Why develop collaborative governance when you have already implemented Lean?
Many companies are now thinking about innovating in their managerial practices or evolving their organisation towards new modes of governance that are aligned with tomorrow’s world. At Phusis, we believe in the implementation of a collaborative governance model promoting autonomy, inclusion and personal development. We are convinced that the world of work must go through an authentic global transformation to enable better collective performance. However, when we discuss with organizations about the implementation of collaborative governance, it is common to hear reactions such as: “It’s one more transformation”, “We did Lean then and now it’s the fashion of collaborative governance”.
Management teams are asking themselves why they should undertake another transformation in view of the previous results, whether they are encouraging or disappointing. The field teams are under the impression that they are going through one transformation after another, without really continuing to believe in it. Lean heralded cultural changes, new opportunities, new developments, but often resulted in drastic reductions in costs and staffing. Why would collaborative governance do better?
Lean Management: what exactly are we talking about?
Lean Management is a system of work organization aimed at performance through continuous improvement and waste reduction. The Lean method is based on the Toyota production system created after the World War II. It has since then been adopted and adapted to a wide variety of economic sectors. Since its inception, Lean has seen many variations, including “Lean Management”, which makes this method in particular applicable to service organisations.
However, certain principles remain the same: continuous improvement, reduction of waste, adaptation of the service provided to the real needs of the customer, structuring of meetings, standardisation of work, processes optimisation, involvement of teams in the field, performance management, skills development, and the mandatory visit of the field before making decisions.
A managerial approach with two faces
The vision one has of Lean is very different depending on how one has lived the experience. For some, it is a first version of collaborative management, for others, it is a particularly drastic and effective cost-cutting tool.
Originally, the ambition of Lean Management is clear: to optimize the efficiency of the organization and refocus it on the real needs of the customer. Anything that wastes time, energy or money must be identified and eliminated.
When an organization undertakes a transformation with this performance objective as its sole guide, it inevitably leads to drifts such as massive restructuring, resulting in a deep disengagement and rejection of the transformation project as a whole. However, Lean is not limited to process optimization, waste reduction or frenetic standardization.
Lean Management includes a whole chapter on cultural and managerial transformation that leads to rethinking everyone’s place in the organization, encouraging each individual to report problems they encounter, to propose solutions and to strengthen communication and transparency.
“A Lean transformation, when carried out in an authentic and overall way, provides therefore the foundation for collaborative governance”
Therefore, an organization for which Lean has not had the expected results should ask itself the following questions: What was our primary motivation? Were we really ready to change the culture of our organization? Did we give the organization time to adapt to its new way of operating before cutting costs?
Companies that have made Lean Management a success, in other words that have made a real cultural change, should ask themselves if they are ready to go further by implementing collaborative governance.
Lean, a preamble to collaborative governance?
Indeed, when an organization wishes to become more collaborative, it decides to go further in the approach, not to take another direction. Lean, in its collaborative form, creates an intermediate governance model between omniscient and omnipotent management and collaborative governance.
Overcoming preconceived ideas
Contrary to popular belief, collaborative governance is not an organization of total freedom, where everyone does what they want as they please. There are rules to be respected that guarantee alignment, efficiency and performance.
In collaborative governance, the hierarchy of people gives way to a hierarchy of roles and circles, all with a purpose that ensures strategic alignment.
Lean Management, for its part, is not a rigid methodology preventing any kind of autonomy or individual reflection and transforming the members of an organization into robots. On the contrary, it invites oneself to ask questions in order to improve things and to develop oneself. It gives a voice to people in the field who have been deprived of it for a long time.
In either case, the transformation must be carried out in an authentic and benevolent manner. To improve the overall performance of the organization and the commitment of individuals, it must reflect a real desire for structural change.
Two complementary methods
If collaborative governance is the continuation of the collaborative aspects of Lean, it does not replace the entire methodology, which remains a reference in terms of process improvements, analysis of customer expectations or skills management. The two approaches combine to give employees, who are autonomous and responsible, all the tools to improve their organization.
A Lean transformation teaches teams to play the notes of efficiency, collaborative governance gives the space to make a melody of it autonomously.
Implementing the collaborative aspects of Lean is one way to start the smooth transition to collaborative governance. It allows the development of continuous improvement and collective intelligence while maintaining the traditional hierarchical structure. It will then become easier to achieve the necessary structural change allowing employees to acquire the autonomy and responsibility they need to unlock their full potential.
Conclusion: it is necessary, in all cases, to capitalize on experience in Lean Management
The experience of a Lean transformation should be taken into account when an organization decides to make the leap to collaborative governance. If it has been carried out in an authoritarian way and focused on cost reduction, it will be a question of rectifying the drifts and restoring confidence in and for the collaborators.
If, on the contrary, it has enabled the development of a collaborative culture and increased involvement, it will be necessary to capitalize on it to go beyond the traditional model and build a new organization.