Change Leadership

 

How can quality professionals become successful change leaders?

Robert Mitchell

Change Leadership Process schematic by KnowledgeBrief (KBM)

Change Leadership Process schematic by KnowledgeBrief

The Baldrige Criteria defines change management as a leadership-induced process that involves transformational organizational change that leadership controls and sustains. It requires dedication, involvement of employees at all levels, and constant communication. Transformational change is strategy-driven and stems from the top of the organization. Its origin may be from needs identified within the organization and it requires active engagement of the whole organization.

McKinsey & Company states that, “Change management as it is traditionally applied is outdated. 70 percent of change programs fail to achieve their goals, largely due to employee resistance and lack of management support. We also know that when people are truly invested in change it is 30 percent more likely to stick.”

My 35+ years of experience is that the effective change leader possesses 3 critical skills:

  • Communication
  • Facilitation
  • Project management

The effective change leader must be able to communicate a compelling business case for change and a clear call to action throughout the organization: up, down and across. The change effort should be in alignment with the organization’s vision, values and strategic plan. The change initiative must be communicated regularly with a clearly understood strategy, with action plans and key metrics that are cascaded and deployed down to each department and individual. Change progress must be consistently measured and frequently reported against the established goals or targets.

The effective change leader demonstrates strong facilitation, influence and collaboration skills necessary to build support, remove barriers and reduce resistance to change. The change leader must be able to enhance/ build the Systems & Structures necessary to drive the required change, reward desired behaviors and prevent organizational backsliding. The effective change leader identifies the key stakeholders and implements influence strategies to gain their support in helping to “model the behaviors that create the experiences needed to change beliefs resulting in actions that deliver expected results” (The Oz Principle: Culture of Accountability). An all-too-often over-looked influencer is the organization’s “Keyhub” – those employees not part of the official managerial org chart, but whose experience/opinion/ insight is highly sought and respected among his/her peers, colleagues and subordinates. The identification of and collaboration with the keyhub is an important networking strategy to help lead successful change efforts in any organization.

The effective change leader must be able to marshal the resources and competencies necessary to support the change, adapt to challenges, and keep the change project on schedule and in budget. The change leader should follow a formalized change strategy or framework incorporating the methods, tools and technical assistance necessary to lead the process and coach the people through change. Three common models of a change management process are:

 

Nicole Radziwill

Change is hard only because maintaining status quo is easy. Doing things even a little differently requires cognitive energy! Because most people are pretty busy, there has to be a clear payoff to invest that extra energy in changing, even if the change is simple.

Becoming a successful change leader means helping people find the reasons to invest that energy on their own. First, find the source of resistance (if there is one) and do what you can to remove it. Second, try co-creation instead of feedback to build solutions. Here’s what I mean.

Find Sources of Resistance

In 1983, information systems researcher M. Lynne Markus wanted to figure out why certain software implementations, “designed at great cost of time and money, are abandoned or excessively overhauled because they were unenthusiastically received by their intended users.” Nearly 40 years later, enterprises still occasionally run into the same issue, even though Software as a Service (SaaS) models can (to some extent) reduce this risk.

Before her research started, she found these themes associated with resistance (they will probably feel familiar to you even today):

  1. To avoid resistance, get top management support and obtain user involvement in the design process
  2. Technically sound systems are less likely to be resisted than those with frequent downtime and poor response time
  3. Users resist systems that are not “user friendly” (assertions by EDP equipment vendors);
  4. All other things being equal, people will resist change (receive wisdom);
  5. People will resist an application when the costs outweigh the benefits (receive wisdom).

By studying failed software implementations in finance, she uncovered three main sources for the resistance. So as a change leader, start out by figuring out if they resonate, and then apply one of the remedies on the right:

Radziwill

As you might imagine, this third category (the “political version of interaction theory”) is the most difficult to solve. If a new process or system threatens someone’s power or position, they are unlikely to admit it, it may be difficult to detect, and it will take some deep counseling to get to the root cause and solve it.

Co-Creation Over Feedback

Imagine this: a process in your organization is about to change, and someone comes to you with a step-by-step outline of the new proposed process. “I’d like to get your feedback on this,” he says.

