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Watch this free 1-hour intermediate webinar and you’ll learn why people resist change and how you can improve your influence skills. We’ll help you ensure your next process improvement efforts are successful!

Best Practices for Managing Negative Nancy

  • Be clear when letting her know the higher purpose of what you’re trying to do – answer the question “for the sake of what?”
  • Actively listen to what she’s saying – learn about her resistance
  • Write down her comments on a Flipchart or post-it note to confirm you heard her
  • Invite her to participate in a Process Walk, building a Process Map and conducting a Fishbone Analysis
  • Involve her where possible to increase her sense of ownership of the change
  • When Negative Nancy says something pessimistic try using the 5 Whys to get to root of her mindset
  • Keep in mind that your actions can help turn Negative Nancy into Empowered Emily!

Webinar Level

  • Intermediate


  • Why we need others during improvement efforts
  • Classic reasons for resistance
  • How to strengthen influence skills
  • How to use Lean Six Sigma tools to build engagement


Elisabeth Swan -

Elisabeth Swan, Managing Partner

Elisabeth is a Managing Partner and Master Black Belt of Elisabeth has over 25 years of success helping leading organizations like Amazon, Charles Schwab, and Starwood Hotels & Resorts build problem solving muscles and use Lean Six Sigma to achieve their goals.

Webinar Slides

Q&As From the Webinar

10 Types of Troublesome Team Members

Negative Nancy is just one type of troublesome team member.  In this webinar, we’ll show you how to manage change easier with this type of team member. Here are some other types of troublesome team members (below). Who would you like to learn how to manage change with next? Please share with us in the comments below!

10 Types of Troublesome Team Members -

Webinar Transcript

Tracy: Hello and welcome to’s webinar. We are leading the way in process improvement with Lean and Six Sigma. We have put this webinar series together for you, the learner community, to make it easy for you guys to learn about tools and concepts of Lean Six Sigma. So thanks for joining us today.

The webinar that we are presenting today is called How to Manage Change With Negative Nancy. We probably all encountered a Negative Nancy in our process improvement careers to date. So thanks for joining today.

Our Expert: Elisabeth

I’m Tracy O’Rourke. I’m the VP of Content Development at And our presenter today is also a VP of Content Development at and it is the talented and consummately knowledgeable Elisabeth Swan. Hello, Elisabeth!

Elisabeth: Hello, Tracy!

Tracy: How are you?

Elisabeth: Good.

Tracy: So let me tell you a little bit about Elisabeth. She is a Master Black Belt and for over 25 years, she has been leading organizations like Amazon, Charles Schwab, Target, Volvo, Alberta Health Services, Starwood Hotels, and many others successfully apply Lean Six Sigma.

Elisabeth is a dynamic presenter and has the ability to simplify complicated concepts and boy can she throw a frisbee like a mad dog who is actually a champion on the frisbee throwing team. Can you tell us a little bit about that, Elisabeth?

Elisabeth: It’s called Ultimate Frisbee. It was a few years back. But yes, my team Lady Godiva won the National Championships many years in a row.

Tracy: That’s right. So let’s be careful if you see her in person and she has a frisbee. OK. So just a few notes before we get started. During the presentation, all attendees because we have very many, over 200 I believe, that are going to be in listen-only mode. There will be a question and answer session following the presentation so please feel free to ask questions anytime during the presentation and we will be capturing them and then we will be answering questions at the end.

How to Interact

And we are going to be asking you to participate in some polls. And be sure to put – and if we can’t answer your questions, we will be sure to post those answers afterwards. And then you will be able to see those answers on our website.

Let’s Interact!

So to get started, first, our first interactive session is to find out where you’re from. So, in the window that is titled Chat or Ask a Question, go ahead and type in where you’re from.

All right. So we’ve got a few people coming in. We got somebody from Lowell. Toronto. Baltimore. Ottawa, Canada. I’ve been there. London. Oklahoma. Knoxville, Tennessee. Luxemburg. Dallas, Texas. California. Nova Scotia. The UK. Redding, California. Minnesota. Virginia. San Antonio, Texas. Pennsylvania. Ireland. Tacoma, Washington. Boy! Lots of different places. Salem, Oregon. York, Pennsylvania. Germany. Evansville, Indiana. Mumbai, India. Orem, Utah. Dubai. Saskatchewan.

Wow! We’ve got people from all over the world on this webinar ready to listen to how to deal with Negative Nancy. I guess that’s translatable in 150 languages. What do you think, Elisabeth?

Elisabeth: I think so.

Tracy: Well, I’m going to turn it over to you.

Elisabeth: Alright. Thank you, Tracy. And thank you for the warm welcome.

Who Is

Tracy and I have both been with Go Lean Six Sigma since its inception. And as Tracy said, our guiding principle is to simplify the complex. We’d like to make Lean Six Sigma practical, accessible, and not least enjoyable. We want to help you build your problem-solving muscles. That’s what these webinars are all about.

We’ve got a lovely place to do that and it’s the Bahama Bistro. You’ll notice our webinars and all of our training includes a case study for the Bahama Bistro. And we’ve got a lot of the organizations that agree with our philosophy of how training and how Lean Six Sigma should be applied.

We’ve Helped People From…

You can see we’ve got a mix of bricks and mortar, online. We have healthcare, technology, manufacturing, transactional. We work a lot with government, education. So a big mix of groups. And all of these companies, if you are a company then you’ve got problems. That’s why they need problem-solvers. And that’s you. So you guys are the problem-solvers, everyone on this call.

Today’s Agenda

So let’s take a look at today’s agenda. We’re here to talk about why we need others during improvement efforts, do we really need them, classic reasons for people’s resistance, why do people resist change, how to strengthen your influence skills, and the three key tools to help you build what we call engagement. And we’ll talk more about that.

