iSixSigma

Getting the Right Change Agent on the Bus

Notes from the deployment frontline 31 October 05

Sorry about the two month delay – babies and work have consumed my time. Alison Grace is sleeping most of the night and Mom is feeling almost normal. Work is going from tactical to strategic as we are beginning to understand the value of focusing change agents on the things that distract us from our long term and short term goals. We are funding tremendous investments in structural changes through cash flow. Serious, heady stuff that requires focus.

On the subject of choosing Champions and Change Agents, last time I contended –

“The common advice of “best and brightest” is necessary but not sufficient. You choose change agents based on something that is encoded in their DNA and is easy to measure. More on that next week. Just know that I believe that the advice that a good change agent is a good manager is terrible advice.”

I will start you with the advice of my good friend Bob Wilson. Bob consults in the area of what I call Human Architecture using a tool called Predictive Index (PI). I am not promoting PI, but will tell you two of the largest practitioners of PI, Bob Wilson and Elmano Nigri, have taken a specific interest in studying Six Sigma and improving results by doing a better job of picking change agents. They know more about us than any other users of behavior predictors that I know of.

My layman’s understanding of the terms Bob uses below –

There are four factors Predictive Index uses to describe a person’s drive –

1) A – The drive to dominate. Presence of this drive is a person who thinks their ideas are the best ideas; they want to win and don’t mind a bit of head butting. Absence of this drive is a person who avoids conflict. People with the presence of this drive are motivated by money because it buys them freedom.

2) B – The drive for external response. Presence of this drive is a person who is empathetic, who can read people well; this person is a good communicator and is concerned about how the message is received. Absence of this drive is a communication avoider, a person that prefers email and voicemail to face to face contact. People with the absence of this drive are often perceived as arrogant and aloof, while what they really are is unaware of their affect on others. People with the presence of this drive are motivated by money because it buys them prestige.

3) C – The drive for stability. Presence of this drive is a person who are very process oriented, that like to know the process and work the process in its proper order. Absence of this drive is a person who is impatient, and like to have 100 balls in the air at once; these impatient folks respond only to deadlines. People with the presence of this drive are motivated by a sense of team and family; they are natural team players.

4) D – The drive for certainty. Presence of this drive is a person who sees the world as black and white; they have difficulty delegating. Absence of this drive is a person who sees the world as a million shades of grey; they will delegate anything even if it is not appropriate. People with the presence of this drive are motivated by a sense of fairness.

Bob’s thoughts on the subject, an excerpt of a newsletter he sends to CEOs –

Twice in the last two weeks, consultants came back from different client visits telling the same story. They told of situations where CEOs had directed major change efforts within a specific area. In both cases:

  • The CEO had put people in charge of the specific area that needed to be changed.
  • The areas were troubled.
  • It wasn’t known what was to be done, only that something needed to be changed.
  • Performance stunk at the beginning of the effort and continues to stink.
  • Whatever change that was supposed to have been incorporated was to have occurred months previously.
  • There was no indication the change was going to happen any time soon.
  • The CEO was still waiting for change to happen.

Unfortunately, these two cases are representative of many more we’ve seen over the years. In many cases, waiting for change to occur, even when you’ve directed it, is the equivalent of waiting for Godot and as we likely remember, Godot never came. The waiting was for naught. For these waiting CEOss, change isn’t going to happen until something changes. And something, whatever it is, isn’t going to change on its own.

Don’t get me wrong, change can happen on its own. Generally, however, this kind of change could better be described as somewhere between attrition and entropy. People are either allowing external influences to exert more force than is their due or allowing variance to take over from conformity. Unfortunately, this kind of change occurs when things are getting worse, not better. And, yes, it can take place on its own.

However, when you want things to change both systemically and for the better, three things have to be in place:

  1. Support must exist for the change from management
  2. Change agents need be involved in driving the change
  3. Administrators need to see that whatever has changed will become a part of the new system

The first building block is exactly what was put in place in the cases above – support and direction from management. Change was asked for, even directed. Yet, that alone obviously wasn’t enough.

Once it is determined that change is necessary, it is important that the person charged with leading that change is a Change Agent (a person with a high A as well as lower D and C in their Predictive Index profile); or that someone within the team that is driving that change is a Change Agent. Why? Anyone who does not have this profile is not comfortable with change, let alone the driving of it.

That’s not to say Change Agents are always successful drivers of change. They may not have the skill set or intelligence to make the required change happen. But, they at least start with the propensity to change. They just may not be successful.

In both of the examples referred to above, the people charged with driving change were highest D’s – people driven to do the right thing. They were both successful managers. They both were excellent administrators. But, they were both failing the task of driving change. They did not know where to begin. In fact, every effort they made to begin was thwarted before it got off the blocks with one simple thought: “What if I fail”?

Highest D’s are uncomfortable driving change because they fear doing the wrong thing or making a mistake. It is easier for them to do nothing than it is to make a mistake. Hence, when being asked to drive change, nothing gets done. And, the CEO waits.

On the other hand, people with Change Agent profiles thrive on change. They look at a situation and ask themselves, “How can I make this better?” They’re not concerned about making a mistake. If they do, oh well. They’ll just try another solution. That’s why you want Change Agents driving change. Change demands comfort with mistakes and Change Agents have that. Mistakes prohibit change for highest D’s because highest D’s won’t tolerate them!

