Should We Change the Model?

Should We Change the Model?

by Ken Snyder

Over the past several months, I have analyzed and discussed the Shingo Model™ on this blog and in private meetings with thought leaders. This has led to a lot of feedback from various people – both in response to Shingo blog posts, to my personal LinkedIn account, and in one-on-one conversations. I deeply appreciate the passion and commitment of so many people to the Shingo Model™!

Any recommendations made by me were based entirely on direct observation of the learning process during the Shingo workshops. In other words, how could we change the Model that would help people learn it better or faster in that setting? As we all know, there are many other considerations to take into account than just the classroom learning experience. The feedback has helped clarify some of these other considerations which must be taken into account.

Let me do my best to articulate different concerns that have been raised:

Unintended Consequences

Changing the current wording of a principle may introduce negative, unintended consequences. An example shared with me by several senior executives is the proposal to change “Assure Quality at the Source” to “Control Quality at the Source.” These executives explain that they work hard to destroy the typical “command and control” culture in their organizations through “Leading with Humility,” and changing this wording would run counter to these efforts. This never occurred to me. If a word change such as this runs counter to efforts to build the right kind of culture, it truly would be an unintended consequence. We need to avoid causing new problems while trying to make improvements.

Don’t Diminish Robust Learning Experiences

While some principles may take some time for people to understand, in most cases, people inevitably get to an understanding. Often, this learning process creates an “aha!” moment that they will remember. Some of the experienced Shingo facilitators pointed out to me that this is the case with the proposal to change “Create Constancy of Purpose” to “Unify Around a Common Purpose.” These facilitators all agree that eventually everyone needs to understand that purpose doesn’t drive behavior unless people are unified around that purpose. But, as I have observed, the participants in the workshop ALWAYS get to this understanding. And they learn a lot in the process. The facilitators suggest that being too explicit in the wording of the principle will diminish the robust learning experience. It’s a great point! We do not want to diminish a learning experience that is working.

Change for the Sake of Change is a Waste

The Shingo facilitators who suggested that some of the changes might diminish the learning experience also suggested that in the case where the learning is being achieved, that any changes will just create waste. Change for the sake of change is just another waste! Changing “Create Constancy of Purpose” to “Unify Around a Common Purpose” might be an example of change for the sake of change waste.

Don’t Detract from the Assessment Process

Many of you may be aware that we have a group of senior examiners who govern the Shingo Prize assessment process. We shared potential Model changes with this group. While they did not comment on any specific changes under consideration, they did make a general comment that the current assessment process using the existing Model is working very well. They report that the current Model leads to a fair and accurate assessment of organizations that apply for the Shingo Prize. They suggested that we need to make sure we don’t change something that might detract from this process that is working.

Too Many Principles?

Many senior executives pleaded with me to make sure we cap the number of principles at 10. They report that people in their organizations struggle with remembering, thinking about, and implementing 10 principles. They are concerned that additional principles – at least at this point in time – will lead to incremental confusion and will negatively impact their internal training. These executives asked that if we have additional concepts that we want to articulate in the form of a new principle that, instead, we find ways to integrate these concepts into existing principles. In short, they requested that we keep the Model as simple as possible. We find the request to keep the learning process as simple as possible compelling. We find the request to keep the learning process as simple as possible while putting a cap on the number of principles to be a challenge. We suspect this will be an on-going challenge.

Where Does That Leave Us?

We will change the wording of one principle – “Flow & Pull Value” to “Improve Flow & Pull.” As mentioned in previous blog articles, we try to combine the core principle subject with an action verb. Examples include respect (action verb) every individual (subject), focus on (action verb) process (subject), etc. The original intention of the wording of this principle was for “flow and pull” to be action verbs and “value” to be the subject. However, “flow” and “pull” refer to a state of being – which makes them the subject. One can’t “flow” anything. One might be able to “pull” something, but in the context of organizational excellence, “pull” doesn’t mean someone “pulls” something, but rather it means someone reacts to “pull” from the customer. This confusion between the action verb and subject adds to the confusion in the current wording of this principle.

We considered separating this principle into two different principles, but the vast majority of our facilitators suggest we should keep these two concepts combined into a single principle because they are so closely related. We recognize this close relationship and will keep the concepts combined.



5 Responses

  1. Steve Ghera says:

    Ken, I’ve enjoyed reading your reflections on the model and your endeavor to make the words of the Principles truer to their intended meaning. However, I am left wondering if the pursuit of perfection in understanding the Principles can be done merely by the written word. I see the words, the model and any instruction provided by a sensei as a starting point. For one to truly learn the underlying “cause and effect” beholden to each principle, they must experience them; for better AND worse. Each principle, and insight, is a vessel of wisdom. Wisdom, unlike data and information, is difficult to transfer. For the most part, wisdom must be earned. There are hard and easy ways to earn wisdom. I believe the Shingo Institute, the model, principles and insights serve to make the attainment ‘easier’. But they cannot make it effortless.

    I for one, would recommend leaving the words of the principles as they are. They are imperfect vessels, and not what we learners ultimately seek; which is the wisdom inside. Instead, I would focus on the behaviors and mindset of each learner. In my experience, those I coach, and myself for that matter, make faster and better progress in our appreciation, understanding and application of the principles by evaluating experiences and outcomes (daily) with a Plan-Do-Study-Adjust mindset against the standards inherent to each of the principles. I find that gaining such wisdom is a ‘team sport’ and best done in reflection with other critical thinkers, or with a critical thinking coach.

    Please keep writing to share your insights. This act is really one of the ways you cause the rest of us to question what we believe about the principles and it pulls us closer to their real meaning.

  2. Eric O Olsen says:

    Ken, Thanks for sharing the thinking. I am not sure where “provide transparency” falls in the hierarchy of principles, but I know transparent systems are much easier to manage. Keep up the good fight.
    Cheers, Eric O.

  3. Steve Ghera says:

    Too many principles!

    When I hear a leader ask that we keep the number of “self-evident” truths to a minimum, I scratch my head in wonder. I ask myself, do they really think the world operates on just 10 principles. I understand the overwhelmedness leaders have when faced with 10 principles that very deep virtues. But this reaction stems from a results-oriented, or near-term, or “get ‘er done” mindset. The principles really outline a lifelong journey of discover and sharing. Part of that discovery will be nuances to the 10 principles and part of it will be the discovery of additional principles. I hope we can win over to the life-long learning mindset as many of these senior executives as possible; for their benefit, their employees benefit and the benefit of their customers and clients.

    In the mean time, please keep writing and sharing new insights and even principles in your column. There are those of us out there who know that learning and appreciating the initial 10 principles only leads to other principles, insights and wisdom. Keeping an open forum for flowing these through the learning community is part of the value I find in the Shingo Institute.

  4. Forrest McCracken says:

    Value, Value stream, Flow, Pull, Perfection. It seems they are seperated in the 5 principles of lean without confusion and for very good reason. Although flow and pull are related, in practice and in teaching, was flow purposefully seperated in the 5 principles, and if so (I think they were) why?

  5. Ken – Good stuff. I fully agree.

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