That’s nice, right? Isn’t that exactly what’s needed to ensure smooth management of change? You’ll give your feedback, and then when it’s time to adopt the process, it will go great – right?

In short, NO.

For change to be smooth and effective, people have to feel like they’re part of the process of developing the solution. Although people might feel slightly more comfortable if they’re asked for their thoughts on a proposal, the resultant solution is not theirs — in fact, their feedback might not even be incorporated into it. There’s no “skin in the game.”

In contrast, think about a scenario where you get an email or an invitation to a meeting. “We need to create a new process to decide which of our leads we’ll follow up on, and evaluate whether we made the right decision. We’d like it to achieve [the following goals]. We have to deal with [X, Y and Z] boundary conditions, which we can’t change due to [some factors that are well articulated and understandable].”

You go to the meeting, and two hours later all the stakeholders in the room have co-created a solution. What’s going to happen when it’s time for that process to be implemented? That’s right — little or no resistance. Why would anyone resist a change that they thought up themselves?

Satisficing

Find the resistance, cast it out, and co-create solutions. But don’t forget the most important step: recognizing that perfection is not always perfect. (For quality professionals, this one can be kind of tough to accept at times.)

What this means is: in situations where change is needed, sometimes it’s better to adopt processes or practices that are easier or more accessible for the people who do them. Processes that are less efficient can sometimes be better than processes that are more efficient, if the difference has to do with ease of learning or ease of execution. Following these tips will help you help others take some of the pain out of change.

John Hunter

In order to lead efforts to improve the management of an organization understanding how people will react to change is critical. For that reason I have written about change management often on this blog since I started publishing it in 2004.

In, Why Do People Fail to Adopt Better Management Methods?, I wrote:

It seems that if there were better ways to manage, people would adopt those methods. But this just isn’t the case; sometimes better methods will be adopted but often they won’t. People can be very attached to the way things have always been done. Or they can just be uncomfortable with the prospect of trying something new.

Lead change efforts requires paying attention to the existing conditions: the culture, the motivation to adopt this change and/or the motivation to resist it, the history of change where the change is being attempted and the reasons the change is desired (by at least you and hopefully others). And then you need to build a case for the change and manage the process.

In some case it isn’t that complicated, there is interest in the change from a critical mass of people, the change isn’t that difficult, the advantages are obvious to many people and no one has a strong interest in resisting the change (that has the power to make adopting the change difficult). In that case you are lucky, but that is often not the case, even though many attempts to change are managed with the hope that no real effort will be needed to get the change adopted.

Those that successfully lead change efforts know when to invest the effort in getting the change adopted. They study (and often can sense) where the effort will need to be placed in this particular effort and plan ahead to support the adoption of the change and to avoid problems that can greatly set back the efforts to improve the existing system.

And they put effort into creating a culture that will make change efforts easier going forward. We need continual improvement of how we work and that requires continual change. We need to build systems that support that and coach people so they are comfortable with that.

I included some ideas on how to grow your circle of influence: which would be useful development strategies for someone seeking to become a successful change leader.

Communication is an Important Part of Any Change Effort

I believe the best way to communicate such changes is to explain how they tie into the long term vision of the organization. This requires that such a vision actually exists (which is often not the case). Then all strategies are communicated based on how they support and integrate with that vision. In addition that communication strategy incorporates an understanding about what weaknesses with past practices are addressed by this new strategy.

Often organizations have a poor history with failed change efforts, and the larger the effort the more likely it was to have been problematic. Pretending that poor history doesn’t exist and being surprised by resistance to change is not a sensible way to manage. But it is a common one. Instead, to be successful, after past failed efforts, show that you know the history and have learned from it and are taking steps to make this change effort more successful than past efforts.

Change Management – Post Change Evaluation and Action

There are many reasons the change may need to be iterated over to adapt it to different conditions. The important factor, that is far too often overlooked, is to collect evidence on the result of the change as it is deployed and to study that evidence to determine if the improvement is able to be deployed more broadly without modification. It may be that you learn more PDSA is needed as part of the process to deploy it more broadly.

