In my Asian work and travels there has been a lot of talk and interest surrounding Singapore’s declining productivity. The Singapore Training and Development Association (STADA) asked if I would provide an article for their web site slanted toward organizational change processes in productivity improvement and that is what you are reading here. The article, along with reports from STADA members on ASTD’s certificate programs and recent international conference in Chicago, IL can be found by following this link.
Singapore’s government has stepped up, providing funding, underwriting extensive training and supports the development of organizational change agent capabilities. All of these are good, positive steps to increase productivity, but…
The approach needs to be as complex as the situation meaning that a systemic approach, rather than a collection of pointed and well-intended actions that are unlinked or not inter-connected so as to drive productivity.
Taking a step back to address the overall situation, setting a well-understood context, structuring assets for success and engaging the people will give management and the government a systemic view of the problem and also form the basics of a systemic plan to improve it.
In managing any change or problem executive management must accomplish an analysis of the situation to determine where they are and where or what they want to accomplish. In other words, determine a desired future state and with that as a goal, start building a bridge of activities what will reach it from your present state.
Certainly you will want to get senior management to articulate:
- How you define productivity and what they want it to be? How will they know when the organization gets there? Metrics?
- What are the risks of failure and at what cost to the organization and the enterprise?
Structure For Change:
Once you are clear as to where you are and where you want to go, you will need to establish a special structure to work the organization through the productivity improvement processes.
Form follows function so given your “charter” to move to your desired state look at how you will organize to resolve your productivity issues. Select change leaders, project managers/change agents. Put the right people with the right skills in the right places, and if they do not have the skills, skill them up to enable them to do the job. Also, insure that they are supported with the right tools and technology to enhance efficiencies, make them more productive and to insure success.
Change leaders need to be designated and these are the people who have the political, economic and logistic powers to say “do it!” Without them totally committed to engage in productivity initiatives, as well as providing the people, space, budgets and support to the effort, you will be wasting your time.
Change Agents are the project managers, the ones who actually are doing the work. In the best case scenario, change leaders can step up and perform also as change agents, but generally change agents work FOR AND WITH change leaders as their “agents”, deriving their power from the change leaders. Change agents must understand how change is planned for, implemented and managed. The field of change management has many concepts, tools and techniques that are tailored to project and organization. Without change-savvy change agents, all the good intentions in the world will not change the organization.
Each key change leader should have a change agent and should have a change team or project team to develop their implementation plan and to work the productivity initiatives within their areas of responsibility. Establishing a network of change leaders and change agents throughout the organization helps to insure that resources, focus and efforts are appropriately change-oriented.
There will always be resistance to any change of what is considered “normal” or “status quo.” You must anticipate the resistance, plan for it and engage in resolving it throughout the change processes. Communications, especially upward communications are one of the essential ways to mitigate resistance.
Cultures are everywhere and serve as the environment in which change takes place. Organizations have different cultures by level, function and geography. And the organizational culture resides within industry, local and national cultures, all of which need to be considered in light of what culture could do to disrupt your change efforts.
Your very best, and smartest, way of dealing with culture is to ensure that the changes are within the cultural values and beliefs. Change agents must be sensitive in their setting of the context of changes so as to make the connection that these changes are OK for us.
Engage all of your people:
Once structured for change, sell the desired state through a multi-faceted communications program and activities. Make the “why” connection with each and every level and functional area within the organization so as to get their attention, but to generate the motivation that “we have to do this.”
Get everyone involved, especially management. Announce the specific names of senior management responsible for success factors along with the names of those change agents/project managers who will be driving the initiatives for management. Invite engagement from the employees and announce incentives and rewards which will be bestowed upon accomplishment of milestones.
Make productivity improvement “worth it” for all.
Look at how you do your work. Have the employees lay out their particular processes…without management present. You don’t want management to be dictating what the process is or will be, so let the employees describe the real way they work. Bring in experienced facilitators or consultants to work these employee teams if your change agents are not skilled up in this area.
Once the “as-is” processes are graphically laid out, streamline them with the goal being to streamline and maximize technology, tools and expertise in all work flows, processes and procedures. Specifically, eliminate redundant activities along with administrative and management delays.
Management then reviews the recommendations.
