How do you Engage and Coach Problem Solving Thinkers

As a Lean Thinker I’m always on the lookout for ways to help others improve (and improve myself at the same time!) Traditionally there have been lots of books and articles to wade through and more recently YouTube talks, podcasts and webinars to look at. There are also a host of workshops and events offered. 

Traditional Management Vs Lean Leadership

Each year I try to attend The Lean Enterprise Institute’s (LEI) Transformation Summit. I did so last week where I spoke at their annual event in Carlsbad, California. When I’m not conducting a workshop or learning session I like to put myself into the shoes of the customer and participate in sessions offered by LEI’s faculty. The faculty was a “neat idea” of LEI’s founder Jim Womack who wanted to bring lean to a much wider audience. He encouraged people with some lean knowledge to share it as a short course that others could attend. For those of us wanting to share we had a development opportunity – testing different materials, exercises and refining cases that could be written up. The purpose was to create reusable knowledge to help an attendee with their lean implementation and develop them as individuals – at the same time!

Over the years I’ve been to a lot of workshops! Most I’ve only needed to attend once, but some I’ve attended several times as I feel I either learn something new or (more accurately) learn at a deeper level each time I attend. Examples of serial workshop attendance that spring to mind are the early value stream mapping workshops Mike Rother developed, Art Smalley’s sessions on creating basic stability and creating level pull and John Shook’s sessions on lean leadership and A3 thinking. Attending those workshops and then putting in the essential hours of practice at the workplace helped me develop. Subsequent workshop attendance gave me time to reflect so I could go back to the workplace with new insights to practice again.

Also on my list of faculty workshops to attend multiple times are those given by David Verble. I’m sure David won’t mind me saying that he is probably not as well-known as Rother, Smalley or Shook (my hypothesis for this is because his publications have always been done with a large team of people rather than with one or two other authors.) However, David’s workshops are the ones I feel I need to revisit – even though we’ve taught together a couple of times. 

As part of our workshop programme this year we’ve asked David to conduct a two-day workshop titled “Leading in a Continuous Improvement Culture: Engaging and Coaching Problem Solving Thinkers.” In the workshop David will explain how to:

  • Use Value-Stream Thinking to identify problems at process level that are affecting operational performance
  • Give employees responsibility for addressing the right process-level problems at the right places in the work flow
  • Model, teach and insist on Plan-Do-Check-Adjust Problem Solving based on grasp of the actual conditions of problems
  • Create fundamentally different relationships with employees and others that focus on coaching and developing their problem solving capability

David Verble is the coaches coach. His insights on the technique of “humble enquiry” are essential for anyone wanting to lead using Lean Thinking as it helps people move through the PDCA cycle. David will help you practice humble enquiry. He’ll show you the most effective way to ask questions to begin the problem solving process and he’ll have you practice and improve your questioning technique and your problem solving skills. 

Mastering the content of David’s workshops are probably the most portable skills a Lean Thinker needs. Anyone with a sincere interest in lean and people development will come away with a ton of useful insights and practical next steps. I hope to see you next week in Manchester.


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