Using the PDSA is an extremely valuable tool to aid change efforts. The process of using it requires you to evaluate the success of the change after the change is deployed. That may seem an obvious thing to do, but it often is not done. And often those in the work know nothing improved and become more cynical about any future change attempts. But those charged with leading the change effort often have incentives to move on and ignore the results.

To help create a culture that value continual improvement find projects that would be good candidates for visible success that matters. Use the ideas here and in the linked posts to make those efforts successful and then build on those successes.

If this is done right the organization will continually grow the ability to improve and successfully adopt changes that are worthwhile. Your job of leading change efforts will get easier (though you might take on much bigger and more complex changes so that can again add challenges and keep you engaged).

Luciana Paulise 

Many companies around the world are moving towards an agile way of work to be able to tackle constant changes and capture the opportunities those changes bring. As per a survey done by McKinsey 37 percent of respondents said their organizations are carrying out company-wide agile transformations. Why? Because today the only constant is change. “Agile organizations can develop products five times faster, make decisions three times faster, and reallocate resources adroitly and quickly” based on the research “Leading agile transformation:  The new capabilities leaders need to build 21st-century organizations”.

So the question now is, what is the role of the leader in these agile organizations? Agile companies work in small teams that are multidisciplinary and autonomous, some don’t have leaders, some simply have facilitators to ensure successful interactions among team members, suppliers and customers. New leaders need to let go of micromanaging the day-to-day activities to become success facilitators. They will set a long-term vision, promote interaction across the organization, provide support to unleash team member’s idea and define priorities.

Leaders are no longer “bosses” of the people on their team, customers are. That’s why structures in agile companies flatten to:

–  Allow fast and online communication top down, bottom up and inside out.

– Facilitate fast decision making within the team, without the need to wait for management approval

– Ensure everybody is connected to the customer needs, and the needs of each of the team members

In agile companies, everybody can become a change leader within their teams, depending on the task at hand, so everybody needs to be trained to CARE for their team, through four main habits:

  • Connect: Communicate the vision, values and objectives that drive the team and build the network of stakeholders required. Team members how decide the best way to accomplish the goals.
  • Ask: ask more questions at the front-line to deeply understand results, instead of advocating opinion or direction. Analyze risks and always look for outside-in perspectives from the customers to make decisions with the team.
  • Respect: Build confidence and trust, foster open communication and respect differences in the workforce to allow multidisciplinary teams to thrive. Strengths, skills and ideas work at their best when relationships are based on mutual acceptance.
  • Empower: Prioritize objectives visually, build systems and team routines, promote self-discipline and time management and encourage immediate problem-solving. Avoid constant updates, briefings, micromanagement, and approvals, all very costly.

Luigi Sille

How can an individual become a successful Change Leader?  

Every organization or institution has to deal with change.  No one can hide or run from it. In the last couple of years the world has been changing at a rapid pace.

Normally, accepting change and going through the change process is NOT easy. Change is very hard for humans to accept (it’s human nature), to get everyone on board is a big challenge. The success of change depends upon the people, so everyone is important.

To manage, and/or coordinate the whole change process, effective leadership is one of the main components necessary to achieve a successful transition. For me personally, it is the KEY to success.

Which leadership skills contribute to someone becoming a successful Change Leader?

Communication

Communication is one of the most important skills in becoming a successful Change Leader. A successful Change Leader is one that can communicate, but also LISTEN to the group.  The listening part is very important, it is the moment to get information, feedback, or possible ideas in order to improve: TOGETHER.

Always communicate WHY we need the change, WHAT is going to change, and the impact the change is going to have. The benefits that change can have for the organization, and for the whole group. Open and honest communication helps a successful change leader gain the trust of the group, and in its turn it will help the overall change process.Maintain a communication strategy, and always check if it is actually working.

Collaboration

Bring everybody together (teamwork) to make decisions, plan (encourage the employees to be innovative, creative) and execute. This is so critical.  That feeling of being part of the process gives everyone a sense of pride. A positive organizational culture motivates the group, and that sense of belonging to the organization inspires loyalty.

It strengthens their commitment. This results in no or almost no resistance to the change process. Everyone is important. Fix small team problems on the way, otherwise it will have a negative impact on the whole process.