The re-engineering process will help in identifying candidates for outsourcing. Outsource those functions to enhance productivity and to lower costs by taking them “outside.”
Rewards and Incentives:
Make productivity improvement a worthwhile activity to everyone, especially all levels of management. “What’s In It For Me (WIIFM) is the name of the game. Make it fun. Have competitions, give spot awards, regularly recognize achievements, and spotlight stellar players and managers who are fully engaged.
Ask the employees what THEY want. You will be surprised and in most cases, if that is what they want, set it up so they can earn it.
And the rewards have to be linked to productivity improvement: People either met the criteria for reward, or did not. Only those that clearly did meet the criteria get the rewards and recognition. No promotions, rewards or perks for those that did not.
Throughout the organization, management must be consistent, firm and fair. If executive management is not fully engaged, the lower and middle management will hold back so it is critical that they be seen as the change leaders.
Establish by-name responsibilities for productivity improvement and tie those directly into your performance management system. It puts productivity improvement as an official part of their jobs. This is critical and will be the area of most resistance in that managers generally will shy away from “being on the blame line” by name and in writing.
Call them what you will, like project managers, but skill-up your best people to do the work of the productivity initiatives WITH, not FOR their managers.
The managers are ultimately responsible for success, so hold them to it.
By giving them power house agents, project managers, you are enabling your management to succeed, rather than leave them to figure it out themselves. And, giving managers additional assets echeloned to handle the initiatives allows those managers to focus on their functional areas and keep the business running.
Management must be visibly and directly involved in making productivity THE priority.
And this is just the beginning. So, be clear as to what it is that you want your organization to achieve by articulating the desired state along with the specific metrics that describe success. Involve everyone. Clean up the organization by structuring your productivity efforts with dedicated, skilled-up change agents and committed management. Take a hard look at how you do your work and who is delivering value. Re-engineer and/or outsource processes and functions.
And have fun doing it.
When Daryl Conner put together his Managing Organizational Change (MOC) methodology he included discussion on commitment, since commitment to change is what is absolutely necessary to move from the status quo or present state to a desired future state. Later, when we put together Managing at the Speed of Change we included the commitment curve and an explanation as to how to use it in consulting work.
A comment on Managing at the Speed of Change: Is remains an outstanding primer for those wanting to know the basics of organizational change. Many other books and articles have since been published, but Managing at the Speed of Change should be on every manager’s and every consultant’s bookshelf.
In managing change it is essential to not only describe desired state which could be a vision, an end state, a future state or simply a description as where the organization needs to go. The more detail, the less resistance to change and the greater the ease of building commitment to get there. That said, a description of the desired state is not enough. (See an earlier post: You Can’t Just Say ‘Fix It’ )
Since people and organizations are always in some form of status quo or present state, we have to make the case for change in order to get their commitment to leave or change the status quo and venture through a process to get to the desired state. In the beginning of any change effort people are more committed to the present than they are to the future. Why? Because even if the present state is dysfunctional or uncomfortable, they are comfortable with it because they know how to operate within it. Even though change might be desirable, there is a danger is leaving the security of what is known into some desired state that is more unknown than known.
The consultant or manager needs to sell the desired state while simultaneously de-selling the status quo: Why do we have to change? What are the benefits? What if we don’t change…what is the cost versus what it will cost to change? Making the case for change is an art form which will be covered in another posting, but for now we will look at commitment to change.
The commitment process is also a sales process. Looking at the commitment curve we start with making contact. If that contact is successful we achieve awareness. If we do not, we keep contacting until we do.
Contacting is best done in as many ways as possible: email, posters, announcements, all-hands meetings, celebrations…any means to bring attention that something is going to happen is the goal.
Once you have awareness, you can begin to give more and more information to develop understanding. To be successful in gaining commitment, that understanding needs to become positive understanding of the change and the need to make it happen. If it is negative understanding you need to continue to provide more and more information and to engage with the people or constituencies to help them understand and see the change as a positive and necessary thing to do.
Once you have achieved positive understanding you have not gained commitment. This is the first big mistake leaders and managers make: taking positive understanding for commitment. Until you ask them to do something you have not crosses the commitment threshold and have not been successful in getting them involved.
There are four levels of commitment with only three applicable to organizational change:
This is the lowest form of commitment as you are only asking your target to try something. Try this to see if it will work. If it does not work, we will try something else. I call this a fill or kill option. Commitment is easy since you are only asking for a trial.
