Role of the Facilitator

There are 2 models for changing to a continuous improvement culture. The different models have been described by Dr. Jeffrey Liker as the organic versus the mechanistic approaches to Lean.

The organic model learns from within and creates a Lean culture that learns by doing and produces change internally with its existing leadership. The mechanistic approach uses external consultants to define the new order and to layout the efficiency aspects associated with Lean production but is unlikely to result in culture change.

Why the Facilitator?

We believe that it is most successful to transform to a Lean management culture from within such that you obtain what you desire, not what consultants want. It is not feasible for a leader to delegate the vision for managing his or her own organization to an outsider. To that end, it is vital to support and sustain the new manner of working, the new culture that you create with your own internal facilitators.

The organic approach to transform to a Lean culture requires more effort for leaders to develop an emphasis on organizational structure, ongoing education, and new roles for employees at all levels as we have discussed previously. Progress will be glacial or in fits and starts unless you empower someone to 'push' the new behaviors daily. In our HFPS culture, that 'pusher' is the quality facilitator.

To facilitate means to 'make easy' or to make possible'. The facilitator does just that, they facilitate the efforts of others to problem-solve in the new way but do not take over. Should you find this person, your life as a leader of change just became easier.

Where Do You Find a Facilitator

For existing internal staff, the facilitator role may be fascinating to those with a sincere interest in quality. This may also be an educational and promotional opportunity. Successful facilitators may begin with very little quality knowledge that can be overcome with effective training and a passion for the job.

Our experience in the HFPS culture has also been successful with external individuals but they must be deeply trained in our culture. To be effective in guiding process improvement opportunities, these individuals must be very familiar with your work processes and preferably be employed by you and embedded within your workplace.

Traits of the Successful Facilitator

Facilitators may come in many flavors and educational backgrounds but they have in common a uneasiness with the status quo, comfort with change, passion for process improvement work, appropriate quality knowledge base, an ability to effectively work with people who may not like change and a certain level personality type that allows them to defuse potential interpersonal conflicts and engage group efforts in order to focus on the opportunities at hand. They never go 'negative', at least not publicly, and they never give up although their job may be discouraging at times because of the slow pace of consensus-driven change at the level of the worker. A more detailed list of facilitator responsibilities follows:

Roles of the Facilitator

  • Promote team ownership
  • Educate in appropriate use of Lean principles, work rules & tools -Assist in study design & statistical data analysis
  • Bring people together to focus on problems
  • Guide discussions
  • Seek participation from the silent ones
  • Assist in scheduling meetings for customers-suppliers
  • Address resource needs and availability of facilities
  • Follow-up on team progress
  • Remove communication roadblocks
  • Facilitate cross-departmental meetings
  • Address resistance & blaming
  • Peacemaker
  • Facilitate presentations & team & worker recognition
  • Facilitate group learning from failures
  • Spread knowledge of best practices as lessons learned
  • Analyze complex data & produce reports
  • Lend advice when requested
  • Maintain a positive attitude in confronting problems
  • A source of truth and counsel for leaders

Key Facilitator Role: Culture Sustainer

We are so indebted to our quality facilitators in sustaining the HFPS culture that we created a Division of Quality Systems lead by quality manager in our 5th year of Lean management to support the numerous activities of the laboratories across the System. These include accreditation, annual laboratory inspections and teams, on-going quality and Lean education, student education and volunteer programs, mentoring and coordination of process improvements, document control, and ISO certification.

One of the most important but often unspoken roles of the facilitator is to subtilely get individuals past narrow defeatist thinking by promoting the new culture to unleash their creativity and confidence in problem-solving.

Or as our founder so well put it-

"Think you can, think you can't. Either way you're right!" -Henry Ford