Occasionally people ask me how to initiate an authentic transformation. They comment that they assist LEAN or AGILE or ITIL or… courses, they leave with ides but it is an effect, luckily, gaseous… they have a burst of energy but afterwards they go back to old habits and ways of doing things. It is not my intention to talk about big organizational changes that are widely documented, but talk about changes that we want to cause in our work team, in our department. Changes in operative teams from a very pragmatic point of view, based in changes I experienced first-hand.
The last question is very usual, and in my opinion it is so usual for many reasons, all tend to appear at the same time. Among those reasons I highlight two today:
- Confusing tools with change. For example, if we talk about LEAN, we attend to the course, we love the tools and we go to apply them, without keeping in mind that LEAN is actually a cultural change. We cannot think that just because we draw a VSM (Value Stream Mapping) we are going to improve… the VSM is a good starting point, but without the culture of improvement it will remain as the only improvement action (gaseous effect).
- Not leading “closely” the change. The day-to-day usually makes us act in an accelerated rhythm that does not allow to stop and think calmly. Therefore we must have “change agents”, people who are going to motivate the change. They are people with a clear improvement motivation and they are going to help to “embed” the change into the operative teams and “keep the fire burning”. I am going to focus in this section today. I often compare cycles and change transformation with love…
If the previous graphic represents the expectations that we have about a change, we can appreciate that once we have stablished contact with LEAN, we quickly see its potential benefits and we wet excited, the success of our first VSM comes (Quick Wins), our first experiences also arrive. The same happens when we are with the person that we like the first times… “how beautiful are the freckles they have in the nose!”, the butterflies in the stomach…
After some time problems begin, the day-to-day saturates us and we start to lose initiative. Now not everything is as beautiful and the doubts take us down… “it comes out that the freckles now look like ugly spots!”. If we get over this phase we enter moments of stability where we can get changes to anchor in the organization and that the change becomes real… if we do not get over this phase, everyone their way, we have already another ex, ex ITIL, ex AGILE…
In this moments is when the figure I mentioned previously becomes important. If there is a team of “believers” in the change that help the organization to sustain this phase we can anchor the change we want into the teams. Being simplistic, we could say that there are basically 3 kinds of agents in a change:
- Green: Favorable to change. They are potential change leaders.
- Red: They are in between, neither favourable not unfavorable. They can potentially help change or not, it depends if we convince them with patience that the change is positive.
- Black: They resist the change to the point they oppose it.
When motivating the change we want to detect the greens. Those change agents will help the cultural change that LEAN or AGILE suppose to anchor in the team. The more supporters we have, the bigger are the real possibilities of achieving it. Every work team should have a green agent that is concerned for the adaptation of the cultural change to the new situations. They should also care that it is not only a one-time use of the tools, but that the work teams enter cycles of continuous improvement. If this agent is a team leader, that is close to Gemba (workplace) and has a certain position in the hierarchy to assign resources to the change management, the probabilities of success shoot up. I certainly mean probabilities as the success facing a cultural change are never guaranteed, since the tendency to do things as they have always been doing, or to remain in the comfort zone, is enormous.