The Natural Response to Change
Change is difficult. It’s hard. Especially in the business world. Whether the change involves a change in software or a change in process steps many organizations struggle mightily to execute and implement these changes. Part of the reason is a natural human tendency to be resistant to change. There’s no doubt that a range exists in the level of resistance person to person. But a key point to understand is that everyone has at least a little fear deep inside when something changes or they’re required to do something differently than what they’ve become accustomed to. There’s often an initial emotional reaction before a logical reaction settles in. Understanding and managing this dynamic is crucial to effectively and successfully implementing process improvements.
I always like to say the following to help make this point: A firm may have the best technology available and have a world-class process documented on paper, but if their people don’t buy-in it’s not worth very much. If you want to maximize your ROI on technology and process improvements, it’s an absolute must to spend time developing a strategy to address the human element of change.
Addressing the “Why”
There are two main questions to address to help bridge the gap between the initial emotional reaction to change and the longer-term reaction of logic. And both of them involve having a complete understanding of the “why” question. The first burning question everyone has when a process change is being introduced is:
“Why do we need to change?”
We call this the “Current State Tollgate”. Before you have a chance to secure buy-in to the new changes, you have to effectively answer this question and pass this tollgate mentally with your team. You need to show that this isn’t just about change for change sake.
The second question, assuming we have passed the first question, is:
“Why will these changes be better?”
We call this the “Future State Tollgate”. Assuming you’ve effectively explained the why as to why the need to change, you next need to make the jump and explain why the solutions you’re proposing are better than the current state. Everyone wants to know… What certainty can you provide that you’ve done your homework? Are these changes addressing the true opportunities for improvement? And once we get over the initial learning curve, will these changes drive efficiency?
Do your homework by explaining these two “why” questions and you’ll be much quicker to build the bridge to understanding.
Building the Case Through DMAIC
A powerful methodology to follow to make sure you’re effectively answering the “why” questions is to follow the Lean Six Sigma D-M-A-I-C process improvement model. The model involves following these five steps:
D – Define (Create the vision, define the objectives, identify the scope of the process change, and create timelines for project completion.)
M- Measure (Map out and thoroughly understand the current state of your process. Not what “should be” happening or what is documented on paper currently. Map out what is actually happening today – and all of the variation between offices and individuals.)
A – Analyze (Tear the process down. Identify the inefficiencies and waste. Identify the work loops and churn. Identify the quality issues. Ultimately, identify the areas of opportunity.)
I – Improve (Develop ideas and solutions into the areas of opportunity discovered during the Analyze phase. Make sure you’re not just applying best practices to a part of the process that isn’t a root cause area of weakness. That leads to ineffective change and convoluted processes. Document the future state process.)
C – Control (Take the time to train, roll out and implement the new process. This is where the nail must be hit on the head with regard to addressing the “why” questions. If you did your homework in Define, Measure, and Analyze, this step in the methodology is much smoother.)
Secure Your Organization’s Buy-In
You can invest time in the research, opportunity assessment, and strategy for implementation and see organizational change happen much more smoothly and effectively. Essentially, invest time and in return save immediate multiples of that time invested. Or, you can get caught up in the constant daily churn and say you don’t have time for doing your homework. And the results will be sub-optimal performance and execution of the change you’re adopting.
To leading organizations, it’s a no-brainer. Leading organizations understand the importance of understanding and explaining the “why” when changes are made. Following the DMAIC model is a great way to help secure buy-in through the “why” questions. You may not get 100% across the board initial buy-in, but you’ll be well past the threshold of resistance and will be on the path to success.