A Well-Managed Change - Six Sigma and Managed ChangeTM
Making it Easier to Choose to Change
As organizations make six sigma the core of their change process, they send a strong message: change is a constant. Change is how organizations stay competitive. Change is how they grow. Six sigma is their way of making change happen. And six sigma works.
Integrating six sigma into the DNA of an organization increases its growth potential, instituting a disciplined and structured process that can be shared throughout the organization.
Six sigma improvement projects are not always successful, or initial success is not always sustained. This matches managers' and employees' experience with other change projects, such as system implementations or the integration of newly acquired companies. Research, in fact, shows that many change projects do not meet their objectives.
ProSci, in its report on best practices in change management in 2000, and subsequent reports in 2002 and 2004, identified the greatest obstacles to change:
- Management behavior does not support the change.
- Employees fear and resist change.
- Resources -- time, knowledge, and money -- are inadequate.
52% of the cause of unsuccessful change is directly related to human behavior
Six sigma Black Belts and Master Black Belts recognize that if six sigma improvement projects are to succeed, people must choose to change. For example, suppose a six sigma team is charged with examining the process for closing the financial reports at the end of each month. To begin, the team must consider that people have been doing it that way for a long time. Habit, not having to think hard about how to do the work, and a strong investment in the original design of the processes are reasons why people may not embrace the six sigma team's improvements.
Six sigma also must be about managing change. Six sigma teams need to provide realistic estimates of a proposed change's return on investment (ROI). They also are charged with reducing change-deployment cost. Predicting the potential for resistance and planning how to reduce it are good first steps.
The result will be:
- A reduction of the portion of the project cost resulting from resistance,
- An increased probability of achieving AND sustaining the projected benefits, and
- A shortened cycle time for the project, as people embrace change faster and more easily.
Addressing the change requirements of a six sigma project does not require fundamental changes to the six sigma methodology. Instead, it adds rigor to the project by using the six sigma tools and methodology to a higher standard.
The stakeholder analysis done in the "Define" stage of the DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control) sequence, for example, could be expanded to identify all potential targets of the change and the management structure above them. Who in the finance department, for example, is currently involved in the month-end close? Is anyone in the business units involved? Are there people outside the company involved? Managers of these people must be sponsors of any proposed changes.
At the "Improve" stage, the expanded stakeholder analysis helps again as various improvements are considered. Which ones will trigger resistance? How much resistance? From what part of the organization can resistance be expected? Is resistance likely to be a factor in selecting the right solution? What will it take to overcome it and implement the new process?
Where Does Resistance Come From?
When people find it difficult to change, it is usually for some combination of the following reasons:
- They don't want to change from the way they do things now.
- They don't what to change to what the project team is recommending.
- They don't want to go through the effort of getting to the new way.
- They don't trust leadership's ability to get them to the new way.
- They don't trust the project team's ability to get them to the new way.
- They don't believe this change effort will be any more successful than the last one...or, if it is successful, implementation will be too painful.
In the "Improve" stage of DMAIC, these questions//which questions? do you mean determining the confidence level of those affected? should be asked of each group of suppliers, customers or leaders affected by the change. The project team should use the information gathered to design ways to reduce resistance.
The Change Roles
Key to the success of any change project are the ability and willingness of the participants to play their roles.
Targets: Targets are the people who will have to change. People come to their jobs with a bias to either welcome or resist change, which is confirmed or challenged by their experience. Too often, experience with change has taught them that all changes are to be resisted. Again, this source of resistance must be identified at the outset and handled directly.
Change Agents: Careful training on the principles of six sigma produces skilled and knowledgeable Black Belts, Green Belts and Yellow Belts -- the change agents. While their ability to use the DMAIC process and make improvements is vital to the organization, they must also thoughtfully consider and address the change targets' concerns.
The change agents and how they are perceived can either foster a willingness to change or be a source of resistance. If the targets see the change agents as knowledgeable about the important issues and there is trust that the change agents will deal with those issues appropriately, the chance for quick and effective change is increased. If the people expected to change do not trust the change agents to recognize and address their issues, resistance will increase.
Sponsors: When people face change, a key question is, "Does management, from my immediate supervisor all the way up the chain, want and support this change?" If the answer is yes, it does not necessarily mean all resistance will disappear. But if the answer is no, it means resistance will probably be much greater. Are managers willing to demonstrate their support? Do they know how to demonstrate it?
The need to manage the change process does not end when the project is completed and the project team disbanded. Learning continues into the sustainment phase of a project. Communication and reward need to be continued through the sustainment phase as well. Based upon the needs of the targets, continuing information about why the change was necessary, what it should now look like, and how the changed state will sustain itself over time should be made available. There is also the need for continued reinforcement of the improved state as the "new" current state until it becomes mainstream.
Replacing the month-end close process that was used for so long with a new system to enter data and prepare reports is a change. The accounting analysts and clerks need an opportunity to formally leave the old way of doing things and embrace the new. Managers will need reminders to continue communicating the need for the change. They are charged with encouraging and reinforcing the efforts of people to do things the "new way." There must be an understanding of why people might complain, why they might lobby to return to the "old way," and why it is not easy for them to change. For the "Control" stage, the six sigma team must transfer this understanding to the process owner, along with ways to track, support and empathize with the targets of the change.
Change management is a useful and necessary component of six sigma. It does not replace six sigma or run alongside it. It should be integrated into the logical and sequential phases of all six sigma projects. Admittedly, it is extra work for the project team to collect, analyze and address data about resistance. Those who do it, however, will tell you it is well worth it. Targets of the change effort will tell you the same.
Jeanenne LaMarsh is founder and president of LaMarsh and Associates, a Chicago-based consulting firm specializing in change management and developers of the Managed ChangeTM process. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (312) 464-1349. For additional information, visit www.lamarsh.com.
©2004 LaMarsh & Associates, Inc