Please find the complete, corresponding audio interview between Daniel Stoelb and Dawna Jones at the end of my guest post here:!



According to Daniel Stoelb (Leadership and the Lean Five Percent), most change initiatives inside organizations do not place enough emphasis on building trust and establishing integrity.  There is no way, in his opinion, to succeed at a business transformation without first and foremost involving the people you’re leading in the change effort.  Their willingness to respond to the invitation becomes the starting point for everything else.

Listening to a preview of his audio interview with Dawna Jones, I was struck by how long people have been thinking about these things and watching for signs that the realized efforts are starting to crown.  It must be no coincidence that labor means work as well as birth!

 Stoelb’s own epiphany came twenty years ago, when his mantra became “focus on the people side of change.”  He had a chance to enter into a high-conflict, unionized environment and in just one year help settle over 400 longstanding grievances and establish cross-functional teams.  It took three years, he says, to fully open up the space for a positive work culture. The client stuck with the process and achieved validating results.

“The more control you give up, the more control you have.”  That is Steolb’s powerful assertion and, he believes, the paradox of leadership.  He compares it to the process of surrender that a smoker goes through before replacing the bad habit with a positive one.  “The activity of trying to transform creates a sort of structural tension.  A support mechanism becomes necessary. With this support, resolving the tension brings you to a new and better place.”

A combination of co-created vision and process create the adequate container for guiding people in an organization along a successful path.  “Resistance is an overused phrase.  People aren’t resistant to change.  They are resistant to change in which they have no say or input.”

 Crafting a written statement beyond the organizational mission is a critical first step.  “Tell people what is going to occur, what’s in it for them, and when it’s going to occur.”  

Next, gathering input is key.  “Many organizations claim their people are the greatest resource, but don’t act like it.”

 A big part of the problem is the way managers are trained.  “It can be easier to get support for change on the shop floor than from the middle managers.”  Management have been overly focused on skills rather than “the being” of leadership.  

A compelling moment in the interview was when Dawna Jones asked him to elaborate on the idea of tension as an energy that can be harnessed and used for good in an organization.  According to Stoelb, “when the tension diffuses, it creates misalignment.”  According to Jones, when this happens, “blood gets left on the floor.”  She offered the image of change as a spiral: organizations can either spiral up towards expansion and creative solutions, or spiral down towards mess and confusion.  

Stoelb focuses his trainings, communications and presentations on redirecting the energy of conflict so it can be used in a constructive way.  He claims, “most of us, when we look at our personal lives, would admit we are poor at resolving conflict.  It’s no wonder, then, that we avoid conflict at work.”

However, the attempt to avoid conflict is misguided.  “There is no avoiding conflict.  The only way out of conflict is to work through it.”  In Stoelb’s view, that is how we mature, as people, as organizations and as a society. Successfully working through conflict creates sustained change.


“Creating an environment that is empowered and open, where we support people in being part of the change, that doesn’t just apply to business.”  Jones and Stoelb concluded their interview by discussing the social impact of these ideas and the ways in which Lean concepts are being applied in government, the military and all manner of civic and social arenas.  “There’s been a huge shift towards recognizing the value of local relationships, and being more conscious about how how we utilize resources.  The new models for success involve people at the local level in decision making.”



Daniel Stoelb is a Lean Sensei and Organizational Transformation Leader living in Kirkland, WA (near Seattle).  He is presently writing two books:  “The Being of Leadership” which goes into further discussion about a values-based, servant-leader mindset, and “The 27 Irrefutable Laws of Organizational Demise,” based on what organizations fail to do when implementing change.  His presentation “So You Wanna Be Change Agent: Lessons from the Trenches – What it Takes to Lead Change in Any Organization” can be found here:

Dawna Jones delivers customized experiential workshops engaging managers, employees and executives in removing hidden barriers to collaboration.  She specializes in leveraging the invisible toward improving speed and accuracy of decisions. Contact her through