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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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    Entries in change management (5)


    What Do We Do with Change Readiness Information?

    As discussed in an earlier blog, it’s very important to consider the specifics of an organization’s change readiness for a specific proposed change.  We presented specific things we’d like to find out.  And in another blog we talked about various cost-effective ways to collect valuable change readiness information.   The survey is but one common approach, and there are other cost-effective ones.  
    But now what, after we've collected that information?  What do we do with that information?
    One high leverage activity is to get people in a room and process the information together, discussing it from their own different viewpoints, and then agreeing upon a plan forward.  Who might do this?  The core change team, along with invited “extended” members (special invitees, like a director who may have critical technical knowledge of the proposed change, who may only attend a few meetings with the core team), would be excellent candidates to review this information and then develop action items to include in the overall work plan for the change.  Specifically, here are some questions to prime these conversations for the core and extended team:
    • Which groups, and which specific people might be the biggest resistors, how powerful are they, and how can we best get their cooperation in the change effort?
    • Which groups, and which specific people might be our biggest supporters, how powerful are they, and how can we best get them to actively support the change?
    • If the organization’s leaders operate as an interconnected leadership system, what is the best way to influence the system’s energy to actively support the planned change?
    • If the organization’s leaders operate as independent heads of their respective fiefdoms, where should we start first, and how do we best get the leaders involved in collective inquiry, collective meaning making, and collective action planning on a cross-functional basis for this particular change?
    • In the context of answers to the four previous questions what are the best strategies to satisfy the resistors and energize the supporters? (Examples include communications, training, workshops where people collaboratively put out ideas, prioritize them, and develop plans for moving forward, and role modeling and other actions by key leaders to demonstrate active support.)
    • Does any part of the initial proposed change need to be modified or re-sequenced to accelerate its implementation and acceptance?
    By thinking specifically about the issue of change readiness we can be better prepared to develop high leverage action items to get the change implemented.  Since I’m a big fan of visual presentation of data, in these analysis groups we’ll often color in boxes on the organization’s org chart (red for hot resistance, yellow for neutral, and green for accepting) and see what the patterns suggest we should do.  This is particularly helpful if a head of an organizational unit, for example, a VP or Director, holds a totally different view of whether or not the change should be supported.
    And finally, here’s an interesting variation hosting a typical meeting to have the group address the above issues.  Try using a proven template (“group method”) to spur creativity in the group.  One method I’ve used to do this effectively with a group is Open Space.
    For ideas on HOW to collect this all-important change readiness information, you can check out the blog Three Paths to Assess Change Readiness.



    The Importance of Assessing Change Readiness

    We’ve all been there, and sadly watched it happen.  In the heat of the moment, the rush to get the technical parts of a change implemented overrides any thoughts about how ready people might be for the change.  It can happen with all kinds of changes… new strategy directions, the implementation of a new computer system, initiation of a quality improvement effort like Lean Six Sigma, or redesign into a new organizational structure.  And the results fall into that large percentage of failed change efforts that are often cited at 70%.
    And in some unfortunate cases there is even a change management team, and change management workplan that exist, but with no formal mention of change readiness.   All too often change agents assume they know the likely causes of resistance, and don’t delve into situation specifics that would be helpful in developing change action plans.  With those thoughts as a backdrop, here are some things we’d like to find out about an organization’s readiness for an upcoming change.

    What we’d like to find out…

    Ideally, at a minimum, we’d like to cost-effectively gather information about:
    • possible reasons for resistance
    • specific concerns about impacts of the implemented change
    • strength of disagreement with the proposed change
    • parts of the organization likely to cause the most problems, and why their particular area might be likely to cause problems
    • parts of the organization likely to enthusiastically support the change, and why they support the change
    • whether or not the leaders operate as 1) an interconnected “leadership system” whose members engage in mutual inquiry, meaning making, and action planning, or 2) independent actors of their respective fiefdoms who focus primarily on their area
    • factors or specific actions that could increase acceptance of the upcoming changes
    • levers we could use to increase the success of the change
    • other organizational reactions to specifics of the proposed change.  
    In the blog Three Paths to Assess Change Readiness we present three proven, solid approaches for collecting this important information.  In the blog What Do We Do with Change Readiness Information?  you’ll see some tips for how to analyze this information.