Commit

A successful Change Leader shows his commitment to the change. Be a role model.  Maintain control over the whole process: identify and focus on priorities. Maintain a clear purpose.

His or her behavior / beliefs is important to the rest of the group.

If the leader doesn’t believe, or doesn’t commit, it will have a negative impact on the change process, therefore the chance of FAILURE is extremely high.

If there is No effective leadership present, effectively implanting change will almost definitely fail.

A successful Change Leader has to remember that:

  • Leading change is not a ONE man job.
  • He has to believe in the team
  • Motivate the team
  • Be a role model
  • Pass responsibilities to other leaders in the group
  • Has to obtain a collection of skills to keep on top of change.
  • Communicate
  • And also: listen to the group

Facing Cultural Barriers by Leaders to Strengthen a Culture of Quality

This is a guest post by Luciana Paulise, the founder of Biztorming Training & Consulting. She is a speaker, author, and examiner for the National Quality Award and Team Excellence Award in Argentina.  She is also a columnist for Infobae, Destino Negocio, and a blogger for ASQ Influential Voices.  You can visit Luciana’s blog at: http://www.biztorming.com.ar/en/news.

Something was not going well at an organization we’ll call Company ABC, a small business within the automotive industry in the suburbs of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Some improvements were being made, many procedures were being followed, and employees were adopting new control processes.

Still, turnover was high, as well as frustration with certain processes that had not shown any improvements at all—while profitability was decreasing. Managers said that line employees were the problem; they were generating issues and not solving them. On the other side, employees were convinced the problem was in the communication channel to top management.

Even though it was a small business, communication from the bottom up was as difficult as in a larger corporation. The owners were asking for feedback on issues, but they were not providing ways to actually receiving the feedback. E-mails to leaders were not being replied to, approvals took longer than expected, and meetings were almost impossible to schedule.

What went wrong in this organization? How could managers and employees bring issues forward as required by a quality culture? How could they strengthen the culture of quality in this environment? What were the main barriers?

Experts says that the employees’ behavior is based on company culture, but what is organizational culture, exactly? As per Wikipedia, “Culture includes the organization’s vision, values, norms, systems, symbols, language, assumptions, beliefs, and habits.” But who determines these factors in organizations so as to define the culture?

Usually top management defines which habits or behaviors are right by rewarding or punishing them. Therefore, company culture is modeled upon top management behavior.

That was my “a-ha” moment. The main cultural barrier to making this company a better place was actually the top management. They thought the problem in the organization was their people, but they had not considered themselves as part of the problem. They were not “walking the talk.” And people were noticing it.

Then I recalled Gandhi’s quote: “You must be the change you want to see in the world.” Leaders needed to take the first step, and needed to be trained to do so. So now the question was, how best to train them?

Edwards Deming developed a leadership model that could be really useful here to train the top. The “System of profound knowledge” that he introduced in his last book, The New Economics, has four interrelated areas: appreciation for a system, knowledge of variation, theory of knowledge, and psychology. Managers were probably not going to get this theory easily, but an analogy could help.

I compared the four areas with four human types of intelligence, so that leaders could understand that they needed to manage their behavior in an integral way so as to solve all the problems at the same time:

  1. Spiritual: understanding the company in a holistic way, as a system, is appreciating the business as a network of interdependent components that work together to accomplish the same aim. These components includes planning, context, competition, processes, shareholders, customers, suppliers, employees, the community, and the environment. Like an orchestra, it’s not enough to have great players. They need to play well together. Leadership needs to focus on all the parts that affect the organization and how they work. The leaders wanted their middle managers to work together, but they didn’t have common objectives, so each of them just focused on their part of the game.
  2. Intellectual: In any business there are always variations, like defects, errors, and delays. Leaders have to focus on understanding these variations. Are they caused by the system or by the employees? Usually employees are blamed for the errors, but 95% of them are really caused by the company system. Distinguishing the difference between variations by using data and statistical methods, as well as understanding its causes, is key to management’s ability to properly remove barriers to profitability. At company ABC in this case study, leaders were focused on the people, while many delays were due to late approvals, lack of the right tools, and lack of training, which the people (i.e. employees) couldn’t handle.
  3. Physical: Leaders assert opinions as facts based on hunches, theories, or beliefs, but they don’t always test those opinions against the data before making a decision. Leadership needs to focus on contrasting their ideas with real data from the operations. The automotive shop started to use daily physical scorecards on the walls to capture and communicate real performance numbers, so that leaders and operators could act on them together.
  4. Emotional: Finally, in order to get real data from the operations, leaders need to work with their people. The problem is that people perform based on how they feel. They are primarily motivated by intrinsic needs, including respect and working with others to achieve common goals, in contrast to simply being motivated by monetary reward. So leadership has to focus on understanding and respecting people so that they can all work together to solve issues. One of the managers used to push a lot on his employees because his monthly payment was based on performance. When his salary was moved to a flat rate, he started to work much better with his team, they all were motivated and happy at work.  Turnover decreased sharply.

