Friday, October 2, 2015

The Unsustainable Improvement Strategy: Three ways to ensure you fail.

Over more than ten years of consulting and training globally, I have watched a lot of companies spend an incredible amount of money to go after an organizational change in a very unsustainable way. Today's post will list three of the most frustrating and ineffective ways to make unsustainable change. Don't set out with failure as a goal or a likely destination.

Problem #1: Asking consultants to do it all for them. "But it easy to let the "experts" do it"
There are many consultants who will be more than willing to come in and do all of the heavy lifting. Consultants want as many billable hours as possible and taking it all on provides for their goal. Many of them do not drive sustainability, in fact, if it doesn't get sustained then they can come back again in a few years and sell more billable hours to right the ship. Now don't get me wrong, there may be times where you require a hired gun to knock out some elements because of resource constraints, however this should be used with caution and not applied to processes that require much organizational buy-in and change. We know organizational change is hard but it is no different than going to the gym... you can't let someone else lift the weight for you.

Problem #2: Not developing the solution from within. "Why would I develop it when I can just copy someone else?"
There is study after study that shows that the solution is most effective when it is developed from within. Without this ownership of the solution the organization struggles to implement and sustain. Are you suffering from the same issues the site that created the solution was? For example, a long distance runner does not use the same workout plan as a power lifter. Do you have the same culture? Are you at the same maturity, with the same performance gaps? You would not wear a tutu to a tractor pull just because somebody said you needed some clothes. So, don't put on someone else's solution just because it covers some of your important parts. In the end, a solution may share features or best practices but should be developed as part of a journey of self-discovery.

Problem #3: Not learning how to do it themselves. "Just give me the overview, I've got people for that"
If someone else develops it, and someone else implements it, then you don't get the education that is required to sustain it. The overview taught as the implementers are on the way out the door will be completely ineffective. During studies of how adults learn, it has been proven that retention of the material increases substantially when the content is directly applicable to the task at hand. If all of the heavy lifting has been done, then you as a learner have little reason to retain the content that is being delivered to you. Especially, if it is in the form of a 372 power point slide presentation that the guy in the front of the room is reading so he can go on to his next big gig. The best way is to ensure your organization is capable of sustaining the change is through a process where you learn best practices, apply those practices in your facility within the boundaries of processes you develop with the help of others in the organization. It is a bonus, if you can take that journey with a trusted adviser or coach that challenges the decisions you make but does not do it for you. Think of this as a personal trainer. They guide you down a path to success but they do not try to lift the weight for you.

In the end, we want to lift the weight for ourselves (organizational implementation), develop a work out plan that is based on our gaps and goals (facilitated self-discovery of the path and processes) , and work with a trainer to learn what to do and when to do it to get maximum results (learn by doing with coaching). If you implement with these three potential goals, then you will be one step closer to creating a sustainable habit and dodging an incredible improvement fail.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Shon,

    The third problem wherein the organisation-stalwarts are not willing to walk on the 'Learning Curve' themselves by adopting empirical mindset about the solution(s) achieved elsewhere, is the First Symptom, that you would encounter the problem #2.

    Their inability/unwillingness to develop the solution from 'within' is biggest stumbling block to effectively manage/sustain the change initiative.

    I remember the successful implementation of Lean at IT giant 'Wipro' in India, where they refrained from committing these mistakes and mastered the art of implementing Lean in their IT operations.

    It is important to realize (as they did) that their IT operations were nowhere had any corollary to manufacturing operations of Toyota. They managed to visit a Toyota plant in India and learned their basic and derived their solutions from within. They had a fantastic team Mr. Sambuddha Deb which managed to achieve that new expertise of lean in IT sector.

    With thanks,

    Rajneesh Kumar
    Luminis India