Why Do We Need Others?

So first, why do we need others? A lot of times, it’s easier just to do this stuff by ourselves. We learned the tools. We know the concepts. We did the training. Why can’t we just fix this process? We kind of know what’s wrong.

One of the reasons is you need permission. You need to basically get leadership to believe in the overall benefit of what it is you want to do.

So we also need people to be able to acknowledge that there are problems. We see issues but does everyone else see the issues or is there some reason they don’t want to talk about the issues? So we need people to acknowledge that issues exist so we can tackle them.

We need people to acknowledge that issues exist so we can tackle them.

We also need information from other people about parts of the process that we don’t necessarily have contact with. We need data from people. We need people to help us collect the data.

And the last and not the least is that we need people to change the way they do things. We are trying to improve a process which means we’re going to change it and we want people to adopt and adapt to the changes that we think will help the process. So we definitely need others.

We are trying to improve a process which means we’re going to change it and we want people to adopt and adapt to the changes that we think will help the process.

Key Equation – Not Algebra!

R = Q x A

The other thing to keep in mind is this equation, which is not algebra but it’s says that R which stands for results is equal to the quality of the work we do times the acceptance of the changes that we made. So what happens here is you can do a really topnotch job on your project. You can make a really gorgeous solution. It’s fool-proof. You really got an A+ on this.

But you didn’t do a lot of work with other people as you develop your solution so acceptance is zero. So if acceptance is zero even if quality is a hundred, the results are zero. So acceptance is the great multiplier and that’s what we’re going to work on today. What does acceptance consist of?

The Nature of Acceptance

Buy-in ≠ Ownership

So acceptance comes in many forms and a buzzword that we’re all really familiar with is buy-in. We want to get people’s buy-in. I want you to buy in to this. How do I get the buy-in? But buy-in is different from something called ownership and buy-in is not as powerful as ownership. So let’s talk about what do we mean by buy-in versus ownership?

Buy-in vs. Ownership

So I’m just going to read this to you. Buy-in is – so asking for someone’s buy-in indicates that you have an idea and you can involve people in it or discuss it with them but you want them to embrace it anyway.

On the flipside, ownership is what people feel around an idea or an improvement or a decision because they’ve been part of the process of coming up with it on some level at some point.

So, big difference here. Buy-in, it means you’re selling. If you want someone to buy in, you got to sell them on it. Whereas ownership, people feel included. They feel a part of a process. And that’s what we’re shooting for. Ownership is more powerful and there are really easy ways to build it. So we’ll keep moving on that.

Typical Resistance

Let’s talk about resistance. Typical resistance and we’ve built our webinar around Negative Nancy but you’ve probably seen a lot of different forms of resistance. It can come at you often in ways you don’t expect.

And these are the kinds of things you might hear, “This might uncover embarrassing issues then I’ll look bad.” So you might be impacting in someone else’s perception, their reputation. You might make them look bad with improvement.

Or, “I don’t really see any problems. Why are we doing this?” which means that you haven’t really made a case for why a process has to be improved and there are ways to deal with that.

“This will make my job harder.” One of the things you might hear when people start doing process improvement is that not everybody wins. Some jobs get easier, some might get more difficult. The goal is to make everything easier. But people might have a perception that that’s not going to happen for them.

“This might interfere with productivity.” They might not see where you’re going with this. Is this going to hurt the overall process?

“Change is just annoying.” One thing we often do when Tracy and I are with groups, we’ll say, “Hey, fold your arms in the opposite way that you’re used to.” So if you try this right now while you’re on the phone. If you have a headset on and your hand is free, try folding your arms in the opposite direction and it feels awkward, right? And some of you didn’t even bother doing it. You’re like, “I’m not doing that. It’s awkward.” Or some of you have already unfolded your arms because it was annoying. So change is annoying.

And lastly, you might get this response, “You’re not the boss of me.” You’re trying to get people to change what they’re doing but you don’t have position or authority to make them do it.

I had worked with a very big tech company and there was a project team that reported that they had been trying to research why they were not getting all the fees they were supposed to get on maintenance. And they searched and searched. They finally figured it out. It came back to one whole segment of their operations that were not putting identifiers on the components. So when maintenance crews went in, they immediately went to check the identifiers on the components. If it didn’t say the name of the company then they couldn’t charge for maintenance. This was costing roughly $500 million a year.

And when they came to that group and they said, “Hey, you guys, you got to put identifiers on your components.” And the response was basically, “You’re not the boss of me.” And they realized they made a real tactical error not including this group early on. And that’s part of what we’re going to talk about.

10 Types of Troublesome Team Members

There’s also a resistance you might hear about just in the way people behave. These are some classic sort of troublesome team members you might run into were stakeholders or process participants.

You know people that – one of my favorites is this Jump-to-Solution Joey. And a lot of us have been trained by leadership or our managers, “Don’t bring me a problem. Bring me a solution.” Well then, I’m going to jump to solution if that’s what you want.

Whereas we’re saying, “Hey, wait a second. Let’s do our due diligence. Let’s get to root cause and solve this once and for all.” So if you have a Jump-to-Solution Joey, you need to take those ideas in and say, “OK, we got that.” But you want to hold off on jumping before you’ve really done your work.

So these probably are starting to look very familiar to you. One of them that’s new in my lifetime is Texting Ted, sort of getting used to that people who are not quite there with you, not really absent.

Other Resisters?

So these are some classics. But we’re interested in what have you seen. Have you seen other types of resistance and what does that look like? And Tracy and I run into this stuff all the time.

So Tracy, do you want to – let’s have everyone put some – just give us some input in the question area once again. So what do you see? What are the types of resistance have you encountered?

I’ve got Lost Your Email Larry up there.

