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Tom Devane is a consultant, author, and co-author of provocative bestselling books on achieving extraordinary results using methods that systematically engage people in organizations and communities.
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    The Change Handbook

    Over 60 methods that engage groups quickly and produce extraordinary results.




    Barnes & Noble


     - - - - - - - - -


    Integrating Lean Six Sigma and High Performance Organizations

    A leader's guide to blending technical and people aspects of performance improvement.


    Barnes & Noble

    Wiley & Sons



    White paper on Positive Deviance




    Archives (by topic and month)


    5 Key Lean Six Sigma and Change Management Touchpoints – The Initiative Level

    The outcomes of a well-done Lean Six Sigma effort typically have dramatic impacts on how a process is performed.  And also on mindsets that people have about work.  And in some cases, people’s very identity at work may be changed.  So, there are obviously lots of key touchpoints for change management in a Lean Six Sigma initiative.  Here are four that I’ve found that have particularly high leverage at the overall initiative level.  Five more are presented for each project that proceeds along a DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Implement, and Control phases) trajectory in another blog.
    1.  Build a coalition of key influencers who want to implement Lean Six Sigma.  Even if you’re a CEO, or VP with lots of clout, you’ll still need others to support your idea that Lean Six Sigma is a good idea.  Improvement recommendations will likely cross departmental boundaries.  It’s best to get support before it’s implementation time, not during or after.
    2.  Don’t have a separate workplan for change management activities.  Otherwise, change is a poor second stepchild to the more technical -- “real” as many people would see it – work of Lean Six Sigma.  If it’s a secondary workplan it will most likely get jettisoned as time gets tight with a looming deadline.  Putting change activities in the main plan give them a bit more weight, and increase their likelihood of getting done.
    3.  Ensure there’s a change management network, and its members are communicating.  People need to talk about the change management issues associated with how Lean Six Sigma is being implemented.  They need to notice what’s working, what’s not, and then share that with their colleagues who are doing similar work.  These people might be dedicated change agents, or, it could be a percent of time that a Black Belt devotes to change management.  I’ve seen both ways work well.  The key is to spend time thinking about change management issues, looking for ways to improve, and then sharing to build organizational capability.  It’s Plan-Do-Study-Act for the people part of Lean Six Sigma, and it’s what helps keep solutions sustainable.
    4.  Kickoff the initiative in a group setting.  Invite your assembled coalition, and some dissenters as well to a meeting where you collectively develop strategic goals and associated action plans to implement and monitor them.  You can design your own, or use an existing template.  One meeting template that leaders have found useful for this purpose is called a “Search Conference” because people collectively search for what will benefit the enterprise.  More on this template in this blog or this YouTube video.
    5.  Look for, and have stories about how data trumps opinion – even a senior manager’s opinions.   This will help get Lean Six Sigma get better rooted in the culture.  It can also inspire more people to want to learn the tools and methods.
    These are just five key touchpoints at the the Lean Six Sigma initiative level.  We’ll be covering more in future blogs.  For five key touchpoints at a lower level than the initiative level -- the project level -- see this blog.



    5 Key Lean Six Sigma and Change Management Touchpoints – The Project Level

    At the project level, when you change people’s workflow and the way they think about their job, you’re bound to run into those who initially hold different views than yours about what needs to happen. That’s why it’s important to have some change management principles and tools in your tool belt to help ensure your improvement team’s solution gets implemented, and stays implemented.  Here are five touchpoints to consider as you proceed through the DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control) steps within an improvement project.

    1.  Identify and analyze the people who will be affected by your study, and your solution; then act appropriately.  As early as the Define stage, find out your stakeholders, how they’ll be affected, and how much influence they have.  Starting with those who have a lot of influence, find out how they’d like to be involved and communicated with.  It’s best to get people involved early, rather than later when they felt they’ve had no input into how their area might need to change, or be affected.
    2.  Don’t pull resources from an improvement project to do their functional work.  This is true especially in the Implement stage, when it’s critical to have the same resources working the problem that you started with.  Keeping them on – even if it means some pain in the short run – sends a powerful message that the organization is changing its priorities to focus seriously on improvement, not just execution (or, in the worst case, firefighting).  Early efforts in this area will pave the way for less resistance to Lean Six Sigma projects and solutions.  And reducing resistance – both current and future – are key elements of an effective change management process.
    3.  For complex situations, controversial solutions, and particularly cantankerous stakeholders consider having a group “Dialogue” session during the Analysis phase. Do this well before the Implement phase, as you’ll want all key assumptions and opposing viewpoints surfaced to implement the best solution that will be truly sustainable.  There’s a template (sometimes called a group method) for this Dialogue type of meeting, in an overview blog of the Dialogue method.  High emotions can be kept at bay because people are merely voicing their thoughts/opinions/assumptions, and listening – with a suspension of their own beliefs – to others.  Decisions are postponed until later meeting(s), which takes some of the pressure off, and create more of an inviting atmosphere for safe voicing of opinions. This technique was very effective at surfacing key viewpoints and implications for a project where we were improving the New Product Development Process in a hi tech electronics manufacturer.
    4.  Hold fast on supporting the new process.  In one pharmaceutical company, the afternoon we implemented a new process for label development someone came in with a “hot” request and immediately wanted to circumvent the process that it had just taken two months to redesign.  Even though the Marketing VP supported this workaround, fortunately the Master Black Belt (also a VP) had more clout, and the new process was followed.  This sent an important message that the new process “was king,” not the individual shouting of important people in the organization who were accustomed to having their way.  A shift in the culture began gradually, with this one project.
    5.  If you’re a top leader, throw people out of your office if they mention a tool when they meet with you.  I know an EVP who did this religiously, and it was very effective to helping all involved to get at the heart of what needed to get done to get improvements implemented.
    These are just five key touchpoints at the project level.  We’ll be covering more in future blogs.  For five key touchpoints higher up, at the Lean Six Sigma initiative level, see this blog.



