  Some years passed and quite some reflection time as well before I realized what derailed that effort.  What can derail the transformation?

Not understanding what you are getting into might derail your transformation.

There are various misconceptions regarding continuous improvement.  As a result, many entrepreneurs decide to start their journey believing some of them.  For instance, many times, the reason to initiate the effort is cited as costs reduction.  Here are some misconceptions that can derail the transformation.

Continuous improvement is not a cost reduction initiative.  Furthermore, it is not a tools supermarket where you can pick and choose what you like.  CI or lean is not a one-size-fits-all approach.  It is different for each company, even for each site.  The transformation is not fast or straightforward.  For instance, it is a slow process with moments of success followed by setbacks. Also, it is common to have times with total clarity of purpose followed by thousands of doubts.  The lack of understanding of all these facts soon will become challenges that leadership is not prepared to deal with.

To overcome the inevitable challenges, leadership needs to understand that lean is a people’s system. CI is not about using tools.  The company culture needs to change its focus from financial profit to their people’s development and customer satisfaction.  The transformation from traditional to continuous improvement requires being humble and courageous.  It is not easy to be vulnerable and willing to expose your weaknesses as a leader.  Neither is to let go of the control of the day-to-day operation.  

Misalignment between company goals and continuous improvement

Traditionally, company goals are different for each department.  Therefore, each team member will work towards department goals that do not promote collaboration.  This type of goal perpetuates the silo mentality, which is a CI thinking killer.

In a continuous improvement environment, the goal is to provide the customer with the highest quality, at a lower cost, in the shortest amount of time.   For that reason, the collective goals focus on productivity, quality, cost, delivery time, safety, and morale.  People from different departments collaborate to achieve those goals.    

Not having the top leadership buy-in will derail the transformation

The buy-in and support from leadership are key for a successful CI journey.  Their support is critical to building the CI fundamentals into the company culture.  Alignment between KPI’s and metrics with the company goals is crucial for success.  Leadership is responsible for ensuring this happens, and therefore CI focus will be the right one.  

A unified front from this group will help overcome the challenges, setbacks, and resistance to change. One of their responsibilities will be to learn the continuous improvement fundamentals and tools and teach their team. They become students and teachers, modeling the new behaviors and focusing on long-term strategy instead of day-to-day decisions.


Knowing what can derail your company’s culture transformation is the first step to avoid those mistakes.  Educate yourself and your team before starting your journey.  Learn about the elements for a successful continuous improvement transformation.  Perhaps, it is a good idea to find a responsible and CI transformation seasoned person to help.

Cultural transformation, lean thinking & people’s development

Achieve the cultural transformation from traditional to continuous improvement using lean thinking

One of the key elements for a successful cultural transformation from traditional to lean or continuous improvement is to change behaviors and beliefs.  The challenge is huge, in part because those behaviors and beliefs have been part of the company for a long time.  

The cultural transformation from traditional to lean

The company culture is the set of shared attitudes and practices that characterize an organization. Daily activities like decision making are influenced by the culture.  Further, the way people act, the values they shared, and how they respond to certain situations.  Also, it includes how people interact with each other and the work environment.  Things like the company vision, mission, and goals are the face of the culture.

In other words, culture determines or influences everything that happens in the business.  Therefore, to change practices it is necessary to transform the way people think and act.  The face of the company, the vision, mission, and goals have to reflect those new ways.  For instance, the shared values and leadership styles should mirror the new beliefs.  Lean thinking is what will drive those new behaviors.

Achieve cultural transformation using lean thinking 

The shift from traditional to continuous improvement or lean is one of the most challenging things during the cultural transformation.  Put simply, it is easier to change processes than people’s minds.  However, the only way to achieve the change is by adopting a new way to think and act.

People will learn new ways to approach the same problems and situations.  The first change is to learn how to identify value from the customer lenses.  The idea of thinking about how every action can affect the customer is mind blowing for many people.  However, once they know why, it makes sense.  The business goal is to provide the customer with the highest quality, in the shortest amount of time and at the lowest possible cost.  Then, focusing our actions on quality, cost, and delivery is the right way to conduct business.

The focus of the entire transformation is the people, your team.  A fundamental part is to care more about people’s motivations, viewpoints, and how to develop their skills.  Some of those skills include problem-solving, how to identify non-value-add steps, and the use of PDCA for improvements.  When you take care of your team, they take care of your customers.  And by doing that, your business performance improves.

People’s Development is fundamental

One of the most important steps in the cultural transformation roadmap is to design the programs for the people’s development.  Respect for humanity is at the core of lean thinking.  For that reason, this part of the transformation is fundamental for its success. 

Using a hands-on approach, the leaders will teach their teams how to use lean thinking.  Use every learning opportunity to develop new skills.  As a result, a team member would learn ways to solve problems and improve their work.  One step at a time, leaders will guide their groups to reach their potential.  They do that by giving them a purpose and showing how their work is tied to the company’s success.  Also, by providing performance and development plans to help them grow.  

Start with Why

Do you want to start your transformation journey with the right foot?  Then, start explaining why.  People need to know the reasons for such an undertaking.  Be honest, and clear about the motives and expectations.  Also, explain what is in it for them?  When you explain the new behaviors and way to do things, many will look at you with skepticism.  But also, many more will feel hope and will give it a try.  Make that try counts do what you say you would.  As a business owner or top leader, your job is to model those behaviors and show the new ways to do business.