Extract from our PDF 'The Psychology of Lean Manufacturing'
The Brain and Change
So what’s really going on behind the scenes?
In March 2009 Elizabeth Gould gave a talk entitled ‘How does Experience Influence the Brain? This was at the same time she was presented with the Ben Franklin Award at the RSA. In this talk Gould explained her focus on ‘Neurogenesis’ (The birth of new neuronal cells in the brain). Interestingly for the world of organisational change, she also touched on the related rate of change in an adult mammalian brain.
Originally investigating the effect of hormones on cell survival, an experiment, which saw the removal of the adrenal glands in rodents, resulted in massive cell death in certain brain regions, but confusingly, no net decrease in brain mass.
Aware of the first Spanish Nobel Prize Winner (1906), Santiago Ramon Y Cahal and his identification of neurons and dendritic spines using Camillo Golgi’s Silver Nitrate staining method (1905 – image left), (link) the potential for the brain to generate new cells wasn’t an entirely alien idea in the world at large, but there was little evidence readily available and opinions on the subject seemed to conflict.
To explain the anomaly in her own experiment Gould and her colleagues went on a search of old studies and soon found papers from the 1960’s (this was before the internet) from various authors.
In his book ‘Key Strategies for Plant Improvement’ Shigeo Shingo writes;
“When a method is familiar, we move naturally, without having to think what task should be done next or how each task should be done. Consequently, the job can be carried out without burdening the brain.
That means there is no psychological burden involved, and a worker can hum as he works.
Workers end up believing that familiar operations are easiest and therefore the best way of doing things. But is this in fact so? Lilian Gilbreth devised some “Table-Top Improvement Experiments” that help clarify this point. (Shingo 1987. P. 149 – emphasis mine).
In a letter to Alan G. and Margaret M. Robinson, cited in their co-authored paper “On the tabletop experiments of Japan”, (School of management, University of Massachusetts 1994) following an enquiry as to further details surrounding Lilian Gilbreths influence, Shigeo Shingo replied with a full set of ‘TableTop’ experiments and the following note; “As to a source reference for them, I am unable to help you, to my regret, since I do not have any written memo about them in either English or Japanese. I learned them from Mr. Horigome, my most respected teacher in industrial engineering, very long ago, probably around 1937. As far as I know, he learned them from his teacher Mr. Tsunoda, who worked at the Yokosuka Naval Arsenal and attended a lecture given by Lilian Gilbreth in the Taisho Era [1912-1926] (Shingo, S. Personal communication).
Following further research in Japan, A.G. and M.M. Robinson were able to identify six experiments, devised by Frank and Lilian Gilbreth, originally introduced to Japan via some class notes of a Japanese student of Frank Gilbreth in 1923.
For the purpose of this essay, it can be noted that Shingo alludes to the successful adoption of the lessons delivered by these experiments as a ‘psychological’ and ‘brain burden’ issue.
It can also be noted that the Tabletop experiments seem to have had a profound influence over the entire approach to management across Japan, and subsequently, the rest of the world. Lilian Gilbreth was the author of The Psychology of Management: The Function of the Mind in Determining, Teaching, and Installing Methods of Least Waste (1914).
This publication investigates the psychological aspects of scientific management, incorporating concepts of human relations and worker individuality into management principles. It is noteworthy, that in 1968, Lilian Gilbreth was awarded, in the name of the emperor of Japan, the "Third Class of the Order of the Precious Crown'' for "Outstanding contribution to the guidance and diffusion of scientific management and industrial development".
We're delighted to announce the new Dux Academy is now available at www.duxinaroe.com
We provide premium courses, teaching Executives, Senior Leaders, Managers and Supervisors, from both the manufacturing and service sectors, how to achieve an increased rate of organisational change and a greater ROI through the conscious development of a Lean Culture.
Our PILOT course is 'Root Cause Analysis and Problem Solving', through which we will provide free 20min coaching sessions for the first 20 subscribers. Similar content will build over the coming months to provide convenient access to this exclusive approach, covering all the Lean tools required to navigate the Lean roadmap below.
The Dux Academy will be your portal to access our exclusive approach to Culture and Culture Change ... This is the critical pre-cursor to the 'Initial Stage' activities, of *Business system Introduction *Communication *Employee Involvement *Strategic plan *Hoshin Kanri (Policy Deployment) and *Kaizen (as shown in the image above).
The entire corporate world knows that the sustainability of any change initiative has been the greatest challenge since Quality Circles first graced our shores in the late 1970's and early 1980's... and that a lack of sustained change (to deliver continuous process improvement) is a result of a lack of focus on Culture Change!
We've all seen the pattern;
1. Introduce Lean Tools / New Technology as a project,
2. Introuce a Strategic model as a project,
3. Blame the people / culture!
... with very little idea of how to address, blame, the poor adoption of the new methods or, in general, the culture... other than through the introduction of more tools and technology.
To break that cycle, we utilise the latest findings from the worlds of Neuroscience and Psychology to provide a working definition of culture. Dux leaders come to understand what it takes to create the conditions in which people feel psychologically safe (reducing / removing "resistance to change") which increases the adoption rate of new methods.
Join the Dux Academy free today and we will make sure you're the first to hear when each new course becomes available.
We look forward to seeing you there and helping you with your change initiatives www.duxinaroe.com
Root-Cause problem solving applies to more than just process and machines!
I was reflecting (Socratic Reflection / Hansei / Alpha Brain Wave State / Meditation - give it whatever label suits your language register).
It dawned on me, that we forget a lot of what we have previously known... and a model I threw together one day about 8 or 9 years ago (to capture a few thoughts) popped into my head ... so I dug it out and gave it the once over.
I just shared this on LinkedIn ... let's see what responses it provokes from some of the biggest names in the global change community?
Thoroughly enjoyed participating in yet another great i&i show with a great panel of guests.
I'm truly honoured to be involved - thanks to all at i&i who set these regular shows up and allow me to have my two pennyworth.
So, it's that time of the month again and we're ready for another great i&i show with a fascinating title ... which prompts an obvious question ...
Q. Are the current approaches adopted toward change effective?
If you listen to the stats from just M&A, Lean Six Sigma and I.T. implementation histories, you have to put a big question mark over what is currently done. Talent loss from cultures merging, Flow over batch failing to be integrated into the psyche of a business and billions lost by Governments, Hospitals and Commercial entities about with stories of woe surrounding I.T.
Q. So what's missing?
That is what we'll hope to touch on in the show later today.
If you realise it's the effectiveness of 'the approach to change itself' that really makes the difference to sustainable organisational performance improvement (more than the content) and you'd like to hear the musings of a few people with extensive experience leading change, follow the link above and join us. See you there.
On the show today ...
Brenton Harder is Head of Business Productivity Improvement at
With decades of experience gained from building and leading business transformations in a range of industries across the globe, Brent’s command of operations, process, digital and quality has seen him drive transformations in organisations ranging in size from start-ups to multi-billion dollar Global 100 corporations.
David Howells is MD of Pacific, an international executive search firm operating out of London, New York and Sydney. With a background in economics and marketing, David specialises in managing search projects in the fields of Operational Management, Performance Improvement and Re-engineering, PMI, Restructuring and Turnaround.s.
David Bovis is MD of Duxinaroe, a change management consultancy firm based in the UK. David has spent over 20 years leading change across Europe, developing world-class manufacturing, Lean and Six Sigma programs and studying psychology and neuroscience to deliver a deeper understanding of organisational culture and performance.