Climbing the Mountain of Change

If you are going to through a change like Lean or Six Sigma there are many things you want to consider.  One fact is that at best only 30% of any kind of change you do is typically sustainable and gets the results you had hoped for.  Here are the variables that will help you be successful:

  • There is a technical component what to do and the behavioral  component of how to change people’s behaviors.  If you do one without the other you are setting yourself up for failure.
  • Build from a burning platform or a shared aspiration/vision.  Each have their unique traits and building from shared aspiration/vision is much easier and appeals to people more than a fear based approach of the burning platform.  Appreciative Inquiry is a great way to build a shared vision for your group.
  • Start small with manageable projects that are smaller in scope.
  • Start with a need start with a project that aligns to strategic goals and performance goals first to gain momentum.
  • A common mistake I also see is hiring outside “expertise.”  You should hire outside facilitation of the change not experts in your day to day work.  Although needed subject matter experts will not increase your chance of success and can in fact hurt success.  You want someone who is first a facilitator of the change and can guide and teach your people on the process and bring the best out of them.  Ultimately if the people who work the area come up with solutions it will be more likely that those changes will stay.  
  • Understand that change is non-linear.  You will take steps back an take leaps forward and change takes time.  A true company change can take up to 4-5 years in a company that has about 100 employees so be patient.
  • One factor that doesn’t get talked about enough is resonant leaders.  This is different from sponsorship support.  Think of the best boss you had and how he/she made you feel and how you worked for him/her.  That boss is more than likely a resonant leader.  The bad news is that about 80% of leaders are not effective or resonant.  The good news is that you can help develop people.  Resonant leaders are one’s with higher emotional intelligence as well as have a certain level of competence with their job.  You can find out more about Emotional Intelligence and it’s importance in some of the past article’s I’ve written: Combining Lean and Emotional Intelligence , and The Missing Link to Six Sigma – Emotional Intelligence
  • Be inclusive to make sure you get representation form a broad group.  Even when you start small be sure to communicate what you are doing and make sure everyone knows.  The more you are inclusive the better the odds of the change sticking.
  • This is a big one be flexible with methodology.  What works well for your environment may not work well at another and vice versa.  Don’t be married to particular tools and methods from a Lean methodology or  Six Sigma tool chest.
  • For change to happen learning has to happen.  Learning is not just formal class room settings but a process that involves theory, simulation, reflection, and actual implementation.  Without these key pieces you won’t learn as effectively as an organization.

These are some of the items you should be aware of when you start a change effort like Lean or Six Sigma.  there are many other factors like alignment to strategic plans that are needed but don’t have to be implemented right away.