Challenges in today’s business environment often involve dealing with change. What isn’t widely known is that only about 33 percent of change initiatives are successful. This series of articles lays out the vital points of successful change implementation — points that I can vouch for after nearly 30 years of advising organizations of all sizes. This third article in the series is about the importance of defining scope, understanding the potential, and assessing readiness.
Improve Your Odds for Success
A significant contributor to the high failure rate for organizational change efforts in the U.S. is this: CEOs lose patience because of high costs, the unknown returns, and the slow pace of such projects. There are steps you can take, early on, that will reduce the time and cost, and thereby greatly improve the odds of success.
In recent years, we have added what we call a discovery phase to our Process Advantage® methodology to address this very need. You can do some of this on your own, or use an outside resource to determine if you are really ready, where you should focus, and whether or not the potential return is worth the cost. Here’s how:
1. Determine Where to Focus (Define the Scope of the Project)
You will obviously focus tightly on the part or parts of your system that appear to be causing the problem (the high rate of errors, the customer complaints, the staff frustration, or the unnecessary costs). But, be careful.
All processes in a system have co-dependencies. Go ahead and use the relevant data from your customers, or from other sources, to determine where to begin. But, what’s equally important is to create a map — that delineates the relationships of the process you’re starting with — to other processes in the system. Ask yourself, how dependent is the process you’ve identified on other processes that precede, intersect, or follow it? Without this kind of analysis – without the “map” – you might wind up improving the process in question, but fail to fix the problem you set out to fix.
An air freight carrier we worked with sought to reduce waiting time for customers dropping off freight at their terminal. However, the mapping process I talked about in the previous paragraph, made it clear that waiting time was also affected by the process for answering phone calls, the process for the labeling of freight received, and the process for initial staging of freight received. If we hadn’t addressed those other, dependent, processes, we couldn’t have designed and implemented an optimal solution to reducing waiting time.
Ask questions about information technology, too.You will need to ask another question at this juncture: Will we need to make changes in our information technology (IT)? Will IT be a potential contributor to an innovative solution? If the answer is yes, information technology must become a part of the scope.
2. Estimate the Potential Contribution of the Change
With the scope defined, and using the existing performance data, estimate the value to the organization of making the change. You can safely predict that a well-designed and executed process re-design will bring a 20 percent to 50 percent improvement in performance. That could come in terms of reduced cycle time, reduced error rate, reduced customer complaints, reduced unit cost, and so forth. What, then, would be the value to the organization of investing in the change, given your existing volume? Use this calculation to:
- Determine the return on investment in dedicated staff time, consulting resources, investment in information technology.
- Give you increased patience as you design and execute the new process and implementation plan. Knowing that your new design can deliver on your estimate will give you the patience to execute it properly — without unsettling employees — so that turnover, sick leave, and production are not disrupted. (More on this subject in an upcoming issue on managing the human side of change.
3. Assess Readiness – to Save Time, Money and Headaches
Save yourself time, money and headaches by evaluating, or by having an outside resource evaluate, your readiness for change. Among the questions you will want to address are the following:
- Do we have a clear vision and a sense of the importance of what we want to accomplish, so we can test it with employees and use it to enroll their aid in getting the job done?
- Do the owners or managers of the processes that constitute the scope of the change support the vision and intended changes?
- Have we been successful enough with change in the past that we can sell this project internally?
- Does our IT system have enough integrity and protection to support the change or expansion in that area?
- Can our IT staff support teams in designing innovative new solutions?
- Is it feasible to undertake this project, given the demands on those doing the work now?
- Do we have funding available to invest in the resources needed to execute the project?
Minimize Your Risk with an E-mail
Please be aware that re-starting a change effort that you’ve aborted (because you weren’t ready) is very difficult. We can help you assess your readiness with a short phone call. To set up such a call, simply send us an e-mail. Also, be aware that, since we implemented the discovery phase in our Process Advantage® process, we’re batting 1000 in supporting change in client organizations.
The rest of the story
To read the rest of the articles in this series on change click on any of the links below: