Change Acceleration Process (CAP) is a well-known strategy for quickly implementing change in any organization. We will present the elements of CAP, its benefits and how it might help your organization.

Overview: What is the Change Acceleration Process? 

In 1989-90, GE launched a team-based problem-solving and employee empowerment program called Work-Out. This approach was modeled after Japanese Quality Circles, which were in common use at the time. Work-Out was successful, but GE’s CEO, Jack Welch, was frustrated with the slow speed in which it was being implemented.  Welch hired a team of consultants to research best practices for change management in industry and academia. 

The result was the Change Acceleration Process, commonly referred to as CAP.

One of the primary insights the consultants gained was that having a strong technical solution to a problem was no guarantee of the project’s success. Failure was often due to cultural and people issues, not the lack of a technical solution. 

This insight resulted in the Change Effectiveness Equation, QxA=E, where Effectiveness (E) of any project is equal to the Quality (Q) of the technical solution times the Acceptance (A) of the solution by the people involved in the process.  

If you have a great technical solution but little buy-in from the people involved, your project will not be successful.

There are seven elements of CAP. The graphic below defines what they are.

Change Acceleration Process Model

Here is a discussion of the seven steps of the model for moving from the current state, through the transition state, to the improved state.

  1. Leading change: Leadership of the organization needs to consistently show strong commitment to supporting change. There is a significant risk of failure if the organization lacks strong leadership commitment to the change initiatives.
  2. Creating a shared need: People must see the need for change for it to be accepted and worked on. Reasons must be compelling and resonate not just for the leadership team but for everyone in the organization.
  3. Shaping a vision: Leadership must present a clear vision of the impact on the organization after a successful change. The desired outcome should be clearly understood, have genuine reasons, and be widely accepted.
  4. Mobilizing commitment: Once the first three steps are in place, momentum needs to be built toward the need for change. It should include engaging, identifying, planning, and analyzing the necessary changes.
  5. Making change last: The challenge here is how to maintain the gain. This step is about learning from previous mistakes, adjusting the initiative if needed, and transforming the change into how we do things here. All of this will help make the change more permanent and sustain success.
  6. Monitoring progress: Measuring how the change initiative is progressing, and celebrating when appropriate, will help to cement the change in the organization. Set benchmarks for success, and measure them often and objectively. 
  7. Changing systems and structures: To make the change permanent, the infrastructure must be set up to support it. If your current infrastructure (IT systems, HR policies, organizational design, etc.) is set up to support the previous state of the organization, they must be updated to support the future vision or the organization will not be able to make the change last.

Here are some of the common tools used in the CAP process:

  • Includes/excludes chart: Challenges the team to define the boundaries of the project and to clarify and agree on what is included and excluded in the scope of work.
  • Process mapping: A graphical representation of the as-Is current state process. The starting process map is usually a SIPOC.
  • In/out of the frame: A visual tool analogy of a picture frame. It identifies those aspects of the project in the frame (within the scope of work), out of the frame, or half-in-half-out (debateable or some aspects are partially in the scope of work). 
  • 15 words: An alignment tool that challenges team members to define the project in specific terms and then check for alignment of definitions. Each team member must write, in 15 words or less, the project definition. Check for agreement to assure team alignment.
  • Team charter checklist: Provides a structure for gaining clarity of purpose, individual and team expectations, and scope of responsibilities.
  • A.R.M.I. analysis: Helps define the roles of the project’s key stakeholders and their involvement in the project. This is similar to a RACI (responsible, accountable, consultative, informed) diagram.
    • A = Approver will approve and make decisions on a variety of issues such as project scope, resources, and ultimately team recommendations for improvement.  
    • R = ad hoc Resource contributes to the project’s success with process/content expertise.  
    • M = Member has the critical working knowledge of the problem and/or process to be addressed. They are required to attend team meetings and fully participate in the action items and work plan. They will be the key to successful project completion. 
    • I = Interested Party are the key stakeholders who will build the critical mass of stakeholders necessary to ensure success. 
  • GRPI (goals, roles, processes, interpersonal relationships): A responsibility grid for determining who does what with respect to the project action plan.
  • Threat vs. opportunity matrix: Frame the need as a threat and opportunity for both the short and long terms.
  • Elevator speech: States the need for change and describes the future state. Typically a 90-120 second speech given whenever a team member has the opportunity to describe the team’s project to a key stakeholder. 
  • Force field analysis: Analysis of what will drive or block the project in the long term. By understanding these forces, you can build action plans to close the gap between where you are and where you want to be.   

3 benefits of CAP 

GE and many other organizations were successful in implementing CAP. Here are some of the benefits they accrued for their efforts.

1. Quick and systematic 

The purpose of CAP is to accelerate change in a structured and systematic manner. 

2. Engagement

Creating a shared need and shaping a common vision will get everyone on board to support organization changes. 

3. Alignment  

It minimizes the effort of getting the organization to understand and align business functions around a specific change.

Why is CAP important to understand? 

CAP is a very comprehensive approach to change. Understanding the tools and structure will let your organization embrace change in a more efficient and effective way.

Sequential in nature

The seven steps of CAP build upon each other. You must first establish the common need and vision before embarking upon making any changes. 

Importance of people 

The Change Effectiveness Equation, QxA=E, emphasizes the fact that without the acceptance of the people in the process, the effectiveness of the change will be reduced no matter how good your technical solution is. 

Leadership is crucial 

Without the full commitment of senior leadership to the change process, eventual success of any initiative will be limited.

An industry example of CAP 

A large hospital realized it needed to reduce cycle time in its emergency department (ED) to meet patient’s expectations and competitor’s performance. Their Master Black Belt (MBB), a former employee of GE, suggested they utilize CAP as a method for implementing quick changes.

Below are a few examples of some of the tools they used in the seven-step CAP. In the end, the project was successful in reducing cycle time by approximately 27%, which improved patient satisfaction and made them very competitive with other local medical facilities.

Note: These charts are from a workshop put on by GE Healthcare

3 best practices when thinking about CAP 

Consider these suggestions when using CAP to make changes in your organization.

1. Get the right people 

Select the right people for the project and be sure they are aligned and understand the structure and rigor of CAP. 

2. Don’t take shortcuts on steps 2 and 3 

Creating the shared need and vision is critical to establishing alignment with team members and the goal of the project.

3. Communicate frequently 

Have frequent communication with the leadership of the organization and any key stakeholders who could impact your project, either positively or negatively.  

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about CAP

What are the steps of CAP? 

  1. Leading change
  2. Creating a shared need
  3. Shaping a vision
  4. Mobilizing commitment
  5. Making the change last
  6. Monitoring the process of the change initiative
  7. Changing the overall systems and structures

What is the change effective equation? 

It is a simple formula that relates the effectiveness of a project as a function of the quality of a solution and the acceptance by the people involved. It is shown as E = Q x A. 

Where did CAP come from? 

CAP was an evolution of the GE Work-Out process and championed by Jack Welch, the CEO of GE at the time.

Recap of CAP 

CAP is a seven-step process designed to help organizations quickly and efficiently implement change. It requires organizational and leadership commitment, common purpose and alignment, mobilization of the organization’s resources, and possible changes in infrastructure to support changes.

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