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Impact Elements Discussion 48

July 20, 2013 Headline News, Leadership No Comments Email Email

egtmedia59Aloha, good day and welcome back to Impact: Elements. During our many weeks together we have covered much ground.

We have introduced many topics some of which might have been familiar to you and some of which I am sure are new. And in some ways we have suggested that you change, and in the weeks ahead we will offer even more thoughts that if accepted by you will require change. With that in mind I thought it might be most beneficial if this week we offered some thoughts on implementing and managing change. To do so I’ll share some thoughts from a paper written by Mr. Fred Nichols in 2004.

The Task of Managing Change

            The most obvious definition of change management is that the term refers to the task of Success Compass English JPEGmanaging change. The obvious is not necessarily unambiguous. Managing change is itself a term that has at least two meanings.

One meaning of managing change refers to the making of changes in a planned and managed or systematic fashion. The aim is to more effectively implement new methods and systems in an ongoing organization. The changes to be managed lie within and are controlled by the organization.  Perhaps the most familiar instance of this kind of change is the change or version control aspect of information system development projects.  However, these internal changes might have been triggered by events originating outside the organization, in what is usually termed the environment. Hence, the second meaning of managing change, namely, the response to changes over which the organization exercises little or no control (e.g., legislation, social and political upheaval, the actions of competitors, shifting economic tides and currents, and so on). Researchers and practitioners alike typically distinguish between a knee-jerk or reactive response and an anticipative or proactive response.

The Change Process as Problem Solving and Problem Finding

            A very useful framework for thinking about the change process is problem solving. Managing change is seen as a matter of moving from one state to another, specifically, from the problem state to the solved state. Diagnosis or problem analysis is generally acknowledged as essential. Goals are set and achieved at various levels and in various areas or functions. Ends and means are discussed and related to one another. Careful planning is accompanied by efforts to obtain buy-in, support and commitment. The net effect is a transition from one state to another in a planned, orderly fashion. This is the planned change model.

The word ‘problem’ carries with it connotations that some people prefer to avoid. They choose instead to use the word ‘opportunity’.  For such people, a problem is seen as a bad situation, one that shouldn’t have been allowed to happen in the first place, and for which someone is likely to be punished if the guilty party (or a suitable scapegoat) can be identified. For the purposes of this effort, we will set aside any cultural or personal preferences regarding the use of ‘problem’ or ‘opportunity’.  From a rational, analytical perspective, a problem is nothing more than a situation requiring action but in which the required action is not known. Hence, there is a requirement to search for a solution, a course of action that will lead to the solved state.

From the preceding discussion, it follows that problem finding is the search for situations requiring action. Whether we choose to call these situations problems (because they are troublesome or spell bad news), or whether we choose to call them opportunities (either for reasons of political sensitivity or because the time is ripe to exploit a situation) is immaterial. In both cases, the practical matter is one of identifying and settling on a course of action that will bring about some desired and predetermined change in the situation.

The Change Problem

            At the heart of change management lies the change problem, that is, some future state to be realized, some current state to be left behind, and some structured, organized process for getting from the one to the other. The change problem might be large or small in scope and scale, and it might focus on individuals or groups, on one or more divisions or departments, the entire organization, or one or on more aspects of the organization’s environment. —-In simpler terms, the change problem can be treated as smaller problems having to do with the how, what, and why of change.

Change as a How Problem

            The change problem is often expressed, at least initially, in the form of a How question. How do we get people to be more open, to assume more responsibility, to be more creative? How do we introduce self-managed teams in Department W? How do we change over from System X to System Y in Division Z? How do we move from a mainframe-centered computing environment to one that accommodates and integrates PCs? How do we get this organization to be more innovative, competitive, or productive? How do we raise more effective barriers to market entry by our competitors? How might we more tightly bind our suppliers to us? How do we reduce cycle times? In short, the initial formulation of a change problem is means-centered, with the goal state more or less implied. There is a reason why the initial statement of a problem is so often means-centered and we will touch on it later. For now, let’s examine the other two ways in which the problem might be formulated as What or as Why questions.