Take the case of new software. You have a handful of programs and ask the IT department to see which ones will work on your system. Nothing more, for now. They boot them up and you now know which ones have potential.
Higher than installation, at this level you are not only asking your target to try something to see if it will work, but to live with it for a period of time to determine if it will do what we want it to do.
Continuing with the software analogy, you ask the IT department to use the programs that will work on your system to determine which ones work best for the work at-hand. This will require more time, will disrupt their current work and the IT department will owe you an analysis on their findings.
You are asking for a higher level of commitment and need to make the case as to why you need this work done and what it might be leading to as well as contributing to the organization.
Both installation and adoption have reversibility: you are not stuck with the results. The work are trials, tests to see what might work, not work or be worth using in the organization.
Institutionalization is commitment into an area or enterprise that is not reversible. Bringing in enterprise systems such as SAP or Baan cannot be done on a trial basis. Once you commit to it, you have to live with it and make it work. These enterprise systems are highly impactful, influencing just about every way that work is done thereby affecting people and processes. Try it? No. You can go to like organizations to see how it is working with them, but you need to develop this high commitment without return or retreat to bring it in and make it work.
This is the highest level of commitment and is not practical to ask for or demand this level within an organization. Internalization is a commitment whereby people believe that this is the best option and that they will live with it forever.
We do ask for commitment in interpersonal relationships and in religions, but this level is not practical for organizations, although there will be people who do have internalized commitments to aspects of the status quo. These are people deeply committed to the way things are and their entrenchment to the present state will require a very pointed and intense effort to get them to commit to change.
So as managers, leaders and consultants, look at what level of commitment you want from key players, key constituencies, people and organizational parts. Those that are most impacted by the change will need to be more highly committed than those who are not. Human Resources is not heavily impacted by an enterprise system coming into the organization unless a people package is included in it. But IT and procurement are target center, having to make huge adjustments to such a system.
So given the different levels of desired and required commitment, communications, frequency of contact, details of the change and inclusion are all tailored to people and organizational entities.
Just as another example, take these stages of building commitment and think about dating and seeking a partner, buying an automobile or getting a pet. Think about how businesses and sales people use these stages in getting you to make an institutionalized level of commitment.
And you be successful applying this model.
Mitch Kotula offers training, seminars and consulting in Change Management. I stand uniquely as one who has worked in this field since 1982 in a wide variety of organizations both internationally and domestically.
- I offer a comprehensive two- and three-day Change Planning Seminars whereby participants bring change projects or change teams together to actively learn and plan for implementation. Tools are provided to measure risk areas of sponsorship, resistance and culture along with supporting material so the process can be replicated within the organization. Although excellent for education in change management, these seminars are designed to specifically plan for real changes.
- Executive overviews from a few hours to one full day are available, tailored to your needs. Short overviews suitable for dinner speaking occasions or conferences can be tailored from 30 minutes to over one hour of duration.
- Consulting interventions can be arranged where my associates and I work within your organization to plan for and implement a wide array of changes to include but are not limited to mergers and acquisitions, introduction of technology, realignments, strategic planning, scenario planning, personnel adjustments and problem solving.
- I have been conducting a Facilitating Organizational Change seminar as a contractor for the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) that provides concepts, skills, techniques as well as a methodology to become literate in change management and to enable participants to undertake a change management engagement. This two-day program is conducted through public sessions and can be brought inside organizations for delivery.
Those in-house programs are discounted from the public offering price and, most importantly, can be tailored to the specific needs of the hosting organization and the participants.
In 2010 I am currently set to deliver a Facilitating Organizational Change public session in Houston, TX, 14 – 15 October. More will be scheduled in 2010 by ASTD.
You can contact ASTD through their web site: http://www.astd.org, through Courtney Kriebs at 708-838-5847, email firstname.lastname@example.org or Amanda Miller at email@example.com, 703-683-9215. Ask for Mitch Kotulaas the facilitator, especially if you want to conduct a tailored in-house session.
Follow this link for a detailed description of this program, course outline and learning objectives and a personal taped description of this program by Mitch Kotula: http://www.astd.org/content/education/certificatePrograms/facilitatingOrganizationalChange/