How to empower lean IPD project teams to create a space to play by Jessica Kelley

How to Empower Your Lean Project Team for Success (Part 3)

Create a Space to Play

In part 3 of my series How to Empower Your Lean Project Team for Success, I am going to share why it is crucial for Lean project success to get all team members on the same page and create a space to play.

Please check out Part 1: Sharing is Caring and Part 2: Where Attention Goes, Energy Flows first before you keep reading.

How do different personality types show up in team situations?

Well, the extroverts usually run the conversations, and if they don't allow the time for introverts to share their ideas, they will miss out on them.

Extroverts think: Why are you on this team? If you're not saying anything, you have nothing to contribute, nothing to add.

Such an assumption is obviously not true and ends up causing a lot of irritation and misunderstandings.

Introverts think: You are not respecting my opinion or giving me enough time to share it.

As a result, they remove themselves from the conversation. They retreat.

And the team fails to hear their valuable ideas to solve the problem.

How to capture everyone’s contribution

What we found useful to capture everyone’s ideas and comments is to introduce a so-called ‘dead space’.  When we throw out an idea, no one gets to say anything for a few minutes; providing valuable time for introverts to get their thoughts together before they speak. And the silence doesn't impact the extroverts at all.

Another proven method is to go around the room and ask every single team member to share their ideas or to comment on a certain topic. Making sure everyone gets heard and that the team does not miss out on anything.

A space to play

What’s the best approach to get everyone on the same page?

I highly recommend getting the team together at the start of the project for at least a half day. If you can organize a whole day or 1.5 days, it’s even better because it allows you to include some time to reflect on the learning. If a block of time is not possible, several sessions for a few weeks will work as well.  The most important thing is to get it done.

Find a common space or a home office. It should be as comfortable as possible, a nice environment where people feel good.

The earlier in the project this meeting happens, the better the impact. I am aware that often teams are not fully staffed right from the start. So, as soon as there is a significant quorum together, schedule the event. The more complete the team is, the better the outcome but you need to balance with the earlier done the sooner the team members benefit from the learning.

We aim at having co-facilitators, which means that different people lead the discussions based on the tools they get from us. The reason for this is that we want them to feel that this is a team effort and they all have ownership in the outcome. Additionally, they learn leadership skills and develop themselves personally.

We experience the best results if the agenda is highly interactive and led by different people. This is not about one-way communication!

No matter how much time you have, the goal is to create a space to play, to open the eyes of the team, to build rapport and create connections within the team. Once people start having more empathetic conversations they begin to trust each other, creating a solid foundation to facilitate lean thinking and processes because trust enables the critical conversations and accountability needed to be successful.

We also encourage people to go out and hang out together to get to know each other.  With the exercise I explained in my post Sharing is Caring - How to Empower Lean Project Teams (Part 1), we have given the team members enough nuggets of questions to realize that they have similarities, that they have common interests, maybe even the same hobby. People build rapport and then trust.

As a consequence, the project becomes more successful.



With lean IPD project teams, it is vital for a successful outcome to help team members understand the different ways people think, behave, how they are motivated, how they assess risks, and how they make decisions. When the project team invests in these activities it tells people that this is something the customer and team values. Recognizing this as a priority is necessary to making sure it happens, otherwise you will never find the time to do it. With good facilitation, you can make these activities work with teams of any size.

Jessica Kelley has more than 20 years of experience integrating Lean thinking on projects across large organizations in the construction industry to achieve cultural transformation. As the Operational Excellence Manager at Southland Industries, she is responsible for the design and implementation of lean business systems resulting in high levels of employee engagement, customer satisfaction, process improvement, and financial benefits. She also manages the operational excellence road map and is a mentor, facilitator, trainer, and coach for the company’s employees. She is a member of the Lean Construction Institute, the Project Production Systems Laboratory at UC Berkeley, the Center for Innovation in the Design and Construction Industry, and the Construction Industry Resource Training Network.

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