    How to Magnify the Impact of Your Visioning and Strategy Development Sessions with One Little Pre-step

    Before you get together with the top leaders in the corporation to craft a vision and subsequent strategy, let’s think for a moment about how you could magnify the impact of those sessions.  One powerful thing to do to is to call top leaders, and those with additional valuable perspectives, into a session where they explore assumptions and see if those assumptions are still valid as the organization moves into the future.  
    These assumptions could be explicit or tacit.  They could be about topics like the overall market, target niches, the competition, regulation, or internal capabilities.  Anything that could have a significant impact on the organization’s future could be fair game.
    A reasonable person might ask, “But how do you get a diverse group of people in a room and talk about high-leverage assumptions without heated disagreements breaking out, and the overall conversation deteriorating?”  The answer is that we set up the session so this doesn’t happen.  
    We use a method for groups getting together called “Dialogue” where we state up front that we’re not looking for decisions or mass agreement in key issues.  We’re simply looking to collect people’s thoughts and their potential implications, in a non-threatening environment, where even the most shy and timid people can express their view of the situation.  And by stating up front that we’re not looking for decisions or unanimous agreements, we take the pressure off people so they can express their true opinions and thoughts on an issue that impacts the organization.  We state that we’re just collecting pieces of data that can be use later in analyses, debates, and decisions for moving forward.
    By having such a pre-visioning/pre-strategy Dialogue session, we can often gather information that may not have been previously available, because a soft-spoken person wouldn’t speak up.  And we also find that in a group setting people collectively build on each other’s thoughts, and often come up with a new, better thought based on back and forth conversations and the subtle nuances of the individual thoughts presented.  In many organizations these have proven to be extremely valuable inputs for visioning and strategic planning sessions.
    Here are some other norms we state up front going into a Dialogue session.  We ask people to:
    • Suspend their judgments and their “certainties”
    • Respectfully explore others’ assumptions through questions
    • Disclose their key assumptions and how they arrived at them
    • Respect foreign-sounding points of view
    • Ask questions they don’t have answers for, and be prepared to be surprised and learn something they hadn’t known before.
    Dialogue is a versatile group method that can be used in many situations in addition to visioning and strategy development like we’ve covered here.  A short Dialogue blog provides some additional information on the method.

    6 Key Tips for Change Management for ERP – The Infrastructure Aspect

    Change management is extremely important in the implementation of an ERP system, as was discussed in an earlier blog.   In this blog we cover Six Key Tips for Change Management for ERP, and we focus on the infrastructure aspect of the project.   In another, related blog, we cover six more change management tips, and we focus on the people aspect of the project.  

    The infrastructure part of change management deals with what needs to get set up to make the changes easier on people in the organization.  Here are six pragmatic tips for setting up your change management infrastructure:


    1.  Help achieve the targeted business results.  This needs to be first and foremost in the mind of a change management practitioner.  The questions the practitioner asks, and support systems set up need to focus on achieving the desired business results.  Everything -- from meeting design to hallway conversations, to setting up the steering committee charter – needs to support the business goals articulated at the start of the project.


    2.  Ensure alignment of business objectives among all key project groups.  There needs to be a clear understanding of the targets, starting at the executive team and cascading down.  Sounds simple, but in one electronics company that implemented ERP I found the executive team didn't even agree on the targeted benefits -- each had been sold on the big picture benefits from the ERP vendor, and each had their own view of how they applied to their area.  And disconnects can also occur between senior managers and the technical implementation team.  These, and many other reasons can cause disconnects, so goal alignment needs to be actively and constantly supported.


    3.  Connect the change management project plan to the technical implementation plan. Certain activities need to occur for effective and efficient change, so developing a change management workplan is essential.   AND, I recommend this plan is incorporated into, or at least annotated on to, the main technical project plan.  In places where this hasn't been done, I've noticed change activities get short shrift when technical deadlines are threatened.


    4.  Establish multi-faceted communications with feedback loops. Many communications experts suggest that a key message needs to be repeated at least 8 times to be heard and understood. Yet all too often in ERP efforts leaders say something once, and expect everyone to hear, and completely understand it.  Best practice suggests multiple broadcasts of a key message, and through various channels (like town hall meetings, newsletters, quick videos, etc.).  It’s also important to set up feedback loops to make sure the messages are coming across as intended, and that indicate a additional communication is required if they’re not.


    5. Ensure clear role definition for implementation and operations tasks.  Let’s first look at the implementation gameplan.  Key implementation tasks need to be covered.  There also need to be key project organizational entities, like a steering committee to provide continual strategic direction, and help resolve cross-disciplinary disputes.  A formal charting of people to specific responsibilities is very helpful in determining coverage, and eliminating redundancies.  I see is as the change manager’s charter to do this if it hasn’t been done already by the overall ERP project manager, or technical team leaders.  And regarding roles for the post-implementation world, the same rules apply.  It’s helpful to get and “audit” to make sure the key tasks are covered, key organizational structures exist, and roles are clearly associated with people.


    6.  Help shape the training strategy and results.  This will vary from one ERP implementation to another. Sometimes companies rely heavily on the software provider for training, others do not.  It’s up to the change manager – if not done by the overall project manager – to provide early input to the overall training approach and execution.  Good guidelines are: keep it relevant, keep it minimal, and keep it well-timed (just before needed).  It’s also good to keep in mind that users training users tend to work better than outsiders training users. In a “super-user” strategy the company develops one highly qualified person in an area, who then helps trains and supports others as needed.


    These are six high leverage tips for ERP change managers that relate to setting up an infrastructure that helps create conditions for effectively and efficiently performing change management activities.  For six additional tips related to the work a change manager does with people see a the people aspect blog.



    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.