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Monday, December 28, 2009

Sustainability: Ten Factors for Making Culture Change Stick

Previously, I discussed creating a Lean culture and characteristics of effective change management and I am going to talk about sustaining this change.  Simply, sustainability is about lasting change. Sustainability is discussed often and one of the great issues in management, never mind Lean.  We have all seen facts related to the low rates of sustaining change or seen news about a company who lost its way.


Charles Darwin said "It is not the strongest species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones who are most responsive to change" which holds true for culture change.


Below are ten factors that will help any organization make the change they make lasting.


Capability – Management must employ the time and resources necessary for change.


Intention – Determination and drive for the cause is required.  You must insist we make the change and be determined to keep it up.


Success – People feel happier and perform better when there is a feeling of success and vice versa.  Attitude drives performance so managers must project confidence.


Hard Work – It is hard to keep it going.  This is entropy.  Without it, the system runs down.


Emphasis on the team not the individual – In the US we love heroes, but actually teams are more fundamental for long-term survival.  Teams need to be mentored and developed.


Many small wins, rather than the occasional big win – Small wins keep up the enthusiasm, and certainly add up.  Management needs to continually recognize small wins.


Attitude toward failure – Everyone fails from time to time, but what is crucial is the attitude toward failure: do you punish or do you treat it as part of learning?


Motivation – Sustainability requires interest and involvement of all employees.  Ask "What gets rewarded around here?  Build a culture to support improvement.


Discipline – Make it a habit.  Without good disciple the system will not be maintained.  Management must teach discipline and correct lapses with respect for people as they occur.


Performance measures – It is true you get what you measure, drive good behavior.  Performance measures need to be aligned with what you want to achieve.  Think long term.


There is no such thing as self-sustainability, it requires ongoing effort. To quote Jack Welch, 'People always ask, 'Is the change over, can we stop now?' You've got to tell them, 'No, it's just begun!''


  1. I think one of the least paid attention to is the attitude about failure. I doesn't mean you have to like it, or even accept it. It's a matter of whether you fold up your tent or learn from it and move on.

    Many of my favorite quotes involve learning from failure. Here are a couple of my favorites:

    "Success is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm." - Winston Churchill

    "Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently." - Henry Ford (from a guy who had his business essentially fail 3 times before getting it right)

    "Failures are not something to be avoided. You want to have them happen as quickly as you can so you can make progress quickly." - Gordon Moore, Intel

    "I have not failed. I have merely found ten thousand ways that won't work." - Thomas Edison

    Jamie Flinchbaugh

  2. I agree with Jamie's post that failure is a part of life. Honestly if you're not failing then are you really trying hard enough? Since we're all throwing in quotes here is one of my favorites that is very applicable to today's topic.

    "We did what we knew how to do. When we KNEW better, we DID better."
    -Maya Angelau

    Ankit patel

  3. Jamie and Ankit,
    Thanks for the comments. You speak from experience. You may see some of these quotes repeated on Friday's posts on Lean Quotes. I agree with both of you. I wrote about this last fall here: http://leanjourneytruenorth.blogspot.com/2009/07/make-failure-acceptable.html

    My quote at that time was from Charles Dickens - "Every failure teaches a man something, if he will learn"

    Thanks for Sharing