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David Hansen, DTU Management Engineering, har skrivit en avhandling i ämnet och här nedan finner du en sammanfattning, en fallbeskrivning samt slutsatser.
David Hansen is an industrial researcher in Strength-based Leadership, Appreciative Inquiry, Lean and design. His project STRENGTH-BASED LEAN is a 3-year industrial PhD project together with Resonans and Novo Nordisk. Its main objective is to development new methods that can create sustainable improvement cultures and more innovative work systems, and should add a new perspective to the discussion about the future of production in Denmark. The project combines research in Lean and operations management with research in Appreciative Inquiry, organizations theory, and psychology.
Through action research at a Novo Nordisk factory with a combination of qualitative and quantitative data collection, new strength-based Lean methods are developed and tested such as improvement processes, visual management systems, coaching approaches, and change management strategies.
Decoding the productivity code – Towards an improvement theory for sustainable organizational performance (Summary)
This thesis introduces a new perspective on how organizations can achieve sustainable organizational performance in a changing world. By integrating Lean, the strength-based perspective, and organizational development, the false dichotomy and struggle between rationalization and employee well being, that is, the productivity code of the 21st century, is dissolved. Today, organizations are pressured for operational efficiency, often in terms of productivity, due to increased global competition, demographical changes, and use of natural resources. Taylor’s principles for rationalization founded organizational improvement one hundred years ago, but were later criticized by the human relations perspective that placed human needs in the center. Most organizations initiate isolated programs that focus either on economic rationalization or on employee development. However, a single-minded rationalization approach often ends up with demanding intense employee focus to sustain improvement and engagement. Likewise, a single-minded employee development approach often ends up demanding rationalization to achieve the desired financial results. These ineffective approaches make organizations react like pendulums that swing between rationalization and employee development. The productivity code is the lack of alternatives to this ineffective approach. This thesis decodes the productivity code based on the results from a 3-year action research study at a medium-sized manufacturing facility. During the project period, the facility developed a continuous improvement capability by integration of rationalization and employee development. The study shows that sustainable improvement capability requires strategic considerations about integration of improvement realization and development of improvement competence. These considerations can be formulated explicitly to an improvement strategy. The study concludes that the researched facility developed continuous improvement capability over the time period and that it occurred through development of an organizational setting for improvement activities, termed the improvement system. The improvement system consists of five elements: The improvement process, participants, management, organization, and technology. The improvement system is not an organizational structure but rather a capability and readiness to organize the right improvement activities for a given challenge, i.e., to be prepared to initiate improvement. The study shows how the effectiveness of the improvement system depends on the congruent fit between the five elements as well as the bridging coherence between the improvement system and the work system. The bridging coherence depends on how improvements are activated, information shared, and the approach to implementation. Continuous improvement requires active leadership. The project shows how the improvement leadership approach determines if improvement activities exploit and optimize the existing system or explore new possibilities outside the existing assumptions. Improvement leaders can combine different improvement approaches, here problem solving and strength-based thinking, to achieve ambidextrous improvement capability that can balance exploitation and exploration. An organizational transformation is necessary to develop continuous improvement capability. The project identified four levers for organizational transformation: Initiation with a purpose-driven affirmative approach, utilization of strategic metaphors, engagement of everyone through large-scale events, and focus on continuous leadership development to support the transformation process. The project also showed that organizational transformation is not about changing people’s thinking or training them in new methods, but rather about the development of a coherent improvement system and the competence to initiate and management improvement processes in an organizational setting. The study additionally showed that the organization accelerated the development of improvement capability by development of a second order improvement system that continuously improved the improvement system.
Can the Strength-Based Perspective inspire Management Engineering?
The strength-based perspective is a promising new component for decoding the productivity code. This new perspective moves beyond the century old thinking of finding the one best way to organize and instead emphasizes how to engage people’s strengths broader and deeper at work. The strength-based perspective has a potential of delivering this new component due to its focus on innovation and learning, people engagement, and elevation of resources. Some scholars even talk about a positive revolution that has not yet been fully understood but with huge potential, as indicated by the early paper “Bringing every mind into the game to realizing the positive revolution in strategy” (Barrett et al., 1995). First, I want to share how I encountered the strength-based perspective. It started in 2008 during my volunteering at the national board of the Danish Guide and Scout Association and while I was carrying out my master studies in engineering. My mentors in the scouts introduced the strengthbased perspective as an approach to leadership and organizational development. An approach that focuses on creating positive change by engaging people to discover their strengths and inquire into past success and use it to dream about a shared future. It is an approach of appreciating the best versions of the present and of striving for the best versions of the future by encouraging creative thinking, improvisation, and collaboration. Instead of looking for problems to solve, the strengthbased perspective is looking for strengths to elevate and new opportunities to seize. A quite different perspective compared to how I was trained to think during my engineering training. During a chemical product design class I experienced a decisive moment while my design team followed the steps of the technical development process. The textbook said we now needed to shoot down all the bad ideas with sound engineering arguments. While it might be a necessary step, the consequences here were undesirable. The team started to shoot down each other’s ideas and protect their own, and this defensiveness almost turned the room into a warzone. In 30 minutes the collaborative spirit was changed into hostility until one girl was about to cry. We took a timeout and during the break I started wondering why the process did not encourage collaboration. I realized that the process only described the outcome steps of the project and did not help in terms of how to lead the process. I remembered some of the questions I just had been taught during my strengthbased training at the scouts and decided I wanted to try a different type of questions. When we returned from the timeout I had prepared questions about the strengths of our ideas rather than the risks and about what we wanted to achieve instead of what we wanted to avoid. The result was astonishing. Not only did the atmosphere change suddenly, but we also managed to deliver a much better result. That was when I realized the potential of using a strength-based approach in engineering.
This paper shows how improvement activities based on problem solving and Appreciative Inquiry can be characterized empirically based on which improvement steps they use. It was found that the two methods use different mechanisms to create improvements and that these mechanisms influence the improvement capability differently. Problem solving reinforces the existing improvement trajectory and leads to solutions based on existing mental models. Appreciative Inquiry on the other hand uses a combination of steps to increase the generative capability of challenging the assumptions of the existing trajectory and thereby furnish new possibilities for improvements not available in the existing trajectory. The improvement capability of a work system depends on the effectiveness of its existing improvement trajectory as well as its ability to change trajectories when the challenges from the environment change. It is therefore necessary to be capable in both creating improvements inside and outside the existing trajectory. Work systems with a need for flexibility and adaptiveness or systemic changes such as culture change or Lean implementation will need higher generative capability, and it is therefore suggested for these systems to supplement problem solving methods with more generative methods such as by integrating Appreciative Inquiry into daily improvement activities.
David Hansen May 2014
DTU Management Engineering
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