The catalyst

I like this word “catalyst” when talking about “a person whose talk, enthusiasm, or energy causes others to be more friendly, enthusiastic, or energetic”.

We don’t use it currently in French even so the meaning is the same, we’ll talk about “moderator”, “facilitator” or “coach” instead.

Yet “catalyst” is much more how I felt recently with a small group of participants in a workshop. It was expected by my client to be a kind of kaizen event with a clear goal and limited time: in three days design the layout of a future streamlined assembly line.

It took me the first morning to get basic knowledge about current operations, difficulties and stakes of a company and a business I was discovering.

Being the alien, I asked many questions the insiders kindly answered. Those questions had a double benefit:

  1. give me the minimum necessary insight
  2. force the ops guys working with me to reflect about my questions

When we returned to the nearby office, I organized my new “knowledge” on several sheet of paper in order to summarize, memorize and understand as well as let the participants check my understanding.

During the shopfloor tour and my summing up, some of them had questions and surprises, which found their place on a paper sheet as well.

During the two and half days left, I asked many more questions, made some suggestions and did what I am good at (say my colleagues): sort out and arrange all the popping ideas and scattered data and facts to get a simple and clear understanding of the situation.

Doing so, the participants found most of the time themselves what to do next and how to do it. From time to time, some direction in form of question or suggestion from my side restarted again the stuck team.

In the evening of day two, the line was not only designed, it was 60% installed thanks to all spare furniture and equipment we scavenged. Two weeks later the first assemblies went out of the new line.

This result was unexpected according to the CEO and the group participants, as turning ideas into actions always was difficult in this company.

This was achieved by the subject matter experts themselves, I was “only” their catalyst which helped to unleash and focus their potential talents.

A role that fits me.

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2 thoughts on “The catalyst

  1. Dear Christian,

    Catalyst, Virus, are all small tiny things which can have at the end very big impacts.

    Culture, behaviors, habits, can block the system whatever the energy put into the change.

    Your kind example shows how an external view can modify the internal one, it’s why may be we do need consultants.

    Thanks for this post.

    Flying regards

    Jean-Luc Heinrich


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