Tracy, I was thinking of a few other ones. What about Not-My-Job Ned? We got Halfway Harry. Wait-Wait Walter. How’s that? I’m picking on the guys though. Committee Carla, “Will think about it. I have to go to the committee.”

Any other ones out there? Have you seen anyone input their ideas?

Tracy: Yes. We have Blank Face Belinda.

Elisabeth: Good. We got some gals.

Tracy: Very Difficult Ted. Got No Data Daisy. We’ve Always Done It This Way Wendy.

Elisabeth: Nice.

Tracy: Forwarding Freddie.

Elisabeth: Nice.

Tracy: Too Busy Becky. Off On A Tangent Tanya. That’s my favorite.

Elisabeth: Oh, we like Tanya.

Tracy: Kind Kingdom Kevin. Silent Bob. Can’t Get Right Carly. Competitive Carl. Yes But Bill.

Elisabeth: Oh, I like that.

Tracy: Where Is The Value Vicki. Too Full Freddie. Roll Your Eyes Roger.

Elisabeth: We can see Roger.

Tracy: Old School Susie. Know It All Nolan. I Didn’t Get The Message Mary.

Elisabeth: That’s like Lost Your Email Larry, only just a general. I like it. Those are great.

Tracy: Requirements Changer Charlie. Raging Robert. Dominating Donald. Gatekeeper Gary. Gosh! These are great.

Elisabeth: These are awesome. We’ll have to pull them together.

Tracy: Delegating Debra.

Elisabeth: Give me one more.

Tracy: Rescoping Steve.

Elisabeth: Oh, nice! Rescoping Steve. Way to go, Steve.

Tracy: Good job on that. Those are great.

Elisabeth: I know. That was nice. We’ve got a creative group. Thank you, guys. That was awesome.

Purpose Changes Behavior

So dealing with the resistance, so one of the first places we go is thinking about, do people really understand the purpose of what we’re trying to do? Are people dialed into why we’re doing it? And this is an interesting piece of testing that was done at a hospital.

The research shows that hand washing is the single most effective way to keep down infections. Hands down, and not to use polarization on hands, but this is the most important thing. But adherence is low, which is surprising and disturbing if you go to the hospital.

So the experiment did at this one facility was two different signs. In the first sign, they said, “Hand hygiene prevents you from catching disease.” And the results, they had a hidden camera, the results were absolutely no noticeable difference in people washing their hands, which is kind of shocking.

And then they tried a separate experiment. In this one, they changed the sign only to say, “Hand hygiene prevents patients from catching disease.” So the difference is we’re not focused on you. Now, we’re just focused on patients. Hand hygiene prevents patients from catching disease, which made a marked difference significantly more hand washing with the second sign.

So that’s interesting but it says that people respond to understanding the higher purpose of what you’re doing. This is to keep patients healthy. OK. I can sign up for that.

For the Sake of What?

So what is it that you need to do to relay to other people why you’re doing what you’re doing? And the question that we asked is for the sake of what? You want me to reduce defects. Well, that’s not really exciting. It’s not something I can rally and get enthusiastic about, reduction of defects. But if you understand why, for the sake of what, then I might get more interested.

This is another piece of our Bahama Bistro. This is the team that was trying to reduce the cycle time for customers getting their lunch orders. But I’ll give you another one that was really interesting.

I attended – Tracy and I both attended a lean conference up in Seattle. And the city of Seattle, the state of Seattle is doing lean transformation. And I listened to someone talk about work they had done at the Department of Corrections. And she talked about one of the efforts was to train offenders in skills. So they were trying to increase the number of classes that they were teaching the inmates.

And as it stands, maybe you don’t understand why are we running all these classes that caused us money. So the question is for the sake of what? Well, it’s so that offenders have marketable skills. And we’re measuring that by the number of GEDs, number of certificates. So we want offenders to have marketable skills.

Once again, you could raise the bar and say, “Well, for the sake of what?” Well, so the offenders can choose legitimate employment. So now, we’re raising the bar a little higher. We’re trying to get ex-prisoners legitimate employment and we measured by the percent of jobs they’re able to get.

I asked again, for the sake of what? And that’s so that there’s less repeat crime. And you can measure that by the percent of recidivism.

And the ultimate goal here is for the sake of keeping the people of Seattle safe. And that is a very engaging real purpose. So if you can think about efforts that you are involved in, improvement efforts and really raised the bar and ask that question, for the sake of what? Why am I doing this? Why ultimately am I doing this? Is this going to keep people safe? Is it going to help people reach their dreams? Is it going to help our company stay in business? So what exactly is the point of the work that you’re doing? So focus on the purpose.

So focus on the purpose.


All right. Next, I want to turn over to this group of people that we are working with. And they are our stakeholders. So stakeholders are kind of in two different camps and they are not for the purposes of our work, our customers. We do a lot of work around customers. We focus the requirements of our projects on what the customers need, what they want. But we’re talking about stakeholders.

And stakeholders are generally people who are going to get impacted by changes that we make when we make improvements. They could also be people who could make decisions about what we do. So this could be process participants. They could be management saying, “Yes, you can do that. No, you can’t do that.” It could be suppliers. They get impacted by changes we make. It could be internal. It could be HR saying, “Well, we got a policy. It’s not going to allow you to do that.” Or IT saying, “That would be a big system change. You can’t really do that.”

So these are people that can either impact us because it might limit what we’re allowed to do or we may just be impacting them. Either way, when we are trying to up the quotient of acceptance, we’ve got to work with them.

Stakeholder Analysis

So we really want to focus on this group. And the first step of focusing on them is to figure out, well, who are they? So we’re going to use one of our templates. It’s the stakeholder analysis. And that first piece, that first column is us understanding and identifying who are these groups or people that are going to be stakeholders of the effort that I’m involved in. And as we think about these groups, we think about their impact level. Do they have decision authority over what I’m doing or are they just going to get affected? So I understand that?

