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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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    Integrating Lean Six Sigma and High Performance Organizations

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


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    Entries in cchange management (2)


    Three Paths to Assess Change Readiness

    In an earlier blog The Importance of Assessing Change Readiness we talked about the importance of collecting change readiness information, and some specific things we want to find out.  So how do we get this important information?  
    Here are three ways that I’ve found to be effective.  In some cases it’s helpful to use two of these.  Quite often you’ll find it helpful to confirm, and dig deeper into issues in a second pass for whichever path you select.
    1. Interviews.  These could be done in one-on-one interviews, or in small groups, like a focus group of 7-10 people.  You’ll want to make sure you get information from representative levels of the organization, and representative groups would be affected by the proposed change.  
    Advantages of this method are that it can be done fairly quickly, and you have an opportunity to quickly dig deeper into a response if you’d like to learn more about it.  A disadvantage is that if you don’t select truly representative groups, you may base your action plan on information that is not true for a larger percentage of the targeted change population.
    2. Surveys.    Over the years I’ve moved from canned surveys to custom-developed surveys because the latter tend to be shorter, and more quickly get at the heart of the specifics of the change proposed.  Usually I’ll do a few one-on-one interviews or focus groups to get some ideas about common responses people might have.  Then I’ll load those into possible responses for a question, into an automated survey tool like Survey Monkey.  I’ve found it’s also helpful to allow for write-in answers, just in case my representative group did not provide all the possible popular responses.  
    Advantages of this method include easy data collection, and automated summarization of data.  Another advantage is that you can collect information quickly from more people than you can in interviews.  One disadvantage is that often only a very small percentage of people respond to survey.  So, I like to emphasize the survey will only take about 8 minutes, and that participation is extremely important as it will shape how the upcoming proposed change will be implemented.  Another disadvantage is that people sometimes worry they’ll be punished for telling some ugly truth about what’s happening in the organization, so it’s helpful to set these surveys up to be anonymous, or posted to an outside third party’s collection website, so that formal company leaders won’t see responses associated with individuals.
    3. Workshops.  One workshop, or a series of workshops can provide extremely valuable information that can be immediately acted upon.  Here’s an example.  In a global pharmaceutical company that recently implemented a matrix organization, we hosted two rounds of workshops.  In the first round we collected hopes, concerns, and key technical issues that would likely be encountered when the matrix was fully implemented.  We did this as independent observers/coaches for each of the organizational units that were to be combined.  We summarized the outputs of these workshops, and then had a combined workshop where we presented the collected data to all organization units who would need to work together in the combined organization.  Collectively they discussed the issues, prioritized the work to be done, and developed action plans to move forward that they all agreed upon.
    One major advantage of this method is that you can rapidly, and simultaneously surface key readiness concerns and also address them on the spot, or in the subsequent “everybody-together” workshop.  This can obviate the need to do further change readiness analysis and planning in a later change agent meeting, which is typically done for the Interview and Survey methods paths of data collection.  
    One disadvantage is that because the outcomes are not totally predictable when groups with diverse perspectives get together to plan, this option may not be for “faint of heart” facilitators.  Overall, I’ve found the benefits of this approach far outweigh the concerns.  The key is for the facilitator to keep his or her eye on the final desired “big picture” outcomes – which would be outcomes like increased technical capabilities and standardization across the company’s newly matrixed 12 manufacturing sites in the pharmaceutical company’s case mentioned above -- and help the group collectively work their way to designing mutually acceptable solutions and action plans for those.
    Once the critical change readiness information has been collected, here are some tips at What We Do with Change Readiness Information? on how to analyze it. 



    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.