Know Where You Are Going for Successful Change

Scott Franklin, Life Cycle Engineering
Tags: business management, talent management, root cause analysis

Early in his change-management career, Yogi Berra was advising a professional sports organization in New York on some of the finer points of managing change. At the executive briefing, Berra delivered his change-management theory overview, which he summed up in this single statement: “You've got to be very careful if you don't know where you're going, because you might end up someplace else."

Apparently, the executive board was impressed because they extended his engagement an additional 14 years. Although his actual change consulting career was short lived, Berra did highlight one of the most critical aspects of successful change – knowing where you’re going. In organizational change, where you’re going is usually summed up in business terms: lower cost, higher quality, greater customer satisfaction, etc. These objectives, however, are the results of specific, repeated behaviors. How change truly occurs is by getting people in the organization to identify and consistently execute activities that produce the desired results.

Intellectually we know this. We are familiar with the definition of insanity as “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results,” so we know that to get different results we have to do things differently. The issue is that we tend to spend much of our effort on defining the results (KPIs, dashboards, measurements, etc.) and less effort on clearly identifying the necessary behaviors. However, without the consistent behaviors, the improved results are not possible.

In working with organizations undertaking transformational change, one of the first steps in planning the change is to clearly link the desired business results with the necessary behavior changes and then design the change to create the behaviors. This is a relatively simple exercise that is best done as a group activity with the leadership team.

Step 1 – Create a list of all the business results that are expected from the change. The more managers that can be involved, the better, since this will accomplish two objectives. The first is that this allows the managers the opportunity to express their expectations in a public and productive manner. The second is that they will be able to see how multiple business goals inter-relate. This list should be detailed and fairly extensive.

Step 2 – Identify the specific changes that are necessary to accomplish the business results identified in Step 1. Again, this list should be detailed and fairly extensive. Each item listed in Step 1 may have three to five or more specific changes. Examples would be to “perform root cause analysis on 100 percent of failures.”

Step 3 – Identify the specific behaviors associated with the changes identified in Step 2. This will also include behavior changes for executives, managers, supervisors and employees. Again, there will be multiple behavior changes for each specific change identified in Step 2.

The ultimate success of the change will depend on how successfully the organization is able to create these necessary behavior changes. Many organizations make the mistake of diving into the change effort without taking the time to clearly identify these behaviors. By taking the time to create the detailed links between the business results and the specific behavior changes, you will now know where you are going so you don’t end up somewhere else.