The next piece I have to think about is, what’s their level of support? And I will ultimately go to talk to them so I know exactly what it is. But at first glance, you might say, “The pickup manager might be a little resistant to this improving the cycle time of delivering lunch because she helped design the current process and she might not be aware there are issues with it. So we’re mindful of where these people might sit. The prep cooks are neutral. They don’t even know what’s going on. They’re in the back of the house.

But the pickup service is supportive because they heard customers complain. They really want to help. They know. They’re the frontline.

So once you figured out sort of what’s behind that resistance or that support then you think about what are we going to do and who are we going to contact?

So the focus of this webinar is what are some of these actions we can take? And in particular, what are some tools? Because we already have tools that we’re going to use that are in our toolbox.

Three Key Tools

And now we’ll call this part of the desert island toolbox. That idea if you’re on a desert island, you could only take a few tools with you. And we’d say, “You need a process walk, you need a process map, and you need a fishbone diagram.”

We need to understand the process, we need to construct a representation of the as is and we got to get to the root cause of issues. So these are three very powerful tools. They’re low tech, post-its, markers. These are not hard things to do but incredibly powerful, incredibly useful. So we’re going to see how these can help us build that ownership, build that acceptance.

Conduct a Process Walk

So first is this idea of conducting a process walk. And I would say the key phrase for me with process walks and probably for Tracy too is we’re trying to build profound knowledge of the process. We really want to understand what is happening inside this process. We might know parts of it. We may not know every part of it. We may not know it to the depth that we need in order to help bring it to a new level.

When you’re doing process walks, the first piece is to build a high level map, sort of get an idea of what it is you’re looking at for the big chunks of the process. You’re going to choose who you’re going to interview along the way, the process participants. You’re going to choose who is going to walk the process with you, not a big group. Just a manageable team that’s going to, that’s going to be part of your team to understand the process.

You’re going to create a list of your stakeholders, anyone that’s not on the process walk side. You’re going to come up with a communication plan, set your agenda.

And when you go through, when you interview, you’re going to find out how long does it take to do the tasks that they’re doing and how long do they wait for information or materials, what are the defect rates at each point, what are the barriers to flow, what gets in their way. They know pain points better than anyone.

And also, this whole time, you’re watching them do what they do. You’re watching them interact with the user interface. You’re understanding a great degree kind of what’s happening here.

So you walk the process to understand the process and to build these insights into issues, coming up with potential quick wins. And this always reminds me of a joke. The idea of you should always walk a mile in another man’s shoes because then you’re a mile away and you have his shoes. It reminds me of that joke.

Process Walks

All right. So let’s go on to process walks and get your experience with process walks, understanding that they take time, they require prep. Facilitation is helpful but these are really helpful.

Quick Poll

So let’s go to our first poll. And the question is, have you conducted a successful process walk? All right. So let’s launch that. And let’s see.

Tracy: While we’re waiting for people to vote, I’ll say that I think the biggest mistake I’ve seen people make for process walks, Elisabeth, is that the Black Belt decides to do the process walk by themselves. So they don’t bring anybody with them. So guess what? Nobody learns about the process except for the Black Belt. And now, they’re in a position to try to convince people what they saw. And that’s not as successful as if they saw it themselves.

Elisabeth: No. I think it’s a big mistake with a lot of these. It’s just, “I don’t want to interfere. I don’t want to bug people. It takes them away from their jobs. It will be easier. I can do it faster.”

They choose efficiency over the impact, which is so such a great opportunity.

Tracy: Right. I mean it does require work to schedule these and actually conduct them. But the growth and the perceptions that people get about the process are amazing.

Elisabeth: Yeah.

Tracy: So it’s looks like 78% of the people voted.

Elisabeth: OK. So I’m going to close the poll and I’m going to share results.

Tracy: Alright. So, 36% of the people on the call have never done a process walk, 30% have done it and it was helpful, 25% say “I conduct them as a role, they always generate engagement,” and 9% said they tried it but it didn’t quite work out.

Elisabeth: Fascinating. Well, great that there’s a core of the people just do them all the time which is great.

Tracy: Yes. And I do think that there is some level of success that people have had and most of the time they’re very good but I wonder about what didn’t work out exactly. Sometimes it feels like an interrogation and that sometimes we can help minimize some of that too with some interviews.

Elisabeth: No. I think what’s key here is kind of that no blame, ask don’t tell.

Tracy: Yup. And I always tell people who are walking the process, you are a student of the process, you’re not there to correct people or tell them what they’re doing is wrong. But it often feels that way if it’s not done well.

Build a Map

Elisabeth: Yeah. No, good point. OK. So let’s come back and let’s move on to the next tool, which is process mapping. So building a map, and this is a great follow-on to the process walk. You’ve gained profound knowledge. You have some better understanding of the map. But again, it’s great opportunity to do this with others.

I’m showing a classic swim lane. These are great because they both show who does what. They show what happens over time, left to right. But they also show the hand-offs. And we classically say hand-offs are an opportunity for a drop ball. So you want to minimize the hand-offs. And this gives you a great visual on how many you’ve got, where they are.

And I did some work with big hospital and add a swim lane map that was in what we call the War Room and it went 50 feet and it was doctors, nurses, occupational therapists, physical therapists, people who did the room changes. We had lanes for everybody. And it became a space for people to come and add their steps. If they saw that we were missing steps, rework loops that maybe we didn’t have, and then they could also put starburst on the map to show points of pain. So this is where they experienced things going wrong. So we got from their perspective what exactly went wrong and that was great information for us.

And what was fascinating is that people would bring their colleagues down to show them the map. This was just a focal point. It became a great driver for the improvement. We ended up doing a lot of our workshops in this room. We did prioritization once we found all the pain points. It helped us tackle a lot of issues. And some issues would get resolved just because people met here.

