Over the last few months we have published articles with business
process improvement ideas from lean, six-sigma and the theory of
constraints. Many leading organisations have used them to transform their organisations. Yet many more have tried them and failed to obtain the exponential improvements promised. For all the popularity of various improvement initiatives and management fads that have come and gone, the truth is that in majority of the cases the changes made just do not last. Where lies the differencebetween both types of organisation?
Seeing one initiative after another start out with loud bombast and end in a fizzle leads to disenchantment and loss of faith in
management and its motives. It is therefore important to pinpoint
the reasons for the failure of change initiatives and learn to
Lack of Strong and Visible Support from the Top:
This is probably the most common cause of failure of many
improvement initiatives. The importance attached by the leadership of the organisation, as deciphered from their behaviours will determine the degree of momentum that can be generated and alignment that can be created around the desired change. Organisational culture has been described by no less than Larry Bossidy, as nothing more or less than the behaviour of its
Absence of a Systematic Change Management Process:
The persons championing the change are usually high in technical
ability but may possess a low level of situational awareness and
have little or no formal knowledge of change dynamics. At the
organisational level there may be no shared model of how change
occurs and what levers can be adjusted to make it successful. Thus the change process is haphazardly managed and outcomes are not clearly successful, or sustained.
Absence Critical Elements In, And/Or Wrong Sequence Change
Management Process Steps:
One of the simplest and most generic models of change is that
described by Kurt Lewin. Here, change is seen as occurring in the
unfreeze change refreeze sequence. This sequence is not
alterable. Just as in the sales process (AttentionInterestDesireAction) you cannot jump from drawing the prospects attention to your offering, to demanding action in the form of patronage, so in managing change within the organisation the correct sequence must be followed.
The Change Management Process
Change management has been defined as the process of developing a
planned approach to change, and deals mainly with the human aspects of change, particularly the use of communication to clarify the vision, convey urgency and overcome resistance. A number of other models exist, which can be seen as elaborations of the Kurt Lewin model. These include the change formula and the Kotter sequence among many.
Vision X Dissatisfaction X First Steps > Resistance
The step of unfreezing the organisation in readiness for change is done by creating awareness and desire. This in Kotter’s model
involves creating a sense of urgency, creating the guiding
coalition, developing a vision of change and communicating the
vision. At the end of a successful unfreezing, the stakeholders are dissatisfied with the current state of affairs, have a clear vision of a better future and are desirous of change.
To create the change actions are taken to provide the knowledge required and the ability to implement the change. This empowers broad based action by clearing obstacles, changing systems and structures where necessary and encouraging risk taking. Those involved in implementing the change can quickly generate short term wins, which then provides further confidence, credibility and momentum to consolidate the gains and create more of the desired change.
The refreeze step of the sequence is where the new behaviours and practices occasioned by change become embedded in the culture of the organisation. A change in culture cannot be “ordered” into place. New approaches will become cultural norms only after they have proven superior to former ones. Even then plenty of communication is required. Lencionni’s view that one of the main tasks of leadership is to “over communicate organisational clarity” is right on the mark here. Key people wedded to old practices and unwilling or unable to embrace the new ways must leave the organisation, or the risk of regression will remain high.
Samuel Okoro is the CEO of Leapfrog Alliance Ltd, a management training and consulting firm that helps organisations to reduce costs and improve quality through better business processes. His personal passion is to help move Third World business to world-class levels. For further details please visit http://leapfrogalliance.com/resources.html.