Strategies For Implementing An Improved Change Management Process

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In the first article of this two-part series, we provided an overview of a co-creation model for change management and the tools and methodologies that form the foundation for improved change management. This second part will look at strategies for implementing an improved change management process.

Developing Effective Leadership For Process Improvement

When initiating change that contains a highly novel approach or process, leadership is the most important aspect. Collaborating with multiple levels of stakeholders, getting buy-in from key decision makers, and guiding the project through completion requires leadership that is capable of assessing the situation across departments and possesses the knowledge needed to initiate thoroughgoing change. In a McKinsey Quarterly article, David Fine, Maia A. Hansen, and Stefan Roggenhofer describe the impact soft skills can have on the success of a project and emphasize the importance of effectively engaging employees by instilling in them the influencing skills needed to highlight the new system’s benefits and to convince doubters of the importance of the changes.1

As discussed in the first article, the co-creation model uses mapping of the ideal decision processes to enable the engagement of leadership and coordination among hierarchies, divisions, and departments to “reprocess” organizational knowledge and design approaches for improvements. By engaging all levels of employees, from the boardroom to the shop floor, the leadership model guides change management through each stage and toward a sustainable ongoing implementation. This can have an enlivening effect on employees to sustain the changes. Experts can catalyze changes as coaches, and managers can lead by serving as long-term role models. The Engagement phase takes the information gathered and uses the findings to decrease resistance and increase compliance.

Regarding the communication of changes, unidirectional media such as newsletters, speeches, and bulletins do not facilitate a dialog with those affected by change.2 The information is directed at them, rather than presented with them involved in the discussion. In contrast, bidirectional media allows for dialog surrounding the change.2 Examples of bidirectional media include conference calls, classroom or online interactive training sessions, and forums on intranets or wiki sites.

The co-creation approach suggests establishing a portal that grows out of the information gathered throughout the Analysis, Reprocessing, and Engagement steps. At each step, stakeholders communicate valuable information to the leaders implementing the change management. These discussions, as well as the independent analysis, provide a holistic view of the team’s needs. A combination of efforts can help company leaders engage employees in the stages of change implementation:

  • Customizing a project portal based on initial objectives and evolving situations
  • Organizing relevant knowledge in a project portal designed for end-user efficiency
  • Establishing mechanisms for appropriate visibility and accountability
  • Supporting data workflow, dashboards, and continuous improvement programs

Assessing Implemented Changes

In operations, metrics are essential to determine whether people, processes, and tools are meeting goals and what improvements are needed to enhance performance. For example, a positive metric like “number of emergency changes performed without incident” can lead to better results without blame or shame — as opposed to negative metrics like “reduction in the number of failed or unauthorized changes,” which can also lead to minimization or hiding of problems.

After thoughtful selection of positive metrics that don’t inadvertently encourage counterproductive behaviors, designing system elements to enable tracking of appropriate key performance indicators (KPIs) is another important early step that cannot be neglected. For example, one company implemented a new customer support ticket system without first defining the key metrics to measure whether the new tool had improved customer satisfaction and performance. Since management had no way to gauge the success of the system, it demanded significant unexpected investments of time and resources to develop features that could extract and process data for this purpose. The situation could have been avoided if management considered the data sources — and the requirements necessary to generate reports on these key metrics — earlier in the project scoping stage.

In areas where quantitative metrics are hard to implement, surveys and subjective responses can be effective in gathering feedback from the customers and team to gauge their buy-in. This helps achieve functional excellence in customer satisfaction and service success.

Effective Tool Utilization And Using A Project Portal To Drive Engagement

To move beyond functional excellence to project excellence, information sharing between functions and integration of plans across functions are key. Having a clear picture of the dependencies, resources, and responsibilities involved minimizes gaps and ensures tasks are completed within constraints. However, a tool will only be helpful when the input allows for meaningful analysis that aids project oversight and communication. If the information fed into the tool is too general or does not identify the salient data points or processes that have the most impact, the analysis will be insufficient.

When the project is implemented, sometimes organizations rely too heavily on a limited number of people who understand the nuances and scope of the project. When this happens, the information is not distributed and available for all employees to access when needed. If the primary contacts for the project are unavailable, experienced help is out of reach. Conscientious, hard-working employees who want to comply with a new process can be frustrated when they are overly reliant on an individual for help. Subject matter experts may also be overburdened with requests for consultation. Making the information available in a self-service format can help high-performers answer their own questions and keep their workload moving.