We had – a nurse was in from the ER, an ER nurse and we also had a general medicine nurse and apparently there was a longstanding problem of when patients got admitted and general medicine nurses were now in charge. They had to call down to the emergency room multiple times to make sure they had all the patient information. They didn’t get everything they needed at once.

So these two nurses were together at one point during one of our workshops and this came up. And the ER nurse, “Oh, that’s such an easy fix. I can do that tomorrow.” And they solved something that had been years, years a trouble point. So this was very powerful, built a lot of ownership, built a lot of engagement.

Mapping Tips

So in terms of mapping, I would say another big thing we always learn is left to right, if we keep staying on what we call the happy path, that’s great. But any time you have to detour, fix something, make a decision, deal in some ways then you’re off the happy path. So looking at how often you have to veer off the path, that percentage right there will tell you whether this is a big trouble point or not and how bad it is. It’s a great baseline there.

Quick Poll

So that brings us to another poll. I’m trying to find out what you guys have experienced in terms of success with process mapping. So I’m going to launch this one, Tracy.

Tracy: Great. And while we’re waiting for people to respond, I’ll share one. We did one at a city with the City Manager. The City Manager was part of the process. And after walking the process and mapping the process, everybody kind of got to know each other a little bit. And someone really far down stream finally blurted out, “And all this time I thought the City Manager was just sitting on and doing nothing.” And then she goes, “Did I just say that out loud?” Because the City Manager was in the room with her.

Elisabeth: Yeah, it cannot just illuminate kind of things that are going wrong but just what’s actually happening. People don’t know. It’s a black box. The whole departments are black boxes to them like, “We have no idea what they do over there.”

Tracy: And it is really easy to just blame people in the process. And then I find when people finally actually see the process mapped out, they actually feel sorry for the people. They’re like, “I am so sorry this is your process.” And actually feel bad for them instead of feeling like anger towards them.

Elisabeth: Yeah. And empathy is key, right? Once you get empathy then you get people interested in, “OK, we got to change this. We got to see this turn to something different.”

Tracy: Yes. OK. We’ve got 78% of the people that have voted.

Elisabeth: OK. I’m going to close and share.

Tracy: OK. So we have 34%, “I’ve included others and it helps to get their input”, 31% say, “When I include others they get engaged in the project”, 27% say, “I haven’t tried mapping yet,” and 8% say, “I usually creates maps by myself.”

Elisabeth: Interesting.

Tracy: Yes.

Elisabeth: So maybe that will get that the percent that haven’t tried it and the ones that do by themselves, maybe they’ll start creating a little mapping group together.

Tracy: Yes. And I will say that creating maps by yourself, there’s actually only one time or one instance that is OK. And does anybody want to take a stab of when that is OK? It’s when you own the whole process. Otherwise if you don’t, you should be mapping with other people.

Host a Fishbone “Party”

Elisabeth: Good point, Tracy. OK. So let’s come back and move on to another tool which is the fishbone. And I like to say host a fishbone party. This is a brainstorming tool. This is the idea of getting everybody in the room. Get all different brains. You want to get as much information about a process as you can. So, parts that you don’t know.

And this is something that we are a little more like natural at as human beings. We are critical thinkers. So we can go very easily to why things don’t work. So the fishbone takes the problem, right?

In this case, Bahama Bistro has food orders that take too long for the lunch customers, right? So we say the problem is in the head of the fish and it stinks. Now, we got to figure out why. Why does that happen? And in this case, we got 4 categories to brainstorm on. We’ve got food order takes too long for lunch customers because of food types, because of the place, because of the process, or because of the people.

So now, you brainstorm well, what about food type? It makes food lunch orders take too long. And say, OK, well sometimes items take longer. All right. Fair enough. And you can deep dive on these.

The tool we love to use with the fishbone is the 5 whys. So you can just keep asking why and say, “Well, some items take longer. Why? Well, if you’re making a salad, it has to be sliced really thin.” OK. Well, why does that take so long? What make it take so long? “Well, because you got to sharpen the knives. You got to keep resharpening knives in the kitchen and that takes a long time.” Well, why does sharpening knives take so long? “Well, the sharpener is in another area all together.” Well, that’s something we could actually probably do something about.

So the fishbone is this great tool. It’s brainstorming. It’s not hard. But once again, include others. Don’t make it a party of one. Give people the chance to give their perspectives and get all that information. And don’t worry about duplicates and don’t worry about where it should go. The goal is to just get it out there.

So the fishbone is this great tool. It’s brainstorming. It’s not hard.

Fishbone Tips

And you could change the categories. There are some standard ones. There are ones that are more specific to your particular process. But once you get it all together, you want to vote on what to go after. So that’s another technique called multi-voting. And you can do that with the same team.

So that last fishbone had 15 issues. So if you divide that by 3 then everybody gets 5 votes. Then you get to vote about the things that you are not – that you want to go investigate because there are lots of issues. You can’t investigate everything. So what do you think are the most fruitful things to go after?

Quick Poll

So let’s see what kinds of success you guys have had using the fishbone. So I’m going to launch another one, Tracy. There you go. How about you, Tracy, what kind of success have you had with the fishbone?

Tracy: I almost – I sometimes even start projects with the fishbone just to really get people thinking about root causes versus solution. I think it’s really easy for people just to as we know be Jump-to-Solution Joey’s best friend. And so, how do we get people thinking about root causes at the very beginning?

I’d say one of the bigger challenges I’ve seen with fishbones is people try to – I see a lot of solutions in fishbones.

Elisabeth: Yeah, they sneak them in there. They will say things like lack of, right?

