The tools themselves are just tools. It's always the way they are used that determines results. This is true in carpentry, auto mechanics and change leadership. If you are going to lead a change, it's safe to assume you need support from the people who will follow your lead and implement the change. So work with them. This sounds simple, but there is always a temptation to bark orders when time is short and the crisis is large. Resist that temptation and try these practical approaches. The goal in simple Lean is to get the work done and increase cooperation so the team wants to tackle the next job.

Go With Human Nature

You know human nature already. You don't need any experts to tell you what people are and what they want. You are one.

People are a mixture of compassion and selfishness, of greed and generosity. We will sometimes rise to the highest heights and then sink to the lowest depths. We might be easily invited to demonstrate our best side and then inexplicably switch to our worst. That's us. That's human nature and if we think business is somehow immune to human nature, we lose, again.

If we want someone to do something they aren't doing now, we must first find out what they want to do. If we can connect with someone's innate desires and match what they want with what we want, we have a recipe for rapid success and change. If the motivation comes from the inside and a person is allowed to express that it came from them and not from corporate, they can accomplish anything, no matter what barriers they meet.

When we draw people together, invite them to be a part of something larger than themselves and give them an opportunity to stretch their abilities, we are reaching into a deep well of human cooperation and understanding.

When we set up internal competition, frighten and frustrate people with changing messages and embarrass them with shoddy products or service, we sabotage our own success.


The most powerful tool we have is listening. Listening is the single most important act in increasing knowledge, wisdom, trust and relationships. Most of us don't do it very well and some of us don't seem to do it at all. But we have to do it if we want to know where people are and where they want to go. And if our destination includes at least some of where they want to go, they will not only follow, they will lead.

If we want to get people involved, the simplest thing to do is ask them. The four most powerful words are "What do you think?" followed by genuine and generous listening. When we do this simple exercise with the right intent, we get an amazing amount of useful information. Just as importantly, we start to create a respectful relationship. It's a real statement of respect to ask and listen to another's opinion. Try it.

Befriend Bureaucracy

Any organization that is larger than 50 people needs a bureaucracy. The bureaucracy acts as a stabilizing force that filters ideas and expenditures to make certain they are good for the enterprise. The breakdown occurs when the bureaucracy forgets how to filter and simply says no to everything. That, of course, seems like the safest approach. What simple Lean does, especially with the Small Tests Of Change, is work with the bureaucracy to prove how making some changes are in the best interest of the company. When we start with a respect for those charged with keeping a company healthy, we can move forward with innovation and change.

Make it Fair

People will put up with a lot if they think they have a chance of winning. If they feel the game is rigged, they will stop playing. We can still do what we need to do to keep the business healthy, even closing offices or laying off staff when necessary. Whatever we do, if it's perceived as fair by most people, we will be ok. If it seems arbitrary or that no matter what they do the outcome will be the same, employees will simply stop playing.

Make Cooperation Central

We have a business to run and targets to meet. We can think of the people who work with us as the engine that gets us to those targets. It's a complex engine and in reality nothing like a machine. Still, these people get the work done. If they are not cooperating but are really working against the company, how far do we think we can go? Cooperation isn't just a nice-to-have; it's the source of all group power. Cooperative groups use the best of what each individual has to offer and draw on each other to stimulate innovation. Whatever action we take should further cooperation. If it doesn't, if it does the opposite, then we are just putting sand in the cylinders and sabotaging our own success.

Include the Skeptics

It's natural to want to surround ourselves, especially when facing a tough challenge, with people who think like us. It makes meetings go more smoothly, makes the days happier and just seems to make the goals easier to reach. We want team players, right? No, we don't. We don't want an entire group thinking the same way. It doesn't improve our thinking to have everyone agree with everyone else. A skeptic can bring a balancing view to the discussion. Plus, after we've solved the problem using these processes, the skeptic becomes an ambassador for the method. A skeptic's voice carries a lot more weight than the evangelist's.

Assume Everyone Can Learn and Teach

The Strategic Magic approach isn't limited to the best and brightest. It is designed to appeal to and be used by everyone. The tools are simple, the results visible. Anyone can learn them in an afternoon and can teach them to their co-workers. Each individual and group can immediately apply the tools to their own work. Anyone who can tie their shoes and get to work is able to participate in simple Lean.