Another specific business context in which the co-creation methodology is particularly useful is risk-based testing. As a way to combat the validation sprawl that comes with increasingly complex systems, risk-based assessment has emerged as the preferred method for ensuring critical components work as expected. Because it is a more limited approach to validation, risk-based assessment can be considered a novel project unto itself, which requires developing a new process, creating tools to facilitate included tasks, and eliminating knowledge gaps to ensure adoption and compliance. The methodology allows project teams to highlight the areas most likely to create compliance or safety problems. Effort needs to be focused on areas where customization or application could involve — or even create — higher risk. Therefore, it is important to optimize tools to ease the transition, increase efficiency, and ensure compliance. A risk-based program typically features:

  1. Customizing a risk-based analysis template to match the individual development project’s specifications
  2. Facilitating a discussion among stakeholders regarding the risk of each requirement
  3. Using the final documents to guide risk management during the development and testing process.

When a company implements a new risk-assessment tool/template, time spent on updating the document and overall testing load can be minimized if (1) the template is created with the proper level of risk assigned for each requirement based on the base template and through collaboration with subject matter experts from different functions, and (2) only the items that are new or customized are assessed. The rollout of the change (i.e., adoption of the new template and process) can be anchored by a well-organized wiki site that provides guidance and contextual framework for the changes, links to important documents, and establishes space/a forum for discussing ongoing issues to help the team succeed.

Effective Training: Leverage Meaningful Abstraction For Learning And Improvement

With any new process, training is a crucial aspect of ensuring compliance and minimizing the time used to learn new tasks. Dinkelmann, Siegert, and Bauernhansl discuss the importance of communication when training and supporting staff during the change process. With up to 70 percent of change management initiatives failing and resistance of employees being a key driver of failure,2 effective presentation of information during change management can significantly improve the chances of success.  When rolling out a change, leaders can either (A) assume all employees affected by the change have a certain level of knowledge, and thus provide minimal training, or (B) acknowledge that current and future employees need extensive training to ensure effective performance, and then provide them with the necessary framework (i.e., abstraction for understanding and generalization) to access information in context and practice problem-solving. Typically, individual employees have varying levels of knowledge and competence. Robust training sets clear expectations of knowledge that must be mastered while also providing a vehicle for the employees to gain the requisite expertise.

The Reprocessing step in the co-creation model presents the preliminary Analysis results as constructed knowledge around the changes and could be used in meetings or workshops to support learning in several ways:

  • Set up and provide orientation for initial project portal at kickoff meeting.
  • Facilitate discussions of common goals, project charter and planning, anticipated issues, required monitoring metrics, and efficient data collection.
  • Translate information to compelling visual management materials for ongoing progress tracking.

Sometimes training can be limited to a series of town hall meetings. The meetings may provide some guided instruction through the document and allow for questions. However, it’s common for confusion about how to use a new tool or template to still arise during actual use. When such confusion occurs during a situation where risk assessment is required to proceed to the next step in the development process, timelines can be impacted while informational and process gaps are resolved. A more robust approach to training includes a mixture of bidirectional and unidirectional communication, such as:

  1. A hands-on workshop that allows those who will use the document to apply the new process to a test project
  2. A process document or media that outlines the step-by-step application of the new process, and that can be accessed at any time or presented just-in-time
  3. A knowledge base that allows the submission of questions and feedback and provides evolving information on the process as it proceeds and is refined.

Conclusion: Co-creation For Future Success

When implementing changes involved in a new initiative, mastering the softer skills such as communication with team members can be difficult because it “forces all employees to commit themselves to new ways of thinking and working.”1 However, the successful use of such skills can have significant business implications in terms of project success. In this two-part article, we discussed how the co-creation model can help companies implement changes associated with a new risk-analysis tool by establishing and presenting a broader picture of process dependencies, as well as by engaging stakeholders with an employee- and customer-centric mindset to achieve stronger and sustainable adoption.

In the article “What Apple, Lending Club, and AirBnB Know About Collaborating with Customers,” Barry Libert, Jerry Wind, and Megan Beck recommend a five-step process called PIVOT: Pinpoint, Identify, Visualize, Operate, and Track.3 Their model seeks to “invite … customers into the value equation” by understanding areas where customers may co-create and by providing a platform for them to do so, and then operating and tracking its success. A company adopting the co-creation model will seek to do this through partnering with stakeholders at a deep level, working with them to implement Analysis, Reprocessing, and Engagement in a manner that meets business goals and drives future success.

References:

  1. Fine D., Hansen M., Roggenhofer S. (2008) “From lean to lasting: Making operational improvements stick.” McKinsey Quarterly. https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/operations/our-insights/from-lean-to-lasting-making-operational-improvements-stick?cid=other-eml-cls-mip-mck-oth-1807
  2. Dinkelmann M., Siegert J., Bauernhansl T. (2014) “Change Management through Learning Factories.” In: Zaeh M. (eds) Enabling Manufacturing Competitiveness and Economic Sustainability. Springer, Cham, pp 395-399.
  3. Libert B., Wind Y., Beck M. (2015) “What Apple, Lending Club, and AirBnB Know About Collaborating with Customers.” Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2015/07/what-apple-lending-club-and-airbnb-know-about-collaborating-with-customers

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