Tracy: Lack of training, lack of IT, lack of this, lack of this. These are all solutions. And the other thing is I often sometimes see that they don’t focus on process. They focus on things they can’t control sometimes. So those can be challenging for the team to get around if they feel like they can’t control something.

Elisabeth: Yeah. No. I think solutions are one of the big ones and the other one is not asking why, not using this as an opportunity to do some deep dives, use the 5 whys or however many whys. It could just be 2 or 3. But it’s a great combo tool.

I’d say one of the bigger challenges I’ve seen with fishbones is people try to – I see a lot of solutions in fishbones.

Tracy: Right. The other thing I sometimes see too is people get really wrapped up in – sometimes the fishbone diagram when they start with the fishbone and trying to populate it in those categories, it blocks people’s thinking. So often, we just start with brainstorming and then we organize them on the fishbone at some point later. And sometimes that works really well in administrative. It might not work as well in manufacturing when it’s much more specific and related to the product or the part.

Elisabeth: Yeah. Yeah. Good to have that flexibility comes out at either way. OK. This looks good. I’m going to close and share.

Tracy: OK. So we have 51%, “I haven’t tried building one yet.” Oh, this is a desert island tool so I can’t wait for you guys to try this. 23% say, “I always invite others and add the 5 whys.” That’s great. 13%, “I always successfully invite others.” That’s great. 10%, “I tried using them with others but they don’t really…” Well, don’t hit them over the head with it. I’m just kidding. And 3%, “I generally create them by myself.” Again, kind of what we said earlier about process mapping, a lot of these tools work better when you engage others in populating it.

I say sometimes people do it by themselves. They create it as a draft and share it and say, “Hey, what else can we add to that?” I think that’s OK and sometimes works really well. But to not have anyone else look at it can be problematic.

What would you say, Elisabeth?

Elisabeth: No, I’m with you. I think you probably have some – you do trial and error, what works for the group you’re working with. You can have sessions on the phone. You could give people an issue and say, “Hey, sleep on it. Come back and tell me what you think.” Some people’s brains work better if they’ve had a chance to go for a run, take a nap, things like that. So I’d say there are lots of different ways to tackle these.

Tracy: Yup.

Elisabeth: Alright. So let’s pull this in and I’m going to hide those.

Remember the 3 Tools

All right. So let’s come back. We have these 3 desert island tools from your desert island toolbox. You got the process walk, walk the process, build the map, and throw a fishbone party. And just do not have a party of one. They are lonely. You want to have some folks do these things with you. Don’t waste an opportunity for inclusion. Don’t waste an opportunity to build ownership. If you do one of these by yourself, you’ve squandered an opportunity. So give it a shot. And if there are issues, try a different way. But just remember, these are basics. You would do this with any project, every project, every effort, every improvement effort, and they all mean you got an opportunity to include other people.

You would do this with any project, every project, every effort, every improvement effort, and they all mean you got an opportunity to include other people.

I’ll tell you a little story about Jimmy Carter. There is a story that he spent two weeks hold up in the Oval Office trying to balance the budget all by himself. And he did. He did a brilliant job of balancing the budget. And when it went up for a vote, it got voted down. He included nobody and nobody wanted any part of it. So it didn’t matter. His quality was topnotch but his acceptance was zero. The results meant they had to go back to the drawing board. So just keep in mind that R = Q x A.

Last Word of Advice

And then last sort of advice for you is listening. So the opposite of talking isn’t listening. It’s often just waiting to talk. We sit there. We’re listening but we’re forming our thoughts. We’re about to respond to the person. We’re waiting to make our point. We’re waiting to advocate. You want to balance inquiry with advocacy.

So always be listening. You’re trying to learn. You’re trying to understand other people’s perspective of the process. If they’re resisting, why? What’s causing the resistance? Because you can learn from it. You can always learn from people’s resistance. And once you do, they’re more likely to listen to you. So keep these in mind. These are big and just basic things to do. Really helpful.

Getting Started

So everything you saw today, all those templates and tools, you can download those for free on our website. You’ve also got a whole lineup of training you guys can use to build your problem-solving skills and remember that Yellow Belt training is always free, which I think is just awesome.


Which brings us to some Q&A. Tracy, did you hear any questions as we were doing the presentation?

Tracy: I will bring it out to people. If you have a question that you would like to ask, please now type it into the question window. We do have a few that have asked along the way and we’ll get to those in just a moment. But I want to just make sure that we give you guys time to actually put a question in there.

And I think just to recap, Elisabeth, ultimately this was about how to manage change. And basically, the real key that you’re speaking to is it’s our approach, right? So you have really identified three areas to say, “Hey, involvement is really key with managing change and here are three areas and three tools that you can involve others.” Because what I find and some people might not be making that connection, but I just want to say that I find that it is a significant impact by using this approach, involving others more that we see more some of these troublesome types diminish.

Elisabeth: Yeah. No, I think that we might perceive everyone as being this kind of Negative Nancy but really what you’re dealing with is people haven’t had a voice in the past. They see things come and go. Improvement or change is done to them as opposed to with them. And I think that it’s our job to change that around, to turn that into “Tell me about what’s happening, help me understand why things go wrong at this point.”

The people who do the work know why things don’t go right. So I think that that’s really key is people don’t come to work to mess things up. They don’t come to work to be negative, most people that is. We do know a few exceptions. But they’re trying to do a good job. So give them an opportunity that maybe they haven’t had in the past. Give them opportunity to be part of something and you’ll turn what feels like negativity around.

Tracy: Great. OK. So we do have a couple of questions. Ishrar earlier asked, “Is asking for the sake of what like the 5 whys?”

Elisabeth: Oh, that’s interesting. Because I think questions are always powerful motivators, and the 5 whys I would say, the difference is they’re kind of directional. Five whys is, “I want to understand the root of a problem. Why does this happen?” Because of this. Why does that happen? Because of this. You’re digging down.