So my “a-ha” moment in regards to strengthening a culture of quality was that leaders need to change their behavior first if they want to change the entire company culture—and they have to do it through a systemic model considering four types of intelligence.

What about your company? How is leadership helping to develop a quality culture?

How Does Knowledge Management Complement Quality?

Arun Hariharan is a quality, knowledge management, and performance management practitioner. He has worked with several large companies and is the founder and CEO of The CPi Coach.

 

His latest book, The Strategic Knowledge Management Handbook, provides “hands on” advice for implementing Knowledge Management (KM) – not merely with technology, but with the more challenging leadership, strategic, and culture / behavior aspects of KM. The primary purpose of this book is to enable the reader to implement a strategic KM program in an organization and derive business results. This book is particularly addressed to CEOs and senior management to help them understand how they can use KM as a strategic tool to achieve their business objectives.  Purchase The Strategic Knowledge Management Handbook from ASQ.

 

Arun spoke with ASQ about Knowledge Management, how it can be used effectively, and best practices.

What is Knowledge Management (KM)?

KM is an enabler to achieve an organization’s objectives better and faster through an integrated set of initiatives, systems and behavioral interventions – aimed at promoting smooth flow and sharing of knowledge relevant to the organization, and elimination of re-invention.

KM seeks to facilitate the flow of knowledge from where it resides, to where it is required (that is, where it can be applied or used), for achieving the organization’s objectives.

In your experience, what are the challenges that prevent some organizations from achieving results from Knowledge Management? How can these challenges be avoided or overcome?

The root of the challenge is that some organizations and their leaders seem to think that KM is all about technology. Examples abound of companies that have sunk truckloads of money in KM technology such as portals and collaboration tools, but did not get the results that they expected.

In my experience, there are four groups of factors, which I call the four pillars of KM, which will determine whether you get substantial and sustained results from your program. These are – in order of importance – (1) Leadership, people, and culture; (2) Keeping KM relevant to your business; (3) Measurement of KM (you need to measure both the enablers and results); and (4) Standardized KM processes and technology.  Your KM program will give you sustained results only if all four pillars are in place.

Does KM, with its emphasis on knowledge storing and reuse, kill innovation?

No, it doesn’t – KM only kills re-invention. And re-invention is not the same as innovation. If a particular type of work has been done by someone somewhere in the organization (or, ideally, even outside), another person re-inventing it or trying to get results through trial and error methods is not being innovative, but merely wasting their own and the company’s time and resources.

KM seeks to actively promote innovation by encouraging sharing of new ideas and at the same time eliminating re-invention. In fact, KM, by ensuring that your existing organizational knowledge is available in an organized fashion, facilitates further knowledge creation (in other words, innovation).

Our experience shows that every time existing knowledge from the organizational knowledge-base is reused, some new knowledge is created in the process of applying or customizing the existing knowledge to the present situation. Some companies that I work with also have KM initiatives such as IdeaExpress (a scheme for generating innovative ideas from employees), which are nothing but innovation factories.

Can quality and KM complement each other?

Absolutely. While Knowledge Management and quality are distinct disciplines, my experience working with both taught me that there are several ways in which the two can complement each other. Companies that have both a KM program and a quality program have the unique opportunity to get them get in tune with one another.

