When I was kid I often walked home from school past a house with a tall wooden fence and behind that tall fence was a big barking dog. Every time I would walk by that fence the cunning canine devil would wait until I was two-thirds of the way down the fence then he would sneak up behind me and bark a vicious scary bark that would send me three feet in the air, screaming and cursing. I hated that dog. And he got me every time I walked by.
In my lean transofrmation journey I have met some barking dogs just like the one from my school days. These dogs like to hide behind the tall fences of smiles and nods when we talk change, then as you get close to real change, just as the team gets to the end of a long improvement week, they bark loud and vicious and the team jumps, screams and curses (well maybe not out loud).
A recent example comes to mind. There was a team working hard on a proven problem in a clinic; how to get a real person to answer the phone and meet the patients needs in one phone call. The team began walking along that tall fence knowing there was a big barking dog in the form of a particular provider on the other side. We offered soothing words by gathering input into the problem from the provider during prep for the event week and using that input to start the event. We walked softly by sharing progress with the provider all week during the improvement event and gathering further input from him. And yet still just as we were two thirds of the way through the change the barking started and we all jumped, screamed and cursed.
So what do you do with those big barking dogs? Do you cross the street and walk on the other side? Do you run up and down the fence banging a stick against the wood? Do you ignore the vicious barking and keep walking? Do you whisper soft and soothing words in an effort to calm him? or do you unlatch the gate and let him out hoping his bark is worse than his bite?
We unlatched the gate and let him out...