Any change to a process is only successful in the long run if the stakeholders truly adopt and sustain the change. Process and technology improvements cannot be implemented without a change in the hearts, minds and behaviors of the people involved in the change. True adoption and sustainability requires thoughtful planning and focus, which should be integral aspects of a Six Sigma deployment.

Traditional Six Sigma programs provide a disciplined and customer-focused method of improving business results, but sometimes lack the strategies and approaches that support stakeholder adoption and sustained change. Engagement and enablement needs to occur early on in the process, when stakeholders are still making up their minds about how they feel about the change. Yet many programs rely on a communication system developed late in the game. As a result, project plans typically address stakeholder issues long after impacted employees and customers have decided whether or not they will buy into the change.

Sustaining change and building stakeholder engagement follows a model, known by the acronym SUCCESS, which stands for sponsor, understand, commit, connect, enable, support and sustain. These steps share similar tools and approaches used in the traditional DMAIC framework (Figure 1) and can be aligned roughly with the phases of Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control.

Figure 1: Elements of the SUCCESS Model

SUCCESS Model Phases Tools and Approaches
Stakeholder analysis • Risk-benefit analysis • Leading-through-change programs • Sponsor messaging • Steering committee • Employee experience plans • Advisory councils • Readiness assessment • Project/Change management set-up strategies • Training approaches • Alignment strategies • Stakeholder adoption and sustainment plans • Communications events • Impact analysis • Customer events calendar • Recognition plans • Employee experience calendar • Stakeholder metrics and dashboards

Define: Sponsor and Understand Phases

Stakeholder planning should begin at the earliest phases of any initiative. As objectives and scope are identified during the Define phase of a Six Sigma project, stakeholders naturally emerge in various categories. Stakeholder groups include:
• Change/Project team members
• Change/Project sponsors
• Business leaders and managers
• Customers
• Impacted employees
• Support partners, such as human resources, finance, technology and operations
• Regulators
• Other interested parties

Stakeholder planning and management continues during the Define phase as the voice of the customer (VOC) and the voice of the associate assessments unfold. As the project environment is identified, the list of stakeholders may grow or be adjusted as the processes and dependencies are better defined and understood.

During the Define stage, focusing on sponsorship and understanding the view of stakeholders provides the foundation for the adoption work to come. Thus, the focus in the Sponsor and Understanding phases of the SUCCESS model is often rightfully on the sponsor – defining goals and success indicators. However, the earlier impacted stakeholders are involved, the more likely they will respond positively to the targeted change.

For example, the customer service department of a leading retirement services provider engaged representatives of stakeholder groups very early on in the information gathering stage. These representatives began to develop an understanding of the need for change. They began to have a stake in the success of the effort in the earliest stages. Later on, these same representatives acted as ambassadors for change.

Figure 2: Shared Tools of Sponsor and Understand Phases

Shared Tools and Approaches Equivalent DMAIC Phase
Set-up process • Steering committee support • Sponsor evaluation • Sponsor support plans • Events calendars • Meeting routines • Leadership Engagement strategies • Local sponsor plans • Coaching models • Stakeholder assessment • Key messages • Employee experience metrics and measures • Voice of the customer (VOC) • Facilitated leadership sessions • Target state design • Success definitions Define

Measure: Commit and Connect Phases

During the Measure phase, the detailed work begins. Defining the target environment will undoubtedly reveal numerous stakeholder issues. Readiness for the target environment is one of these issues that will become the main focus of stakeholder planning. From the detailed impact assessments implemented in Measure, the corresponding phases of Commit and Connect under SUCCESS can identify key adoption challenges and opportunities, which will be the foundation of stakeholder and communication plans.

An effective design concept developed during the Commit and Connect phases considers critical stakeholder adoption issues during the early formation of the design work. At this time, sponsor and stakeholder commitment is assessed and critical system and process connections are identified. Ignoring adoption issues at this point creates what is later described as “theoretical rather than practical” or “pie-in-the-sky” solution designs that few stakeholders can adopt.

Impacted employees are more likely to commit to something they have been involved in creating from the beginning. These employees create excitement and commitment among their peers. Facilitated sessions focused on socializing and validating findings during the Measure phase are useful in engaging larger numbers of stakeholders and are an effective way of promoting adoption with employees and customers alike.

Figure 3: Shared Tools for Commit and Connect Phases

SUCCESS Model Phases
Shared Tools and Approaches Equivalent
Risk and rewards analysis • Impact analysis • Resistors analysis • Employee experience checklist • VOC checklist • Stakeholder mapping • Integration plans • Success indicators and models • Performance definitions • Target state design Measure

Analyze: Enable Phase

The change plans begin to take shape during DMAIC’s Analyze phase. Solution designs addressing business requirements are supported with detailed plans emphasizing stakeholder adoption and sustainability. Communication and stakeholder management plans address the needs of the broad stakeholder groups, while detailed employee transition plans address the needs of the people being directly impacted by the changes. Under the Enable phase of SUCCESS, change pilots are planned and implementation controls are established – all focused on enabling the impacted employees and stakeholders in the process.

During the Enable phase, the practical concept defined in Commit and Connect becomes a reality as detailed plans address not just the process or technology changes required but also the readiness issues of the stakeholders. Communications, training and transition planning are critical to employee and stakeholder readiness and often become the sole focus of stakeholder management during the Enable phase. What is equally important. though, are the management systems, policies and practices that will influence true sustainability long after the change managers and trainers are done. The connections identified during the Commit and Connect phases are further addressed.

