As a follow-up to our previous post, which shared an introduction to this concept, this video shares some new perspectives about the current pace of change within the business world and adapting to the “new normal.”
It also raises more than a few questions about how your organization might best adapt — and how quickly you’ll be able to do it — and provides ideas and examples for doing so.
As noted in previous posts, the start of a new year is often a time for making resolutions or strategic improvement plans, which is another way of saying “a time for change.”
As we all know, change is a critical component of growth and ongoing success; and, to be effective, change initiatives must involve not only a change in attitude, but also behavioral change.
But, as we also know, change is not always perceived as being good. In organizations of all types, people tend to look with skepticism at innovations and new methods, processes, policies and procedures; and people at all levels sometimes cringe at the suggestion that there might be a different or better way to do their jobs!
Yet without change comes stagnation and potential loss. Examples include: Converse in sneakers or Kodak in photography, each experiencing significant declines in market share and profits as competitors introduced new and improved, lower-cost alternatives.
Readiness… the Right Attitude The first step in any change effort is to help people develop the right mental attitude and understand that change is a constant part of long-term success. We have found that this “readiness for change” is best brought about through assessment, communication, education, empowerment, measurement, and recognition.
Components of helping people prepare for and embrace change include:
Making continuous improvement a permanent part of your corporate culture so that people at all levels change the way they think, talk, work, and act
Establishing new perspectives on work, work processes and value-added work
Clearly identifying the necessary or desired changes to actions and behaviors
Effectively using statistical tools to identify, analyze, understand and communicate variation and to measure improvement
Enlisting the help of people operating the work processes
Quantifying how continuous improvement benefits all stakeholders
Improving leadership and coaching skills that lead to increased employee engagement
The ability to anticipate, lead and manage change is a critical indicator of organizational success.
As suggested in a recent post, strong leadership is a key requirement when it comes to driving change and continuous improvement; and as noted in one of last year’s posts, it is much easier to change when you can rather than when forced to do so!
This is a critically-important reality… too many organizations slip into complacency when things are going “well,” and only contemplate change when their performance is unsatisfactory — when they’re forced into it!
There are countless examples of how this latter approach can quickly lead to disaster! Kodak, Polaroid, and Blockbuster, to name just a few…
Instead, change and continuous improvement must become the “cultural way.”
Possibly Jim Press, former President of Toyota Motor North America, summed-it-up best during an interview by saying, “Toyota wants to be a green tomato.”
His point was that green tomatoes are in a constant state of change; they know their futures are still ahead of them, while red tomatoes have stopped growing.
In our previous post the concept and value of achieving “quick wins” during improvement initiatives was discussed.
Interestingly, many of the benefits associated with quick wins also apply to quick failures!
If an innovation is going to fail, the faster we know it, the cheaper it is.
Doug Hall, of Innovation Engineering, advises that we test first those elements that could make or break the concept. It could be whether or not the most technologically challenging aspect can be solved. It could be whether a key collaboration can be arranged or whether intellectual property rights can be protected. Identify the most important and most difficult challenge, and address that one first with the goal of learning meaningfully and rapidly.
But beware, taking on the most uncertain aspects of development goes against the instinct of almost every development team. The natural order is to execute on the clearest and simplest deliverable first because many of us value work by the number of deliverables produced.
But to continuously improve our innovation, we need rapid cycles of learning about the most critical and uncertain assumptions and challenges first.
Several previous posts have focused on the importance of change, and on the fact that effective leadership is about driving change. The ability to anticipate, lead and manage change is a critical indicator of organizational success and is a necessary component of continuous improvement.
But, as we’ve also noted, people tend to resist change. It is uncomfortable, and tends to bring about varying degrees of fear, uncertainty and doubt – or, as noted in a recent post, a range of challenging emotions.
A heightened awareness of the “normal” reactions to change can help leaders more easily manage change and lead people toward acceptance in less time. For example, when a major change is initiated it is common for members of the workforce think or wonder:
The way we’ve always done it is fine… why do we need to change?
Why wasn’t I consulted?
Why do I need to change my way of doing things?
What have I done wrong? I’ve done nothing wrong!
How will this affect me…?
They don’t know what they’re doing!
This will never work…
What are they trying to achieve?
Will I be able to adapt/fit in?
Recognizing that the above-listed questions are more the rule rather than the exception, leaders and managers might be able to address the true concerns of their workforce and implement change and improvement initiatives more efficiently.
We will share additional thoughts on leading and managing change in our next post… in the meantime, maybe you would like to share some success stories about how your organization has been able to effectively present and manage change?
Since improvement initiatives always involve making changes to the status-quo, we have shared a number of posts that focus on different aspects of change, including a simple chart of the steps for leading change.
Another consideration for leading or managing change or improvement projects might also include a heightened awareness of the steps people often must take in order to accept changes to processes, policies or day-to-day activities in the workplace.
As the image shows, these steps are similar to those associated with handling grief. If we are aware of these steps it is likely that we can more rapidly recognize when others (or ourselves!) are struggling with new ideas, protocols or requirements, and also how to help those who are challenged to more quickly resolve their concerns.
Challenges and best practices associated with continuous improvement