The full value of any improvement initiative is realized only when it is complemented by a robust change management strategy to effectively manage the people side of the change throughout the course of improvement cycle.

What Is Change Management?

Change management is a systematic approach to transitioning individuals, teams and organizations to a desired future state. In addition, it is a framework for managing the people side of change to achieve the desired outcome of any improvement initiative. It is also a practice of leading, managing and enabling people to accept new processes, technologies, systems, structures and values.

A change management process is composed of the following four major phases:

  1. Prepare for a change
  2. Assess for change readiness
  3. Manage the change
  4. Sustain the change

Why Is Change Management Important?

It is said that 70 percent of improvement initiatives fail to achieve their intended outcome. A major cause of failure is improper change management. Humans have a natural tendency to resist change; in the absence of proper change management they either do not participate in change or choose to stick with the status quo.

The effectiveness of any improvement initiative depends upon both on the quality of improvement solution and the acceptance level of solution. In other words, the overall effectiveness (E) of any improvement solution is a function of both the quality of the solution (Q) and the acceptance level of the solution (A).

E = Q x A

While an improvement methodology focuses on the quality of an improvement solution (Q), the acceptance level of solution (A) is influenced by change management.

Improvement Initiative and Change Management

Every improvement initiative should be supported by a robust change management plan. Whether it is a Six Sigma- or Lean-based improvement initiative, change management should be an integral part of the overall improvement strategy.

Most organizations conduct change management activities only at the end of the improvement journey. This is an ineffective strategy because it does not provide sufficient time to people to adapt to changing circumstances. Change management activity should begin in conjunction with the onset of an improvement initiative. Further change management planning should coincide with the different phases of the improvement initiative.

Phases Align

1. Prepare for the Change

This phase of change management should begin in conjunction with the problem definition stage of the improvement plan.

  • Objective: To create awareness about vision for change
  • Key activities:
    • Create a vision for change
    • Communicate the vision and need for change to all stakeholders
    • Create the change management plan

2. Assess for Change Readiness

In parallel with understanding the current state of the process, the team should also focus on assessing the readiness of the people to participate in change and creating a desire among people to participate in change.

  • Objective: To assess change readiness of people
  • Key activities:
    • Conduct change impact analysis
    • Assess the state of the people with respect to upcoming change
    • Create a desire among people to participate in change

3. Manage the Change

While the improvement team is busy analyzing a problem and implementing a solution, the change management team should be simultaneously focused on managing the smooth transition of the people to the desired end state.

  • Objective: To transition people to desired end state
  • Key activities:
    • Execute the change management plan
    • Provide training and tools to overcome barriers of change
    • Mentor and coach people to maintain their enthusiasm

4. Sustain the Change

The final stage of any improvement plan should be complemented by efforts to ensure that the change lasts.

  • Objective: To sustain the change
  • Key activities:
    • Gather feedback and take corrective actions
    • Reinforce to sustain the change
    • Celebrate and promote early success
Improvement Strategy
Improvement Methodology Change Management Methodology
Six Sigma Phase Lean Phase Phase Objective Phase Objective
Define Identify value Define problem statement and value Prepare Create change awareness
Measure Map value stream Determine the current state of the process Assess Assess change readiness
Analyze Create flow Determine the root cause of the problem Manage Manage transition to desired state
Improve Establish pull Identify and implement solution
Control Seek perfection Gather feedback and monitor the solution Sustain Sustain the change

In summary, to increase the success factor of any improvement initiative, change management activities should be executed in conjunction with all phases of the initiative and not be limited only to the concluding phase.

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