Thursday 20 February 2014

From A to B. The difference between Change Management and Work Design.

When I explain to people what it is that I do, the end result is often “Ah, you’re a change consultant.” The conversation rarely begins with “What are you actually changing to?”

It’s a bit like talking about a journey from A to B – and focusing solely on the car you’re driving, without ever considering where you’re actually going, or asking what’s wrong with where you are?

During your last ‘transformation’ programme, did you really know what you were aiming for? Did you scientifically know how best to design your work process? Did it at any time feel like you might not hit the target?

We may already know about various change methodologies. Kotter, for example, understood how people and teams work, and how to help them move in a different direction. Chip & Dan Heath have taken this type of thinking even further, with some really practical advice when faced with issues in the work place – and they make it look easy.

But this is all a waste time if you don't understand where you are now, and where you want to go. I find many people forget this – it’s very easy to be in the place called “It’s always been like this?”, and few question the status quo.

It’s the role of the management team to ask the ‘big picture’ questions, and find ways to do more for less. They need to be asking:
  • Why can’t we fix this “right first time”?
  • What’s stopping us from processing that paperwork immediately?
  • Can we use less material in that part?
This was Deming’s forte, and others like him. He understood what was wasteful in a process, and could see where re-work, error and cost had been accumulating in a system. He also understood what could work better.  He had method – Lean and Systems Thinking.

Modern names for this type of consultancy include work design, business process re-engineering, change management and business transformation.

But the original term was Operational Review:

Want to know more:
 - about Matt Arnold
 - give me a call on 07775 595 595
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Visit to the Czech Republic

I recently travelled to the Czech Republic to visit a training organisation, Centrum Andragogiky

Lean and Systems Thinking is well embedded in the Czech Rebublic and Centrum Andragogiky currently train many organisations both in service and manufacturing.

They know their stuff, both theory and practice.  Working with Laurie Denton and Paul Thomas from LD Associates we spent two days learning new strategies and tactics for establishing this culture.

Check the Management System

Business issues can often feel either complicated or complex – and sometimes both. And yet I regularly see senior management trying to find a simple solution. If only life were that easy!

I’m frequently asked to help diagnose serious business situations spanning 100s of employees doing their job, together with their team leaders, managers and directors.

What I’ve learned over the last decade, is that the individual problems I see are all quite simple – but that there are very many of them, and they all interact. They form a large ‘dynamic’, where everything impacts everything else. It is this that leads to the often-overwhelming sense of scale and complexity.

So what’s the solution?

It’s simple.

If the problem is a large collection of small/simple issues all working against you, then the solution is a collection of fixes, interactions or changes, that must happen together, and work together, to bring about a complete turnaround.

My most recent assignment, a logistics organisation with over approximately 350 employees, had such a business issue. They were a leading player in their field, and doing a good job for their customer. But the senior management understood that being good was not good enough – they needed to be excellent. The service to their customers needed to be second-to-none, which would lead to winning more business, continued growth, and margin improvements.

Our diagnosis found over 100 specific improvements that could me made to the overall process. But fixing these alone would not be the answer. The whole management system needed fixing too, including:
  • Designing a process flow that worked the way they wanted it, moving away from the one that had ‘evolved’
  • Creating a robust feedback loop – from the experts at the ‘sharp end’ to the management team, and back again
  • Project managing a Top 40 list of fixes and improvements
  • Ensuring the management team spent time at the ‘sharp end’ so they could see the work for themselves
  • Learning to experiment with different ways of working before a full roll-out
  • Converting vast amounts of data about the current state, and converting that to real information about what, where and how to make real change
  • Developing a new management method that encouraged continuous improvement and made it normal.
It's the way that the two systems worked together that proved to be the key - to ensure the management team understood the detail, but could climb back out and lead too.