In our most recent newsletter, I described the success or lack thereof achieved by 6 Sigma Black Belts with different profiles (6 Sigma Black Belts are people who are charged with creating change within an organization and who are measured by the effectiveness of the change they create.) The chart below recaps the results.

Black Belt Success Rate: Who Would You Choose?

Profile Characteristics

Success Rate

Highest A, Lower C, Lower D than A:

100%

High A, Lower C, Higher D than A:

33%

All other profiles in Sample:

0%

Statistics prove and empirical evidence supports that if you want change, you need to have high A’s who are also lower C’s and D’s driving it.

I’m not advocating you fill your organization with Change Agents. There are many places where you likely don’t want change. Wherever you have high, particularly highest A’s, you will have change. Like it or not. Thus, you don’t want A’s everywhere. You only want them where creation of change or adaptation to it is a necessary part of what it takes to be successful.

In fact, I’m not even advocating that Change Agents be the only people involved in change. High C’s and D’s (Administrators) should be part of the process and should be around to institute, implement and document the change after it has been developed. Once Change Agents develop a solution, they like to start to change it again before it is truly standardized. And change really isn’t complete until it’s been instituted and controlled. For change to be successful, Administrators need to see that it’s a part of the new system.

Ultimately, if you don’t have Change Agents where you are looking for change to occur, you are likely to be waiting for change to happen long after it’s been directed. And if you don’t have Administrators locking in the change, the success intended to be achieved won’t come to pass.

I’d suggest you look around at those places where you’re waiting for change to occur. Ask yourself the following questions, “Have I directed the change to take place?” “Do I have a Change Agent (high A that is higher than both C and D) driving the change?” “Do I have Administrators (high C’s and D’s who are assuring that the change will be instituted?” If any of the answers are no, likely, you’ve got some rearranging to do. Or, you should learn to be comfortable waiting.

Waiting is a solution I wouldn’t advocate, however.

Thanks for reading and I hope you found these insights helpful. And, I hope you don’t have to wait too much longer.

Bob Wilson

——–

So real quick, my take on what Bob’s message means.

We want Black Belts who highest drive is that they think their ideas are the best ideas and they want to win. I think this is true because you send the change agent into a team where only one person owns the problem at the beginning – the change agent.

We want their communication style to be middle of the road – neither high nor low B. This is because we don’t want the message crafted to suit the audience (highest B) or delivered without a feel for how it impacts others (lowest B).

We want impatient people (low C) for two reasons. First, even though we teach this as a group of serial activities, in reality you have many things active at once. Usually it is driven by waiting for data. Second, you want people who respond to deadlines (remember stage gate reviews?). Who do you want to own the Control phase? Highest C people of course, not the change agent.

And finally we want middle of the road for certainty precisely for behavior around delegation. Control implies ownership is given to those who run the process, so ownership that only the change agent has at the beginning of a project has to be completely given back. Highest D’s don’t delegate, Lowest D’s delegate anything. Those in the middle delegate when there is someone appropriate on the receiving end.

Do other patterns work?

Yes. Highest A, lowest B seem to bring the most innovation, but need a PR person as well so you don’t want too many of them.

I also know of some true outliers who among the best but their pattern do not fit. It appears to be a function of exceptional intelligence and high energy. I am talking about two people I know out of greater than 10,000 BB’s I have observed over the last 11 years. So if you are going with the odds, go with Bob’s advice.

Just my opinion, but Bob and Elmano have thousands of data points between them to substantiate.

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Comments 4

  1. Adam Lennox

    Superb article. It raises a question though:
    A question about the differences between BBs and MBBs:

    If a BBs role is typically to lead a process improvement effort, using knowledge and experience from a team, to advocate Six Sigma in the organization etc
    A MBB on the other hand Trains, mentors, Helps Select Projects…
    Gary Cone in the Blogosphere talks about 4 groups of drives:
    A..) The Drive to Dominate
    B.) The Drive for External Response (empathy)
    C.) The Drive for Stability
    D.) The Drive for Certainty
    He mentions that the “best” balance of these drives for a BB is: highest A, lower C, lower D than A.
    Do you think this is also true for MBBs?

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  2. Mike Carnell

    I believe that the same profile that works for a BB works for a MBB. Personally I am a highest A, low B, lowest C and mid D so naturally with the highest A we would believe we are the answer to this issue. Actually out of the MBB I have in training at this time most are highest A’a but two are highest B’s but that is backed up by the high A. Someone has to get all the highest A’s to speak to each other.

    The distance from A to D is important because the ration of the A to D / A to whatever is lowest is an indicator of how risk averse a person is. This is the wrong business if you are risk averse.

    The bottom line – same profile generally but the A drive and the risk measure are extremely important.

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  3. Snehal Agarwal

    Im a ANC …High A lower B and C and a medium D and i work on BPR Projects for my organisation,Think that supports your analysis.

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  4. South African Steve

    Hi Adam, Mike and Snehal

    It is true that the profile for a Black Belt may be similar to that of a Master BB. However, it may be that non PI measured factors influence the move from BB to MBB. Factors such as maturity, cognitive ability, attitude and presence in the organisation.

    Steve

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