Whereas asking for the sake of what is raising up to a higher level of purpose like you want to reduce defects. Well, for the sake of what? So that we don’t mistakenly give people the wrong medication. Well, for the sake of what? What’s the purpose? So that we don’t inadvertently make people sick. For the sake of what? To keep people healthy. That’s our mission as a hospital. We want to keep people healthy.

So they’re going in different directions but they’re still powerful questioning techniques. So I like that you see that there’s parity, that there are two different directions of using the questions.

Tracy: It’s kind of drilling down or getting deeper into the discussion. So I do like that. It’s a nice perception or insight.

Elisabeth: Yeah.

Tracy: OK, Elisabeth, we have another one. How long – this is from Bow Troje. I’m sorry if I’m…

Elisabeth: Trojelo.

Tracy: Trojelo. Thank you. How long do you suggest you spend on your process walk?

Elisabeth: I’m going to say that it depends. And I think that process walks can even last over a few days. It depends on the complexity of the process. You don’t want to spend sort of – you’ve got maybe half an hour to 45 in any particular spot to ask questions and then move on. But it’s going to be as long as you need it based on the complexity of what you’re tackling.

Tracy: Yes. And I would just add that it’s highly contingent on the number of people you’re going to interview. So if you got over 9 that could be over two and a half days of process walking. And then if that’s too many, if you don’t have that much time, you got to reduce the number of interviews. So it does depend as Elisabeth said.

OK. I have another question for you, Elisabeth, from Jay Piper. He wants to know or he asked, “Please elaborate on the waiting to talk versus listening distinction.”

Elisabeth: Yeah. I think there is just an assumption around if you’re not talking, that you’re listening. And I think that not many of us are really trained in how to truly listen to others. And what happens is while someone else is talking, instead of listening, we’re busy forming our thoughts. And sometimes we are actively trying to get back into the conversation, sort of letting the person sort of – you’ve probably experienced people saying, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, I get it. No, because I want to tell you something.”

So it’s this position of advocating your ideas or forming thoughts around how you’re going to advocate your own ideas as opposed to really trying to understand where the other person is coming from and what they’re actually saying and getting a deeper understanding. And I think we miss a lot by always being in this advocating mode or just waiting until our turn to talk as opposed to truly listening what the other person is saying to us.

Does that sound good, Tracy?

Tracy: Yes, thank you. OK. Here’s a question for you from Bill. How do you keep the negative person from hijacking a project group?

Elisabeth: That’s a good one. There are probably a number of things. One thing that we rely on is when we’re setting up any kind of a team, we establish ground rules. And if anybody is obeying a ground rule meaning going on a different tangent or not allowing other people to speak then you’re going to basically raise the flag and say, “Hey, are we following our ground rules here?”

You’ve also got some message around if you want to get other people’s input and this person is dominating then you can have people give ideas silently on post-it notes. So when we have someone who even if they don’t mean to, they’re perceived as leadership and people don’t want to say things in front of them or be so bold as to take up aerospace. So people can be invited to put things on post-it notes and just brainstorm on a flipchart with post-its. So it’s silent but you still get the input from the silent majority.

Another method is really being clear about the roles and you can come back and say, “Let’s review our roles here.” Another good technique for that is looking at a RACI. That’s another template you can look at. Who is responsible for different decisions? Who is accountable? Who should be consulted? Who should be informed?

There are a bunch of tools you can probably tackle that one with.

Tracy: OK, good. Thank you. Another one from Scott, “How would you deal with a new troublesome type Dastardly Daniel, someone who constantly think they are right and are constantly unwilling to hear anyone else’s ideas? This would be someone who is part of the process but nowhere close to a process owner.”

Elisabeth: What was that name again? Dastardly …

Tracy: Dastardly Daniel.

Elisabeth: So this is someone who thinks they are always right. So you might need a couple of different techniques for this one. One thing you’ve got to do is make sure that they feel heard. Just like everybody else, you might think, “Well, they’re so loud and they’re so dominating. We certainly don’t need to write anything they say down or make sure we’re listening to them.” But like everybody else, they want to be heard.

Sometimes I just make sure I write on a flipchart exactly what that person has said word for word and say, “I hear you. This is your point. This is what you believe about this position. Have I got that right?” And for some, “Well, let me know.” Or they add to it and say, “Great! OK. Now, let’s hear from others.” So always be sure to take in what people have to say no matter what their position is.

And then if they – if you have a conflicting view say, “How do we figure that out? How do we figure out which is accurate? Do we need some data? What could we collect? How can we understand that better?” So you’re always looking for the tools that you have to deepen your understanding and get to what’s right.

Tracy: Great.

Elisabeth: Tracy?

Tracy: Cool. Let’s hear a few more. Let’s see. “Hello! I work in a place where people have given up on changing things and it starts with the managers. How can I convince managers that people can all benefit from the change process?”

Elisabeth: So what was the first part about managers? I work in a place …

Tracy: I work in a place where people have given up on changing things and it starts with the managers. How can I convince managers that people can all benefit from the change process? So it sounds to me like she’s saying managers are throwing in the towel and therefore because they’re managers, setting the stage and the tone.

So it sounds to me like she’s saying managers are throwing in the towel and therefore because they’re managers, setting the stage and the tone.

Elisabeth: Yeah, that’s tough because much depends on leadership. And I would have two ways of thinking about that. One is to tackle something that you can – that’s in your sphere of influence a small thing. Get a quick win and show people, “Hey, look what I did and look what we gained.” Give an example of how things can work. Like I said, make it small. And that might give you momentum.

The other thing once again is trying to work with managers, trying to understand why have we given up? Back to the questions. And where do we want to be and what can you learn from them in terms of why they see no point? Have them explain themselves because otherwise you’re in the position of once again having to sell them. And if you are, like I said, doing a quick win will help in terms of turning the tide.

