Four Stages of Change Your Employees Face During a Lean Journey

As a leader, it is important to realize that everyone handles change their own way. Who are the only people that like change?  Wet babies.  After you are done groaning at that poor joke, let’s talk about the four stages that everyone goes through when faced with changes in the workplace.

Stage 1. Denial

When you discuss a Lean transformation, employees will have anticipation because the future is unknown.  Denial might set in.  They may not believe the stated change will happen.  “We will not go through a Lean transformation.”  “We’ve tried this before and it didn’t stick.”  “This is just a flavor of the month.”

Many of these thoughts will enter your employee’s minds.  That is one reason it is so important to share the Lean Game Plan you develop with the workforce.  This shows that the organization is serious about moving forward with the transformation.

Stage 2. Resistance

The Resistance stage.  Once employees realize you are moving forward with your Lean transformation, they may resist the changes.  “I’ve been doing it this way for twenty years, why do I need to change now?”  “I’ll just wait them out for a few years until I retire.”

Let’s look at the reasons they are resisting. Typically, people resist change because of fear.  What is one of the best ways to eliminate fear in an organization?  Training and communication.

It is important to have Lean training when beginning a Lean transformation.  Communicate with the employees so they are aware of what is going on.  Establish a Lean Promotion Office which posts and shares a schedule of events, Rapid Improvement Event report-outs, etc.  Schedule everyone in the organization into Lean training so they can speak the same language, identify waste and learn from each other.

Stage 3. Exploration

After we expose employees to Lean principles, they will Explore.  It is important for your organization to have as many employees in either a Value Stream Mapping event, a Rapid Improvement Event or some brainstorming activity as soon as possible after their training.

This engagement will help them learn and explore how they can help the organization improve and generates excitement in the organization.  Which will then lead to…

Stage 4. Commitment. 

When employees are asked for their input, when they are active participants in making positive change, they become committed to the process and want to succeed.  Once they commit to helping the company execute on the Lean Game Plan, the organization and the employees emerge stronger.

That is the incredible power of getting everyone engaged and focused.  Success creates more success and the employees feel an increase in energy as positive change takes place!


People move through this change model no matter what they are facing.  Trying to lose weight.  Trying to quit smoking.  Having children.  Everyone faced with change will progress through this model.  Please be cognizant of this and realize that everyone will move through the Change Model at their own pace.  This requires patience from leaders and everyone involved in making positive improvements in the organization.

As always, it is an honor to serve you and I hope that you and your company are getting better every day!

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