Change Outcome – Virtually all organisations are undergoing change. Especially right now, with the impacts of Covid, companies are now challenged with multiple layers of driving change simultaneously. What is applicable in this situation is not about a particular methodology of implementing a change program. It is all about implementing simultaneous changes, at the same time. There is no luxury of just focusing on one change at a time, the result of competitive, industry, and environmental challenges.
As change practitioners we work closely with our colleagues in Operations to get ready for, implement, and fully embed changes. So how do our colleagues in operations view and manage change initiatives?
Operations as a function is focused on managing performance and delivery to ensure that the business runs smoothly, with little disruptions and that performance measures are achieved. Operations is focused on resource management, efficiency, and achieving the various operational indicators whether it’s customer satisfaction, turn-around time, average handling time, or cost target.
When times are hectic and there is a lot going on with multiple change initiatives, the key focus for Operations is on managing people capacity. Key questions to consider would be “Do we have sufficient time to cater for the various changes?”, and “Will we exceed our change saturation level?”. This is a critical question to answer since the business still needs to run and deliver services without negative change disruptions.
From an Operations planning perspective ‘change capacity‘ is often reduced to the time element, especially those impacting frontline staff.
- What are the times required to reschedule the call centre consultants off the phone to attend training?
- How much time is required in the team meeting agenda to outline the changes that are being rolled out?
- What is the time involvement of change champions?
Though these are all critical questions and clear answers will help Operations plan better to face into multiple changes. However this is not adequate. There is more to planning for multiple changes than just focusing on the time element.
Using the lego analogy to manage multiple changes
We all know LEGO as kids. To build a car we start one brick at a time and see how we go. We experiment with different colours, shapes and sizes. We make do with the bricks we have and use our imagination to come up with what a car would look like. Sometimes we get stuck and we may need to tweak our bricks a little, or sometimes start from scratch.
It is the same as implementing change initiatives. In order to take people along the journey, we implement a series of activities and interventions so that our impacted stakeholders are aware, ready, committed, and embed the change. The design on the change journey is the process of determining what LEGO bricks to choose. There is no short cut. It is not possible to build a building without each necessary brick to raise the building up. In implementing change, we also need to lay out each step in engaging our stakeholders.
McKinsey studies over decades have told us that one of the most critical factors to focus on in ensuring change outcome success is clear organisation-wide ownership and commitment to change across all levels. This means that when we design each change brick we need to ensure we target every level of impacted stakeholders.
Team Leaders: How often do we want Team Leaders to talk about the changes to their teams prior to the roll out? What content do we want them to use? Do they know how to translate the message in a way that resonates? Do we want them to tell compelling stories that talks to the what, why and how of the change?
Managers: How are managers made accountable? What metrics are they accountable for? What mediums do we want them to use to engage their teams? What are the consequences of not achieving the outcomes?
Senior Managers: Through what mediums do we expect senior managers to engage their teams about the changes? How do we ensure that they are personally accountable for the success of the change? How are they involved to ensure they own the change?
Looking at the above you can see that for complex change there may need to be a lot of bricks in place to ensure the change outcome is successful!
Going back to the issue of facing into multiple changes, how do we play around with the bricks to ensure that multiple changes are successful? The same way that we play with LEGO bricks!
- Look at the colours of the bricks. Do certain colours belong together? When we look across different initiatives, are there similar or common behaviours that can be better linked together to tell a compelling story? Do they support the same strategy? Can there be a joint-campaign for these changes?
- Is the overall LEGO structure going to be intact? What are the impacts of the various changes happening at the same time in terms of focus, performance and change outcome? Have we exceeded the likely ‘mental capacity’ for people to stay focused on a core set of changes at any one time? Will the pieced-together structure collapse due to having too many elements?
- Look at the sizes of the LEGO structures. During implementation when we have both larger and smaller initiatives being executed at the same time, will the larger ones overshadow the smaller ones? If so what are the risks if any?
- Re-jig or re-build parts of the LEGO structure as needed to see what it looks like. In a situation where we want to see what the changes look like before we action it, it makes sense to visualise what would happen if we move timelines or change implementation tactics
Example of data visualisation of ‘re-jigging’ change implementation timeline with The Change Compass using different scenarios.
Just like in building LEGO, for change initiatives we need to be agile and be flexible enough to play with and visualise what the change outcome could look like before pulling the trigger. We also need to be able to tweak as we go and adjust our change approaches as needed. In facing the multitude of changes that the organisation needs to be successful, we also need to be able to play with different implementation scenarios to picture how things will look like. Each brick needs to be carefully laid to reach the overall outcome.
Careful consideration also needs to be how all the bricks connect together – the analogy that the change outcomes across initiatives can be determined by how we’ve pieced together various pieces of LEGO for them to make sense, and result in the ownership and commitment of stakeholders.