Tracy: OK. And we have a question from Eric, “Why do a process walk when you bring subject matter experts into the Kaizen event to work the process map?”

Elisabeth: Say that one again. Why do a process walk …

Tracy: When you can bring subject experts into the kaizen event to work the process map.

Elisabeth: So one of the advantages of doing a process walk is actually seeing how people do their job. And it can be physical like someone is sorting mail and you actually go to the room and see how do they sort, how do people move, what’s the work space look like? Or you could be watching them on a computer screen. How do they access all the applications they have access? How many times are they opening and closing applications? How hard is it? How slow is the system when they use it?

You learn a lot by watching people do what they do. And I’m not going to discount – kaizen is awesome if you can get people in a room. But we often try to build some profound knowledge before we get into a kaizen event so that we’re in a better position. We understand the process better and can tackle things from there.

Anything else, Tracy?

Tracy: Yes. So from Aaron, “If you were given a process to change and it didn’t roll out successfully because of conflicting items going on, how can you best reroll it out to be successful?”

Elisabeth: That’s probably a very big it depends, kind of without knowing what it was. But I think the main thing is to learn from what stopped it. Take the time that you were given by it not – for whatever external reasons it not being able to roll out to – you can form a pilot. Quickly test the roll out. You could get feedback from people that you haven’t gotten feedback from yet. Use your time wisely. If there’s a delay, don’t let things sit. Use that time to once again build ownership, build momentum.

Anything else, Tracy?

Tracy: Thank you, Elisabeth. OK. And then we also have from Jeremy, “How to make process change when there is a union involved?”

Elisabeth: I actually remember working with a big hotel chain and I remember the Black Belt saying, “There’s no way we can do this. There are so many unions. There are like five unions in this particular process alone.” And they included a member of each of the unions on the project team. They saw that as the best use or the best way to include those stakeholders and they definitely made compromises along the way but they got incredible improvement.

And that was interesting to me because I hadn’t seen that many unions together at that point in my career. And that was a big education for me that these are people you want to include and you make part of the process.

Anything else, Tracy?

Tracy: Wonderful. Thank you. Yes, we have a question. How does a fishbone diagram influence a Negative Nancy?

Elisabeth: Once again, it’s involvement. So often when you have a Negative Nancy, you got someone who doesn’t see possibilities. We’ve done that already. But if you engage them in terms of well, what causes things not to work? Why is it negative? Why hasn’t it worked? Get those things on the table.

Often, those people are viewed as, “Well, they’re just negative, why even include them?” whereas a fishbone is an optimal place to include them. You’re saying, “Why does this fish stink? Why do things not work?” So they usually have a very strong sense of critical analysis and you can get good information from them.

And once again, now you’ve included someone who was perceived as negative but is adding to the profound knowledge of the process. So you’re challenging people. You’re saying, “Help me. Help me understand it. Help me understand why things would not work. Let’s do the 5 whys.” So I think that is a good tool for a Negative Nancy.

Tracy: OK. Very good, Elisabeth. Thank you. And here’s a question from Eugene, “How do you get people engage without true upper management support even when that upper management doesn’t directly control that department?”

So it sounds to me like he wants to know how you get people involved when upper management – without upper management telling them, “You need to be involved.”

Elisabeth: But it’s upper management from some other area. So I’m suspecting it’s management on high as opposed to department level.

Tracy: Good. That explains that.

Elisabeth: Yeah. And there may be a leadership kind of squashing of things. And as Tracy will back me up, much depends on leadership. So you do need support. The way I’ve seen people succeed in those situations where they aren’t getting that high upper support is to once again pick a small insulated improvement area. Get a quick win. Get people excited. Show people that things can work. You’re creating a proof of concept. And that can be something you can do at a level that you don’t need approval.

Get a quick win. Get people excited. Show people that things can work. You’re creating a proof of concept. And that can be something you can do at a level that you don’t need approval.

It is tough. Without leadership support, things are on a level of difficulty higher.

Tracy: OK. Thank you, Elisabeth. Excellent job on the questions. That is all the time we have for now. And so, if we weren’t able to answer your question on the webinar, we actually going to answer them via our website. So keep an eye out for those answers.

Elisabeth: OK.

Tracy: Yes.

Upcoming Webinars

Elisabeth: Yeah, go ahead Tracy. I just want to also point out, sign up for the next webinar where the fabulous Tracy O’Rourke will present how leaders can support lean using leader standard work. So now we’ve – a lot of our issues came up in this Q&A is about leadership. What about leadership support? And this focuses on leaders giving leaders the tool, which I think will be great.

Tracy: Yes. It’s very much about what leaders need to be doing to support lean and very specific things, tactical as well leadership, sort of squishy if you will but very important.

Just-In-Time Podcast

Elisabeth: Yeah. Another thing, Tracy, is a Just-In-Time Podcast. We’ve got another one coming up.

Tracy: We do. And this month, we have – we are actually interviewing Marc Myers from San Diego State University and he’s going to be telling you a little bit about what they are doing to promote lean at San Diego State and their successful programs there.

Elisabeth: That will be great. I’m psyched to hear that one.

Tracy: Yeah.

Elisabeth: That was great. Well, thank you everybody. Thanks for joining us.

Tracy: Thank you.

Elisabeth: Yeah.

Tracy: We hope to see you guys next month. And thank you for all of your input and all of your questions.

Elisabeth: Join us again.

Tracy: Thanks everyone. Bye-bye.

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Elisabeth Swan

Elisabeth is a Managing Partner at For over 25 years, she's helped leading organizations like Amazon, Charles Schwab and Starwood Hotels & Resorts build problem-solving muscles with Lean Six Sigma to achieve their goals.