A Six Sigma initiative – or any change process for that matter – is only successful in the long run if the stakeholders truly adopt and sustain the change. Process and technology change cannot be implemented without a change in the hearts, souls and behaviors of the people involved in or impacted by the change. True adoption and sustainability of change requires thoughtful planning and focus, and should be an integral component of any Six Sigma deployment.

Define: Stakeholder Adoption

Stakeholder planning begins at the earliest phases of any initiative. As project objectives and scope are identified during the Define phase of a Six Sigma project, stakeholders naturally emerge in various categories:

  • Project team members
  • Project sponsor
  • Business leaders and managers
  • Customers
  • Impacted employees
  • Support partners (human resources, finance, testing and operations, etc.)
  • Regulators
  • Other interested parties

Stakeholder planning and management continues during the Define phase as voice of the customer (VOC) and voice of the associate (VOA) assessments unfold. The list of stakeholders may grow or be adjusted as the processes and dependencies are better defined and understood. The charter will begin to take shape, and risk evaluation and impact analysis will continue to bring rise to stakeholder and adoption challenges and opportunities.

Measure: Stakeholder Adoption Requirements

During the Measure phase, the detailed work begins. Defining the target environment and assessing the current environment to identify gaps will undoubtedly bring about numerous stakeholder issues, ranging from levels of performance or results in the current environment to readiness for the target environment. Readiness for the target environment becomes the main focus of stakeholder planning. Detailed impact assessments implemented during Measure will identify key adoption challenges and opportunities, which will be the foundation of stakeholder and communication plans.

An effective design concept developed during the Measure phase considers critical stakeholder adoption issues during the early formation of the design work. Ignoring adoption issues at this point creates what is later described as a “pie in the sky” solution that no one really feels they can commit to or adopt.

Analyze: Stakeholder ‘Rubber Meets the Road’

During the Analyze phase, the “practical” concept defined in Measure becomes a reality, as detailed plans address not just the process or technology changes required, but also address the stakeholder adoption and support.

Communication plans and stakeholder management plans should address the needs of broad stakeholder groups, while detailed employee transition plans address the needs of the people directly impacted by the changes. Change pilots should be planned and implementation controls established – all addressing the needs of impacted employees and stakeholders in the process.

What is equally important, however, are the business and management systems, policies, and practices that will influence true sustainability long after the change managers and trainers are done. It is at this time that management systems, compensation programs, recruiting and so on, also come into focus as key supportors or detractors of the target environment. Successful programs analyze and address these opportunities as part of the overall change effort as opposed to trying to address them afterward. This represents a holistic approach to sustainable change, rather than expecting the organization to address it once the change has been transitioned to the business-owner.

Improve: Solutions-building at the Stakeholder Level

The Improve phase is the building stage. This is when processes and technology are built, tested and validated. At this time, change is translated to work functions, jobs and performance requirements, and staff plans, and training is built, tested and validated. This is where implementation plans receive final tweaks and controls are established, and stakeholder readiness is truly tested and validated.

Once again, the challenge during Improve is focusing on implementing the targeted changes while also considering the long-term sustainability of the changes. Training is critical at this time, but so too is integrating new performance requirements and metrics into the management systems that will ensure the changes are managed in the future. Business management reporting and performance management systems must be adjusted to reflect the target requirements. Planning processes and management routines should be adjusted to reflect and support the target environment and changes made. Human resources systems such as recruiting, hiring, orientation and compensation may require adjustments to support and sustain the changes. These are the actions to speak to sustained change and continuous improvement.

Control: Launching Adoption and Sustainability

During the Control phase, stakeholders are migrated to the target environment, and training and communications are completed. The change is implemented and controls validated. New requirements are reflected in performance scorecards, metrics and dashboards. Process changes are transitioned to business or process owners. The target environment is considered business as usual and the project or program is closed out.

As the program is closed out, a key component of stakeholder management is the recognition and reward of contributors and the celebration of successes. It is human nature for people to sustain and improve on that of which they are proud and feel good about. Recognition and celebration are key contributors to sustainability, yet are often forgotten in the haste to reach the goal line and close out the work. Recognition and celebration continually motivate those who have truly adopted the changes and serve to entice those who continue to resist.

Change Success Depends on Stakeholder Adoption

Process and technology changes cannot be successful if the people who use them are not successful. Real value-add change cannot be sustained without some change in the hearts and minds of those involved. Focused attention and integrated planning for stakeholder planning and management throughout the DMAIC process supports the mindset and behaviors required to be successful now and in the future.

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