How to invoke change with sustainability and personal commitment?
Once the transformations described in the first of this two-part series have occurred, all organizations should follow a roadmap to achieve and sustain major, organization-wide and beneficial change. The result is a series of separate, different types of breakthroughs in various functions and levels. Sudden bursts of change in specific projects can occur, but it may take months or years before the cumulative effect of many coordinated and inter-related efforts provide maximum results. Although the effort usually begins as a response to a crisis, it should instead be a planned initiative.
The roadmap is a systematic—not prescriptive—way to achieve organizational change. It brings about a positive systemic change, not a technological change in the way business is done. One project won’t change a culture. Many projects that are managed effectively will be needed to meet long-term gains.
Whether contemplating a breakthrough improvement initiative or in the process of implementing one, this roadmap can help you reach your organization’s goals. It will identify the sequential activities needed to begin a plan or close gaps in a current plan. The roadmap also defines the major activities upper-level managers and change agents must include in their organizational processes.
To implement the roadmap successfully, it’s important to examine what the organization is changing from and to what it aims to become.
An organization that isn’t meeting executive, shareholder and/or customer satisfaction must change if it wants to survive. The level of change needed will be determined by the resources, energy and degree of commitment to bring about change. It’s difficult to quantify change, but looking at the figure below, one can get an idea that transformational change or radical change is different from incremental change.
A typical organization that wants to change may be facing challenges such as:
- Higher operating costs and lower profits than desired
- A system in which productivity comes first over customers and quality, often sacrificing customer satisfaction to meet schedules
- Slow response to complaints or needed corrective action
- Lack of creativity and initiative in new processes or product and service designs
- Lack of employee-management trust
- Little collaboration or employee participation
- A pervasive attitude that quality is someone else’s job
Such an organization should consider the following goals:
- Greater profitability through leaner processes and greater productivity
- Customer-focused staff that responds quickly to complaints
- Continuous quality improvements in all processes
- Employees empowered in a state of self-control to maintain performance levels
- A flat, flexible organizational structure
- An organization-wide belief that quality is everyone’s job
- Vision-driven leadership
- Values that include high moral standards, ethics, teamwork, involvement and risk taking
Any organizational change must be integrated slowly to give employees time to adapt. Change processes must invade a culture through a pilot effort, which can then expand to other parts of the organization with greater success and less resistance than before. Organizational change is very similar to an antibiotic attacking a virus. When a patient takes a drug daily, he or she slowly builds up an antibody to attack the virus. The virus invites the drug into its system and the drug begins to kill the virus. Health returns to the patient as it would in an organizational culture.
The five phases of the roadmap (illustrated below) are Decide, Prepare, Launch, Expand and Sustain. Each phase is independent of the others and each part of an organization will respond differently to the changes taking place. This means one unit can remain in one phase longer than another.
The Decide phase— Begins when the executive team concludes a change is needed if the organization is to meet constituent expectations. It ends when a decision is made to prepare a clear plan for change.
To understand the level of improvement needed, an organization must have new or better information about itself. A world-class quality system review will provide the needed data about customers, culture, strengths, performance problems, attitudes toward change, key business processes, cost analysis of poor performing products and services, and the determination of the business case for change.
A typical review recommended for organizations embarking on a Six Sigma transformation initiative, for example, is shown below.
From these assessments, the executive team should have the qualitative and quantitative information needed to define an implementation plan. The plan must include an infrastructure to steer the changes, methodology and tools to be used, goals and objectives, and a detailed plan for achieving results.
The Prepare phase— The executive team should develop a pilot effort to test changes in a few business units before implementing the changes in the total organization. This phase begins by deploying the plan created in the Decide phase and ends after a successful launch of pilot projects.
The Launch phase— The organization identifies potential improvement projects that must be carried out to meet the desired goals, launches pilot projects, reviews progress and enables success. As projects are completed, the executive team evaluates what did and didn’t work, and it either abandons elements or makes changes and expands the plan throughout the organization.
The Expand phase— It can take months to deploy if the organization’s employees are in the hundreds or three to five years for an international company with thousands of employees. Positive financial results will occur long before cultural changes take place. Staying in the expand phase isn’t a bad thing. An organization must continue to implement change unit by unit until the entire enterprise has had time to implement all of the desired changes.
The Sustain phase— This occurs when an organization has a fully integrated operation and all improvements and goals are aligned with the established strategy and deployment plans. Key business processes are defined and process owners are assigned to manage each unit.
Employee performance reviews and compensation should align with the changes that were made and the responsibilities in place. Those who comply should be rewarded or desired behavior changes won’t take place and the organization will risk the loss of loyalty and compromise the credibility for the change. Top management and unit managers must conduct regular reviews and audits of the change processes and consider whether changes or new strategies are needed.
The Sustain phase will help the organization learn more about its capabilities as well as its customers and other constituents. This process may lead to changes in strategies. The phase endures as long as the organization meets its financial goals. Macro-economic events can cause deviations that require a review to determine what must be changed.
Once financial savings have been achieved, the challenge is to control the process so that benefits are maintained year after year. At this point, organizational changes should be minimized.
Many organizations make changes but don’t complete enough projects to affect the bottom line positively or the organization’s culture for any noticeable change.
Management personnel at all levels must be leaders, not cheer leaders. Unless there’s committed leadership and a sense of urgency, breakthrough improvement efforts will provide disappointing results. Vague definition of goals will fail to provide the needed legitimacy. Lack of direct involvement by management can cost two to three years of delay, divisiveness and lost credibility.
Managers must identify opportunities for improvement, mobilize the resources and skills to capitalize on those opportunities and make wise choices of the tools and techniques to meet goals.
An efficient roadmap can help any organization make breakthrough improvements continuously. The more this goal is achieved internationally, the more the benefits to everyone.
These excerpts were adapted from Juran Institute’s Six Sigma: Breakthrough and Beyond (McGraw-Hill Professional, 2003) by Joseph A. De Feo.