In Prosci's experience, there is one particular type of change that is often overlooked when we talk about which efforts need change management. Replacing a technology or system, introducing new and documented processes, restructuring or merging - these are all easily identified as change efforts that require change management. However, when organizations work to introduce improvement systems, they often forget that change management is a necessary and critical element to being successful. Introducing an approach or system for improving the organization requires as much, if not more, change management than any direct change to how the business operates.
We use the term "improvement system" to mean the approaches, methodologies, tools and technologies that organizations use to bring about improvements in how the organization operates. These are management approaches for isolating issues and finding solutions, and they are often the catalyst for specific changes to technologies, processes, job roles or organization structures. Some examples of these systems that are popular in industry today include:
You may be familiar with some of these systems that are being used by your organization. You may have other systems your organization is applying to improve performance. The important note here is this - each of these improvement systems requires individuals to behave differently. Just as a new web-based tool for your sales force requires a change in individual behavior and work flow, improvement systems require a change in how people in the organization do their jobs.
Improvement systems pose their own unique change management challenges. And when the people side of an improvement system is ignored, there are consequences like slower adoption, work arounds, resistance and ultimately not creating the necessary improvements for the organization.
When thinking about installing improvement systems like Lean or Six Sigma, it is important to think about the two waves of change that are created from a people perspective. The first "wave" is the actual implementation of the improvement system. The second "wave" - or more accurately second "waves" - comes from applying or using the improvement system. These are the particular recommendations that result when the improvement system is put to use. Two examples below illustrate these waves of change:
In many cases, the first "wave" of an improvement system is the one that is not managed effectively from a people side of change perspective. Organizations and leaders become so enamored by the improvement system they have decided to employ that they neglect to bring people along in the process. Perhaps a single email goes out from the new head of Lean that says "we are using Lean" - or perhaps there is a single newsletter article about how the organization will begin using Appreciative Inquiry. Then, all of a sudden front-line employees start hearing about changes they will have to make to their day-to-day work, with no context as to why the changes are happening in the first place.
Organizations that are installing new approaches to improving how they operate must first manage the change of introducing that new improvement system, and then they must manage the changes that come from applying the system. Both waves of change need to apply a structured process for building employee engagement and support - i.e. they both need change management to be successful. The results of not managing these waves can be resistance, opting out of the improvement system and a general feeling of "here we go again" or "well, this must be the next flavor of the month that management is chasing."
There are a number of lessons that can be learned by applying an individual change model to the installation of an improvement system. Below is a simple breakdown of the Prosci ADKAR Model for the change:
Awareness of the need for the new improvement system
Desire to participate and support the new improvement system
Knowledge on how to use the new improvement system
Ability to implement the skills and behaviors required by the new improvement system
Reinforcement to sustain the new improvement system
As with any change, the success of an improvement system will ultimately be tied to whether or not individuals can make their own personal transitions successfully. The ADKAR Model provides an effective framework for thinking through the individual change management aspects of the changes associated with implementing a new approach to improving how the organization operates. Read more about Prosci's ADKAR Model in the blog article, How to Introduce Change Management by Audience.
Ultimately, a structured change management approach should be applied to the effort of rolling out a new way of improving how the business or organization operates. But for now, think about just a few change management best practices and how they apply to new improvement systems.
The examples so far have related to particular operational and collaborative systems like Lean, Appreciative Inquiry and Six Sigma. However, there are two prominent improvement systems where this thinking should also be applied:
When an organization decides to adopt a common approach for project management or change management, it is creating a change to how people work. Think about this from the perspective of an experienced project manager. For her entire career, she has been managing projects by following a process and using a set of tools she created from her numerous experiences. Then one day, someone sends an email that says: "We have adopted a standard project methodology. Starting tomorrow, you will follow our new process and use our tool set." This is a dramatic people-side change, but one that is often ignored or neglected. The team who has spent months researching and identifying the organizational standard may think that they are not causing a change, they are merely deploying a standard approach. But for the people who are managing change, the standard approach can be incredibly disruptive. Likewise, when you begin asking senior leaders to be good sponsors and managers to coach their employees through change as part of your change management plans, you are asking them to change how they work.
While change management and project management are disciplines applied to particular changes in an organization, the broader deployment or adoption of a common methodology is a significant change management challenge - one that needs the same rigor and structured process as any change that impacts how people do their jobs.
This blog examined some of the change management implications of installing a new improvement system in an organization. Ask yourself the following questions:
Prosci's Certification Program is a great opportunity to begin thinking about the change management aspects of deploying new improvement system. In the program, participants are required to bring a real project they are working on as a case study - and as they learn the principles and methodology they are applied to the project that is currently underway. If you are working on deploying an improvement system in your organization, you should seriously consider attending a certification program and using it as the change case study for your certification experience.
Tim Creasey is Prosci’s Chief Innovation Officer and a globally recognized leader in change management. His work forms the foundation of the largest body of knowledge in the world on managing the people side of change to deliver organizational results.