Ok, we are close to the end of our series on implementing change. If you have been following along with us through the steps thus far, you will have already completed the design of an innovative new process that will gain 20-50% improvement in performance, and your design team is excited to implement their creation. So, what could go wrong? The answer is “plenty.” The 66% failure rate in implementing change includes many projects that have made it this far in the process. Therefore, our final four issues in this series will focus on how to finish strong and close the deal.
There is an old adage that a well-executed, lesser quality plan or decision will outperform a superior plan that is not as well executed. I have found this to be true, especially when it comes to process change. Part of execution is to maintain change momentum created in the design phase as you begin the difficult work of change.
To summarize, the bottom line of the final four issues in this series on implementing change is all about maintaining momentum for change.
Where momentum can be lost
In order to maintain momentum, it is helpful to identify some culprits that can steal it away. The first? The design team that created the innovative solution to improve process performance can surprisingly loose heart quickly. As they leave the Design Conference, before their new solutions can be implemented, they must go back to completing their day-to-day work in the existing process that they have just analyzed and found to be wanting. This can become dispiriting. Most of these employees will have experienced failed changes somewhere in their work life, and skepticism that this change will be pulled off grows as a protective mechanism against the disappointment they fear is coming.
Second, their co-workers, who weren’t part of the design process are, at a minimum, highly skeptical and oftentimes hostile, as if the design team’s invalidation of the way the process is done now is some sort of betrayal. So, the design team members have to endure damage to relationships that they value.
Third, management grows impatient with the slow nature of change and fails to deliver the support that is key to getting across the finish line. (More on this in a future issue.)
How to establish momentum for change
In Process Advantage®, we end our Design Conference by asking groups to identify two momentum-building parts of future implementation while the new design is fresh in their mind.
- What are the needed changes to implement the new process, e.g. policy, staffing modifications, software development, training, equipment, etc.?
- What are the Early Releases? These are the smaller improvements that could be made to the existing system before the major changes necessary to fully implement the new process are available. We call these Early Releases, “low hanging fruit.”
And implementing low hanging fruit establishes momentum for change. Why? Because:
- The design/implementation team maintains a positive outlook since the early releases allow small (and sometimes large) improvements quickly, i.e. their design work has made a difference right away.
- Tackling low hanging fruit signals to skeptical co-workers that, unlike what they may have experienced in the past, this change is going to happen, and it is positive.
- And finally, the early releases show management that a return on their investment in the change process will be had.
Where to find the low hanging fruit
Low hanging fruit includes changes that do not require extensive expense, training or time to implement. Examples of low hanging fruit from our experience:
- For an air freight carrier: Inform customers and then implement a new express lane, utilize the graveyard shift to pre-build loads for first flights, implement a call center to handle a backlog of frustrated customers, improve signage to inform customers of new flow and new express lane. All of these smaller changes were made successfully prior to the major process change, which involved construction to accommodate the new system and customers utilizing on-site kiosks or home computers to complete on-line airway bills previously completed by air freight carrier staff.
- For an HR Hiring Process: Convert background check request form to an electronic format, track hiring status using a new process that better informs managers of status, reorganize HR positions allowing more resources to be devoted to recruiting, improve interviewing skills of hiring authorities. All of these smaller changes were made prior to a much larger scale process change involving new hiring software.
Managing early releases
Early releases send the clear signal throughout the organization that this major change initiative will be both successful and effective, providing the momentum needed to carry the project from the design phase into the work required to implement the new process. The implementation plan for the entire change process (see next issue) should include a track specifically devoted to managing these Early Releases or low hanging fruit, and they should be tightly managed in order to establish the momentum so vital to ultimate success.
What you can do
Want to get started on low hanging fruit? Look in your change initiative for those simpler changes that require less investment and less time to implement. Then design a simple process to roll those changes out. If you need help getting started or would like more information on establishing momentum for your change project, contact us, and we will set up a time to talk about it with you.
The rest of the story
To read the rest of the articles in this series on change click on any of the links below: