This post continues our series on 50 Common Sense Tips for Mastering Organization Change. These tips hold true whether you’re implementing a new process, a software rollout, or a transitional culture change.
Points 36-40 below continue the Engaging phase in the three-step process I refer to as Planning, Selling, and Engaging.
36. Remember the Spaghetti Principle – General George S. Patton likened leadership to trying to move a piece of cooked spaghetti through a small hole. You need to pull it; you can’t push it. “A piece of spaghetti or a military unit,” he said, “can only be led from the front end.” This means you need to lead by example, relying on the new method as soon as possible. People observe management’s actions, not its words. If you’re implementing software, then ensure management uses the output to make its decisions. If management isn’t using it, the people will think it’s unimportant and will likewise ignore it.
37. Just Do It – Don’t wait for perfection. Even if the system, process, or data isn’t perfect yet, begin using it as soon as possible. The best way to move to a new method is total immersion (which is why foreign language schools use this approach). As the Spanish conqueror Cortés told his men when they arrived in Mexico, “burn the ships.” Only then will everyone be committed to the new way. Of course, be sure the new way is at least effective enough for use (80% is a good rule of thumb), but neither should you let perfect be the enemy of good, to paraphrase Voltaire. Let “good enough” be your mantra, or you may find yourself losing traction quicker than you think.
38. Make a List – Never underestimate the power of checklists. Not only can they reduce the need for time-consuming approval steps, they can reinforce the basics, improve handoffs, and put accountability in the hands of the people executing your processes. Most importantly, they can greatly improve process quality. Airlines have been using checklists for years, and now hospitals are realizing their power as well. For example, in just 18 months’ time, a single five-step checklist implemented by Dr. Peter Pronovost at Johns Hopkins Hospital had saved 1500 lives and nearly $200 million in costs. And in a World Health Organization (WHO) pilot program of eight hospitals, simple checklists resulted in reducing major complications, deaths, and infections by nearly half.
39. Standardize Selectively – People tend to look at change as something that’s been inflicted upon them. If they’re required to do things differently or follow a standard process, they can feel like their freedom is being revoked or their wings have been clipped. It can also make them feel less creative. Because of this, resist the temptation to standardize everything at once. Instead, pick one or two areas that everyone agrees need to be standardized or improved. Involve people as much possible. Then, after the change has been implemented and embraced, you can move on to the next most important area. Combined with voluntary checklists, it’s a great way to introduce improvements that people can buy into.
40. Learn to Love the Trash Can – Miyamoto Musashi, the greatest Samurai swordsman of all time, wrote a book called The Book of Five Rings, an ancient tome on strategy, tactics and philosophy that’s still revered today for its insights, and for Musashi’s “nine principles.” One of those principles is “Do nothing Useless.” This principle became the basis for the lean manufacturing movement as well, which originated at Toyota. Toyota listed “seven wastes” to be eliminated in manufacturing. Likewise, there are wastes in implementation processes as well, including excessive approval steps, redundant actions, ineffective handoffs, unnecessary forms, gathered information that goes unused, and so on. When examining your processes, find out what steps, forms, data fields, or reports can be eliminated. Be relentless about waste, and question everything. Encourage your people to do the same.
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