Changes, Changes Everywhere

It is sometimes unfortunate that ICHQ10 defines Change Management as “A systematic approach to proposing, evaluating, approving, implementing and reviewing changes.” This lifecycle approach can sometimes confuse people as they are used to the definition popular elsewhere that change management is “the discipline that guides how we prepare, equip and support individuals to successfully adopt change in order to drive organizational success and outcomes.”

I tend to think this is an issue of focus and lack of coherence in the organization that stems from:

  • Not understanding that all changes are to a system that involves people, organization, technology and process
  • Balkanized change processes leads to changes being atomized or channeled though discrete processes that do not drive system thinking

Both of these can lead to a change going to a default change control process and not appropriately dealing with all aspects of the change. Teams tend to have their default (IT puts everything in as a computer change, facilities always uses a an equipment change) but those defaults are not built to deal with a change holistically.

Change is a movement out of a current state (how things are today), through a transition state, and to a future state (how things will be done). Change management needs to be about how we manage that change from the entire system – people, organization, technology and process. Only by approaching change from a full system perspective do we ensure the full benefit and avoid unintended consequences.

Change Identification

Changes come from everywhere. They are driven by other quality processes, by business needs, by innovation. To quickly address change it is important to have a good funnel system that will get the change to evaluation.

Change Evaluation

All changes should be evaluated for risk and impact. This evaluation is iterative and determines the level and form of evaluation.

Change Control

Right sized change control based on risk and impact. Some changes are one-and-done. But many are multi-faceted, and it is important to structure it appropriately.

I’ve written a lot on change management that covers this in more detail. Explore them here

Changes stems from learning from mistakes

As we build quality culture we need to question our basic assumptions and build new principles of every day interactions. At the heart of this sits a culture where change is viewed as a good thing.

Willingness to change

To what extent are employees willing to continuously review and adapt their own behavior in response to a changing environment? The ideal scenario is for the entire workforce to be willing to change. This willingness to change should not be confined to situations where changes are already being implemented. It means that people should look at environment with open eyes, recognize when there is an opportunity or a need for change and initiate the relevant actions themselves. Willingness to change should be the first principle of culture and is a key enabler of the popular concept often called agility.

Learning Culture

To what extent do employees think that their actions should be guided by data- and fact-based knowledge? The term “knowledge” encompasses any knowledge acquired through targeted observation, by chance, through data-based analysis or from practical experience.

Willingness to make mistakes

Learning cultures attach great importance to mistakes. These organizations have understood that learning and change processes can only be triggered by mistakes. Mistakes provide an opportunity to gain a better understanding of the company’s processes and uncover previously unknown cause-and-effect relationships.

The way an organization deals with mistakes is therefore a key aspect of its culture. Two fundamentally different approaches to mistakes exist.

  • A negative attitude towards mistakes is reflected in a strategy based on the systematic avoidance of errors, strict penalties for making mistakes and the correction of errors as rapidly and unobtrusively as possible. Employees of companies where this culture prevails are not usually willing to disclose mistakes. This attitude inhibits their willingness to change.
  • On the other hand, a culture that recognizes the value of mistakes is characterized by open discussion of mistakes when they occur, systematic error documentation and a determination to find both the causes of the mistakes and their solutions. When investigating mistakes, it is critical to focus on understanding the causes rather than on finding out who is to blame.

Openness to Innovation

Openness to innovation and new ways of doing things is an important capability that is required in order to initiate change and adopt the right measures, even if they may sometimes be rather unconventional.

Social Collaboration

An environment characterized by trust and social relationships provides the basis for open, uninhibited knowledge sharing between employees. Social collaboration, helps to accelerate knowledge sharing within the organization. Good strong social networks build resilience and enable the ability to change.

Open Communication

In order for companies to respond rapidly and to be able to effectively change, employees need to have access to the necessary explicit and implicit knowledge. While explicit knowledge can be provided through the appropriate communication technology, the sharing of implicit knowledge calls for direct communication between the people who possess the knowledge and the people seeking it.

An effective organization needs to abandon the “us and them” mentality. Employees have acquired the capability of open communication if, having taken on board the fact that openly sharing knowledge and working together to achieve a vision increases the total sum of knowledge, they then also act
accordingly. Once the organization’s entire workforce is willing to share knowledge with everyone, it becomes possible to significantly accelerate learning processes within the company.

What Does This Look Like?

Social collaboration exists between employees and with customers and partners. Confidence in systems and processes results in high process stability. People are willing to document their acquired knowledge and share it with others. The democratic leadership style values people for the contribution they make and there is a culture of open communication. The workforce is both receptive and willing to change. They learn systematically from the captured data, are open to innovative approaches and participate in shaping change processes. Employees are also conscious of the need to continuously develop their skills and competencies. While mistakes are still made, people recognize that they are valuable because they have the potential to trigger improvements.

Where we need to be