    Excel at employee engagement using group methods

    Engagement is a hot topic for leaders today.  This increase can be explained quite simply: Organizations are getting far better business results, and the numbers back it up.

    Numerous Gallup poll statistics show that engaged workplaces have better performance than non-engaged workplaces.  A 2010 McKinsey & Co. report identified cocreation, collaboration, and employee engagement as being key success factors for organizational transformations.  And Gallup has even put a number on the cost of disengaged workers in the United States.  A whopping $300 billion per year.  Wow.

    But how to engage employees is a skill not typically taught most business schools.  And for most companies it’s still glaringly absent from their leadership development courses.  For these reasons many leaders are turning to pre-developed templates that have been used successfully in the past for employee engagement.  These templates – often called group methods --  usually contain an agenda (which can be customized), principles for facilitating it, and pre- and post-even conditions that need to be present for it to be successful.

    Here are a handful of some group methods I’ve used extensively, and achieved excellent results with.  All these methods focus on producing high levels of collaboration and merging of diverse perspectives.  Each has links to additional details if you’d like to find out more.  I’ve organized the methods into three general categories, based on what they’re used for in the context of my work:



    Methods described


    To stimulate collective thinking to develop plans, goals, and implementation plans.

    Search Conference, Appreciative Inquiry, and Scenario Planning.  Additional details…

    Higher quality decisions

    To stimulate collective thinking for better decisions.  

    World Café, Dialogue, Organization Workshop, Visual Explorer.  Additional details…

    Directly improve operational results

    To stimulate collective thinking for directly improving operational results.

    WorkOut, Participative Design Workshop, and After Action Review.  Additional details…


    Three quick notes:

    These are some of the methods that I use most frequently from the book The Change Handbook.  There over 60 great methods in that book, and I’m just presenting a handful here that I have used.

    I’ve categorized the methods in these blogs based on the way that I personally use them.  Others might organize these in different ways based on their uses.  These are versatile methods, and different practitioners may use them in quite different ways, and also get great results.  I encourage you to experiment once you start down this path.

    It’s important to note here that these templates are used periodically on an event basis, not on a day-to-day basis.  Daily leadership behaviors are an important part of an overall engagement strategy as well as these group methods.  We cover the daily behaviors that leaders can use for engagement in other blogs on this site.


    Better planning through group methods

    These group methods engage people in a group setting and stimulate their collective thinking to develop plans, goals, and implementation plans.  In this context, I mean a “plan” of any sort, such as a strategic plan, a plan for the launch of a new initiative like Lean Six Sigma for quality improvement, a plan for a merger/acquisition, or a plan for entry into new markets like the Pacific Rim.


    Group method

    This method…

    Search Conference 

    Produces a clearly articulated set of goals and implementation plan for those goals.  The plan could be a strategic plan, a plan to kick-off a Lean Six Sigma initiative in an organization, a division plan that needs to be aligned with the larger organization’s strategy.  A key strength of this method is its ability to capitalize on the strengths of diverse perspectives and energize people toward implementing agreed upon goals.  More...

    Scenario Planning

    Identifies and articulates alternative future scenarios that may occur.  Strategic planners go through this process because since no one can predict the future with 100% accuracy, it is beneficial to know what possibilities for the future might look like, and to plan goals, commitments, and activities within those scenarios.  More...

    Appreciative Inquiry

    Provides people the opportunity to search for, and capitalize on the best in themselves and their organizations.  Its asking of an “unconditional positive question” helps guide participants from the “dream” stage to the “destiny” stage, all the while capitalizing on strengths (instead of solving problems).  More...


    Higher quality decisions through group methods

    Through the use of structured and semi-structured conversations, these group methods help people identify important patterns and develop insights that they would typically NOT be able to develop without some sort of collective thinking and conversation.


    Group method

    This method…

    World Café

    is a conversation-based process that provides a platform for highly effective group dialogue around complex issues.  Participants move from table to table after a series of questions and the group builds upon knowledge mined/developed from each subsequent round of questions.  More…


    Surfaces key participant assumptions in a safe environment of suspended beliefs so the later decisions can be made and actions develop to implement them.  More…

    Organization Workshop

    is a group learning session in which participants experience

    universal conditions, traps, and dilemmas of organizational life, and learn effective ways to deal with them.  The foundation template focuses on “spaces”  -- Tops, Middles, Bottoms and Customers – in an organizational system, and specific organization issues can be loaded into the workshop and addressedMore…

    Visual Explorer

    uses images to engage people in creative conversations and deep dialogues.  It’s a versatile tool that can be used for a variety of topics, and it typically draws out insights not thought to be possible at the start of the event.  More…

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