Technology Enabled Organizational Change Strategy

June 23, 2009

Change is a permanent organizational challenge and it does not matter what industry, size of enterprise or organizational structure. Complex collaboration models, the shorter product lifecycles, the variety of products that require attention, the increased product complexity, the advancing information technology and lastly the economic situation. These are some examples of the reasons and accelerators of change.
What is the ability of organizations to execute change, what are the drivers, what are the impediments behind the need, how well do companies execute operational initiatives. Specifically this last topic is the reason to work with experienced consultants. What are the enablers of success?

Having observed many projects we believe that there are four success attention categories. Change must:

  1. Be customer focused
  2. Enable corporate goals
  3. Consider how current IT technology is/should be utilized (the good and the bad)
  4. Be outcome driven such that the results can be measured by metrics and used to tweak improvements (continuous)

Considering these important criteria, how should companies drive a change management initiative. As a general observation many business leaders these days rush implementing cost saving and productivity increasing measures. Few are thinking about the (unintended) consequences that their initiatives will have on relationships with those most affected. Change management in any form are messages of what an organization believes to be critical and necessary to key stakeholders such as, employees, business partners and customers and those that have invested money in the business.

One of the biggest challenges to change is confidence from those that need to drive the change initiative, so you basically start with a challenge.
For implementing a defined change initiative, a very important group that must be mobilized is line management. After all, they are responsible for the results and be responsible to follow it through. They can hinder or accelerate, purposely or sometimes unintended. Implementing new, cost shaving technology or functions to bring your product to market faster; how were they involved (including subject matter experts) with the choice and also do they understand the critical success factors. The best supporters is your personnel that is passionate about the new plans, they help to develop to generate these improvements. It makes them feel owner.

Making your personnel more passionate and to make them owner requires you to communicate what needs to be achieved. So, a Change Management charter is a key object for the whole team to ‘own’. What is it that we need to achieve, and even more important, how do we want to achieve this new state of improvement and or excellence. In my experience, too many times companies just jump-on-it to write a series of requirements without a comprehensive description of the overall goal and the background to the planned changes. In many cases we also found that the input from other groups were just missing.
With that goal, next steps is the development of an understanding what the inhibitors or impediments are that work against the planned change. As pointed out previous, early involvement of critical personnel is key, so what is the best approach to start? Any change initiative, and now is the right moment to refer to this as a Business Process Improvement (BPI) initiative, is driven from the following three elements:

  1. People (the groups, the disciplines, the roles)
  2. Process (the processes, the interaction, the forms of collaboration)
  3. Technology (the tools that are and should be utilized)

Considering this trio and to develop an understand how well this trio is integrated, we worked with companies to conducting assessments to defining the goals of this BPI. These assessments, we believe. are the corner stones for any change program. Customers experience such assessments critical to align company goals, needs, impediments, solutions and priorities. It will help to clearly define priorities: What makes sense doing first, what does an improvement bring relative to needed investments, what effort does it take and what are the risks. With this knowledge you can then start to select the technology and solution capabilities.

With the assessment as your baseline, you then look at your processes. So from the above 3 elements item 2); Process, is the center element. Your current processes are key, i.e. they should be documented, and you then link with People and Technology.
Typically Enterprise processes, i.e. your process maps, are documented at 4 levels. Level 1 is the overarching top level and you then drill down till level 3; the details. This 3-level detail should be income, outcome and/or results driven. It should document ‘lead’ indicators such as: Time, Quality, Cost, Customer, Satisfaction etc. It is our experience that Visio and Excel are great tools to start. If it gets a information management burden you can always switch to more advanced tools. Oh yes, and don’t forget requirements (bom of requirements) that you can link with each level of detail.
The deepest level 4 is the integration with the IT capabilities that your personnel use, i.e. the capabilities that support users and the specific actions needed using the capabilities. I recommended companies to use snippets of menu actions and screen input. Don’t under estimate the effort to get it right. The effort is not a waste as is can be reused to support development of corporate guides and training material and ultimately you can use it to support your internal Process Wiki knowledge base.

Getting to the end of this post, below is a list of (implementation) challenges we collected over the years. It also comprises aspects we talked about earlier. The identifier between square brackets T = Tangible [T], easy to measure the effect; without it, intangible, the more ‘soft’ factor.

  • Mindset and attitude (do stakeholders support/commit the initiative, do they have faith in the results)
  • Excitement among those involved (is everybody on board)
  • The culture (the ability and willingness to change)
  • Underestimating the challenges (how risky is it to carry this through, what road blocks may lie ahead)
  • The right resources (do we know what is needed) [T]
  • The right methods to enable change (build on methods of earlier experience) [T]
  • Wrong or incomplete start-up information (are the facts as they really are) [T]
  • Lack of alignment with an organization’s needs and wants regarding processes and solution capabilities [T]
  • Technological barriers (e.g. unproven paths) [T]
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