Change as a What Problem

            As was pointed out in the preceding section, to frame the change effort in the form of How questions is to focus the effort on means. Diagnosis is assumed or not performed at all. Consequently, the ends sought are not discussed. This might or might not be problematic. To focus on ends requires the posing of What questions. What are we trying to accomplish? What changes are necessary? What indicators will signal success? What standards apply? What measures of performance are we trying to affect?

Change as a Why Problem

            Ends and means are relative notions, not absolutes; that is, something is an end or a means only in relation to something else. Thus, chains and networks of ends-means relationships often have to be traced out before one finds the true ends of a change effort. In this regard, Why questions prove extremely useful.

Consider the following hypothetical dialogue with yourself as an illustration of tracing out ends-means relationships.

Why do people need to be more creative?

I’ll tell you why! Because we have to change the way we do things and we need ideas about how to do that.

Why do we have to change the way we do things?

Because they cost too much and take too long.

Why do they cost too much?

Because we pay higher wages than any of our competitors.

Why do we pay higher wages than our competitors?

Because our productivity used to be higher, too, but now it’s not.

Eureka! The true aim is to improve productivity!

No it isn’t; keep going.

Why does productivity need to be improved?

To increase profits.

Why do profits need to be increased?

To improve earnings per share.

Why do earnings per share need to be improved?

To attract additional capital.

Why is additional capital needed?

We need to fund research aimed at developing the next generation of products.

Why do we need a new generation of products?

Because our competitors are rolling them out faster than we are and gobbling up market share.

Oh, so that’s why we need to reduce cycle times.

Hmm. Why do things take so long?

To ask Why questions is to get at the ultimate purposes of functions and to open the door to finding new and better ways of performing them. Why do we do what we do? Why do we do it the way we do it?

            One More Time: How do you manage change?

The honest answer is that you manage it pretty much the same way you’ll manage anything else of a turbulent, messy, chaotic nature, that is, you don’t really manage it, you grapple with it. It’s more a matter of leadership ability than management skill.

The first thing to do is jump in. You can’t do anything about it from the outside.

A clear sense of mission or purpose is essential. The simpler the mission statement the better. Kick ass in the marketplace is a whole lot more meaningful than Respond to market needs with a range of products and services that have been carefully designed and developed to compare so favorably in our customers eyes with the products and services offered by our competitors that the majority of buying decisions will be made in our favor.

Build a team. Lone wolves have their uses, but managing change isn’t one of them. On the other hand, the right kind of lone wolf makes an excellent temporary team leader.

Maintain a flat organizational team structure and rely on minimal and informal reporting requirements.

Pick people with relevant skills and high energy levels. You’ll need both.

Toss out the rulebook. Change, by definition, calls for a configured response,  not adherence to prefigured routines.

Shift to an action-feedback model. Plan and act in short intervals. Do your analysis on the fly. No lengthy up-front studies, please.

Set flexible priorities. You must have the ability to drop what you’re doing and tend to something more important.

Treat everything as a temporary measure. Don’t lock in until the last minute, and then insist on the right to change your mind.

Ask for volunteers. You’ll be surprised at who shows up. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by what they can do.

Find a good straw boss or team leader and stay out of his or her way.

Give the team members whatever they ask for except authority. They will generally ask only for what they really need in the way of resources. If they start asking for authority, that’s a signal they’re headed toward some kind of power-based confrontation and that spells trouble. Nip it in the bud!

Concentrate dispersed knowledge. Start and maintain an issues logbook. Let anyone go anywhere and talk to anyone about anything. Keep the communications barriers low, widely spaced, and easily hurdled. Initially, if things look chaotic, relax, they are.

Hold these thoughts and use them. Read them and others that you can find regarding change implementation and change management. The process of change can be a bit scary if not carefully thought out. But it can also be exciting and most rewarding. And in the ever-changing 21st century within which we live it is surely necessary.

Thank you for your time and interest in Impact: Elements. Next week we will continue with our discussions as we begin to look at the thought “What gets measured gets managed.” Till then, aloha.

Written by : Bill Hurley

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