How KM can help quality: In several companies that I worked with, the KM program frequently helped us to identify potential quality-improvement projects. For example, some of our high-impact Lean Six Sigma projects were identified as a result of our KM program bringing in relevant knowledge in the form of competitor benchmarking information. Some of our best quality-improvement projects started as employee-ideas from our structured idea-generation initiative, a part of the KM program.

Also, successful quality-improvement projects were often done as pilot-projects in one part of the company. Once successful, these projects could be quickly replicated across the company through the best-practice sharing process that is in place thanks to the KM program.

How quality can help KM: On the other hand, we were able to quickly institutionalize best practices identified through the KM program by making them part of standardized business processes. This was possible because the company’s quality program ensured that it had a strong foundation of standardized processes, subject to continuous improvement. Secondly, the quality program ensured that critical business processes are clearly identified and mapped, making it easy to prioritize and focus KM efforts on these processes.

In companies where we implemented lean management, I added “re-invention of the wheel” to the list of different types of waste that lean commonly talks about. And, clearly, re-invention is one of the evils that KM seeks to eliminate.

In several companies, KM and quality are both important components of the business excellence program, and they complement each other beautifully.

The synergy between KM and quality is also borne out by the fact that, several years ago, well known excellence models such as Baldrige and EFQM added KM-related criteria. The revised ISO 9001:2015 also emphasizes the importance of KM in a new clause.

Is KM primarily about technology, or is there a strategic and/or culture aspect to it?

The differences between KM as a strategy and a limited technology-only approach is that a strategic KM Program has the following:

•    Senior management involvement
•    Link with broader organizational priorities
•    KM initiatives (such as knowledge bases, communities of experts and collaboration) centered around pre-defined “mission-critical” areas
•    KM roles clearly defined
•    Close-looped processes for knowledge-sharing and replication in mission-critical areas – not left to choice or chance
•    Technology as an important enabler, but clearly one component  of a larger KM program

On the other hand, a technology-only approach to KM is a narrow view that treats the implementation of some form of technology (usually an intranet / portal with features of document management, storage and collaboration) as the be-all-and-end-all of KM. In such an approach, KM is not linked to organizational priorities or employees’ performance.

Not surprisingly, organizations that take the technology-only view end up getting hardly any results from KM. What is the use of the best technology if we have an organizational culture where people are reluctant to share their knowledge with others, or unwilling to “copy” even proven best practices?

November Roundup: What Does Leadership Mean to Quality?

Leadership. If you work in any kind of business, you’ve probably heard a lot about it. It’s now accepted wisdom that we need leaders in the workplace. Are quality professionals leaders? How do we make them better leaders? That was ASQ’s topic for discussion in November. ASQ bloggers had interestingly diverse opinions on this topic. Some called for more quality training. Others said that being leader isn’t everyone. For more, see below.

What makes a great leader? Being a considerate person attuned to his or her team is a good start. Tim McMahon writes, “The reality is anyone can lead, but very few lead well. If you want to lead well, you can’t forget the human component.”

Scott Rutherford says leadership must be authentic and come from within—you can’t turn the leader persona on and off. He also writes about the importance of mentorship in leadership.  For John Hunter, “the key is managing with an understanding of respect for people and how that concept fits with the rest of Deming’s management system.”

And Dan Zrymiak writes that a different vision of leadership is now required for the quality field, going from control to transformation. Babette Ten Haken writes that quality leadership takes guts and risk-taking.

How should leaders lead? Manu Vora offers a refresher on leadership basics, and new Influential Voices blogger Luciana Paulise compiles her leadership advice. Jimena Calfa gives a reminder on the difference between leadership and management. Bob Mitchell writes about the role of transformational leadership. And Edwin Garro says we must find the leader within ourselves before we can absorb leadership training.

Leadership in action: Lotto Lai writes about Steve Jobs’ leadership at Apple. New Influential Voices blogger Sunil Kaushik shares examples of out-of-the-box leadership.

Do we really need leaders? Some choose to follow and do it well. Guy Wallace discusses those who don’t want to be leaders–what is their role? Michael Noble is also skeptical about the idea of leadership for all. And Jennifer Stepniowski wonders if quality professionals first need to be better communicators.