It is at this time that management systems, compensation programs, recruiting and on-boarding practices, and other business elements also come into focus as key supporters or detractors of the target environment. Successful programs analyze these opportunities as part of the overall change effort rather than trying to address them afterward. This holistic approach addresses sustainable change before the program is transitioned to the business owner.

The impact of events targeted at enabling impacted stakeholders cannot be over-emphasized. Well-planned communication, training and support programs are critical to ensure that impacted stakeholders are successful in the targeted environment.

In one instance, a major real estate and relocation company embarked on an operations centralization and relocation effort. This change resulted in the closing of five regional offices, which led to significant employee terminations. The effectiveness of the communication and support programs, however, allowed them to retain key employees throughout the transition. The new location was staffed almost 80 percent with new employees, many without related experience. The company’s success was directly attributed to effective communications with impacted associates and quality training programs.

Improve: Support Phase

The Improve phase under DMAIC is the building stage, when processes and technologies are tested and validated. This is where change is translated to work functions, jobs and performance requirements. The same can be said of enabling strategies such as staff plans and training vehicles. Implementation plans receive final tweaks and controls are established. In short, the Improve phase – or Support, under the SUCCESS model – is where stakeholder readiness is truly tested and validated.

Training is critical under the Support phase, but so, too, is the integration of new performance requirements and metrics into the management systems, which will ensure that changes are managed to in the future. Support mechanisms, such as business management reporting and performance management systems, must be adjusted to reflect the target requirements. Planning processes and management routines are 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 connections are often ignored, yet they can have the most significant impact on sustained change and continuous improvement.

During DMAIC’s Analyze and Improve phases, the adoption focus is on enabling and supporting stakeholders. The connections to management systems and practices that were identified earlier on are addressed in SUCCESS’ Enable and Support phases in context of the target environment.

Figure 4: Shared Tools for Enable and Support Phases

Shared Tools and Approaches Equivalent
DMAIC Phases
Communication plans • Performance management and compensation program integration • Impact analysis • Stakeholder readiness assessments • GAP mapping and prioritization • Readiness planning • Training plans • Socialization events • Coaching models • Job and performance descriptions • Rewards and recognition programs • Key messages and communications • Socialization plans Analyze

Control: Sustain Phase

During Control – or Sustain in the SUCCESS model equivalent – stakeholders are migrated to the target environment. Support programs, such as training and communications, are completed. The change is implemented and controls are validated. New requirements are reflected in performance scorecards, metrics and dashboards to monitor and sustain the target environment. Process changes are transitioned to business and process owners. The target environment is considered “business as usual” and the project is closed out.

As the project is closed out, a key component of sustaining change is the recognition and reward of contributors and the celebration of successes. Recognition and celebration are key contributors to sustainability, yet they may be overlooked in the haste to reach the goal line and close out the work. Sustain ensures that recognition is given to motivate those who have truly adopted the changes and to entice those who continue to resist.

Figure 5: Control Phase

SUCCESS Model Phase Shared Tools and Approaches Equivalent
Sustain Success definitions • Adoption and sustainment plans • Integration plans • Business-as-usual sustainment planning • Adoption metrics and measurement • Management reporting and dashboards • Business intelligence • Leadership and management support strategies • Assessments Control

Case Studies: Ensuring Stakeholder Adoption

In one example of the SUCCESS model in action, a mid-sized financial institution was in the process of merging with a company of relatively the same size. From the beginning, one of the most critical factors identified for the success of the transition was the “employee experience,” which was defined in terms of specific mindsets and behaviors, including the establishment of realistic expectations regarding employee confidence, understanding, preparedness and treatment throughout the transition. This employee experience provided the measures by which this organization gauged progress and success.

Assessing transition plans against these definitions revealed gaps, which were addressed with new work streams – some of which are now being considered standard routines for all future transitions and change events. Other work streams have been adopted as business-as-usual practices to monitor the sustainability of their progress.

While all stakeholders at the financial institution agree that these new planning, communication and measurement work routines yield positive results, the transition lead for employee experience noted that the early and intense focus on employee experience has had the most significant impact. Across the board, this organization continues to see positive trends in their employee experience results.

Another organization, a retirement services business, used a revised approach to process improvement that helped stakeholders within its customer service department better understand the value of Six Sigma practices. During a major reengineering effort, change managers at the company involved stakeholders early on in the process by engaging sponsors and executives in facilitated sessions. Impacted employees were also included in design sessions and encouraged to make socializing recommendations with stakeholder groups.

Stakeholders understood and valued the tools and Lean methodologies applied along the way. They also were able to value the quick hits that were identified and understood those more complex findings and recommendations that required Six Sigma discipline. These were just a few of the benefits realized by engaging and enabling stakeholders early on in the process.

Process and technology changes cannot be successful if the people who use them are not successful in applying and sustaining those changes. Real value-add change cannot be sustained without some change in behavior or performance of key stakeholders. Focused attention and integrated planning for stakeholder adoption and management throughout the DMAIC process supports the mindset and behaviors required for stakeholders to be successful now and in the future. When dealing with the complex “people side” of change management, defining SUCCESS any other way just does not measure up.

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