Tuesday 18 October 2011

Kotter's 8 Steps to Transformation

You've decided you need to change - there's a problem, and it's got to stop.

You now understand the true purpose of the organisation - so you know where you're aiming and why.

You've understood the end-to-end process - and realise it's broken.

You now have two decisions:
  • What method do you use to design the work? - the technical design.
  • What method do you use to change the people process? - the social design.

I often wonder if these two questions are ever fully considered at the beginning of a transformation programme.  Do people realise there are ways to ensure the socio-technical systems design is the right one for them?  Are there really ways to ensure that the work is designed in a way guaranteed for success - scientifically? Do we really consider how people in the system might behave and react to change?  Do we recognise the difference between the work design, and the people that work in the system?

What Kotter offers is an approach to consider when designing your change programme to ensure everyone understands the process, and is ready to act to ensure success.

To read more:

Sunday 16 October 2011

Pick a hat!

It's easy to get stuck in a rut, or "turn native" when faced with a problem, a way of working, or when a decision is needed.

And when working in groups, you may also sometimes wonder where others' viewpoints are and where their suggestions (which may not always appear helpful) are coming from.

Edward do Bono suggests taking a number of different view points when in this type of situation as a way to guide the thinking process.

  • White - just consider the facts
  • Red - whats your gut feel
  • Black - apply logic to the flaws and problems
  • Yellow - apply logic to the good things
  • Green - be creative, what else could happen
  • Blue - think about the thinking process.

Read more at Wikipedia - and there's plenty on the web - search for de Bono thinking hats

Wednesday 12 October 2011

Changing upward

A few weeks ago I attended a conference where one of the speakers (a charismatic and knowledgeable young man) spoke about the need to engage the workforce in the change process. All good, sensible stuff.

During the presentation one of the attendees asked "but what if we can't get the senior managers to agree to the change?". The speaker explained that the senior team needed to be, and be seen to be, the driving force of the change and briefly touched on Kotter's Eight Steps (recommending all attendees should read the book). A good answer at the time.

Since the conference I've thought about that question more and think there are two main points that should have been discussed at the time:

1) If the senior team aren't convinced of the need for business change then the case for change must be flawed. Senior sponsorship is vital for any sort of success. If the senior team can't see the benefits, how likely are they to be delivered?

2) If the middle managers can't convince the senior team of the need for change how on earth are they going to convince the workforce?

Kotter's seminal book on change can be found here.

Tuesday 11 October 2011

Why do we assume that quality is expensive?

I was talking to a colleague recently, and began discussing some of the transformation work that I had undertaken to help improve customer service at a local authority. (See my blog entry here.)

Not for the first time, an assumption was very quickly made that an improvement to service, and a dramatic reduction in the time taken to complete the customers’ demand, would increase the cost of the service.

Anyone having read and followed some of Deming’s work, will have come across his Chain Reaction:

For a given task, operation, business or purpose, taking the effort to get it right first time every time, reduces cost because there are fewer mistakes, less re-work and less chasing.  As in my example in a recent posting, for half of all demand, we managed to design out the need for customers to call chasing us up on progress, and eliminating the wasteful hand-offs and re-work.

Who’d have thought – get it right first time, and it reduces total cost…

Monday 10 October 2011

Does it really take 6 weeks to get my claim sorted?!

So, you post your form off to the post office/tax office/council/insurance company/bank/cable company (* delete applicable). What happens next – from your perspective?

“They” are busy getting on with it – right?

Two weeks go by – so you give them a call?

You spend a while on the phone as they track down your details. Then they tell you they’re dealing with it – right?

A week later, you hear back – and they need more details from you. So, it’s another phone call, or you write a letter.

This happens a couple of times?

Then, after a many weeks – it’s finally completed – hooray!

Six weeks to get the job done. Sound familiar?

But has it really taken them six weeks to get you sorted. No - it hasn’t. Most everyday customer demand just doesn’t take that long to complete – so what is happening?

When you study the work, you find your query passing from one internal team to another, waiting in someone’s in-tray, reviewed by different experts, who then need to get hold of you, even though you’ve spoken to someone else in the organisation a couple of times already.

Frequently, 30 minutes of work ends up taking over a total of two hours, spread out over six weeks, and they’ve had to build a call-centre to handle all the failure demand calls coming in to chase progress, and spent £000’s on IT to “manage” the back-log.

Ask any member of staff in a system like that and they’ll know the problems, and most will know the solution too. With a change in thinking, great things can be achieved.

I’ve just completed working in one such system. It was already working quite well – with claims being processed in 13.5 days, and was about 50th out of 380 similar organisations.

Working with the whole team, we were able to:
  • line the processes up to maximise the benefits of a simple flow 
  • work on one application at a time 
  • see each one through to conclusion where possible. 

Within weeks:
  • the end-to-end time had more than halved to 6.5 days 
  • almost half of all new claims where dealt with there and then in 30 minutes 
  • customers were delighted 
  • staff satisfaction improved 
  • 4th best in the country 
Some say quality is more expensive – I disagree – its always better value. We’ve cut out the waste work in the process – which was proving to be very expensive.

Real change can happen with a willing and committed management team to have the vision, take the brave pill and see it through.

Interested: send me a mail - matt595@me.com

Sunday 9 October 2011

Steve Jobs - a Systems Thinker

A great deal has been written about Steve Jobs in the last few days - and my favourite was written by Horace Dediu on the asymco site (see links below). If ever there was a Systems Thinker, he was the man - making great business his way, and not getting sucked into "this is the way we've always done it" - a lesson for all of us:

  • Steve Jobs did not create products. He created an organization that predictably and reliably created emotionally resonant products.
  • Steve Jobs did not make movies. He made a company that predictably and reliably made blockbusters.
  • Steve Jobs did not wrest market share from competitors. He created new markets that attracted and sustained competitors.
  • Steve Jobs did not design anything. He gave others the freedom to think about what jobs products are hired to do.
  • Steve Jobs did not re-engineer processes. He brought engineering processes to works of creativity and the creative process to engineering.
  • Steve Jobs did not develop new management theories. He showed by example that innovation can be managed.
  • Steve Jobs was not a visionary. He put the dots together and saw where they led.
  • Steve Jobs was not a futurist. He just built the future one piece at a time.
  • Steve Jobs did not distort reality. He spoke what he believed would become reality at a time when those beliefs seemed far fetched.
  • Steve Jobs was not charismatic. He spoke from the heart compelling others to follow him.
  • Steve Jobs was not a gifted orator. He spoke plainly.
  • Steve Jobs was not a magician. He practiced, a lot.

He had taste.
He was curious.
He was patient.
He was foolish.
He was hungry.

These things many others can do. Maybe you can.

Link to the original article here.