Stanley A. Marash, Ph.D.
Previous articles in this series
on change management dealt with the inevitability of change,
the financial implications of not changing and the barriers
to change. In this column, we’ll look at leadership’s
role in making change happen.
Change can be brought about in two ways. The first, innovation,
generally involves capital investment and sophisticated
analytical tools. The second, continual improvement, results
from small, incremental changes that don’t often require
large financial investments or complex technology. Although
the entire organization contributes to continual improvement,
most opportunities are management-controllable--not operator-controllable
(i.e., the systems, not the people, are the source of the
problem). Therefore, executives and managers must invest
their personal time to lead system improvement initiatives.
The major required leadership investment is the time needed
for identifying processes that represent the greatest opportunities
for improvement. Time is a precious resource and must first
be spent learning how to make the changes and, second, how
to use quantitative and qualitative management tools to
make information- driven decisions.
The most highly evolved companies educate their senior
executives in the change process. Educated executives drive
change through an organization. As the process cascades
from level to level, it ultimately involves everyone in
The first step is to assess what re-sources exist and
how effective they are.
In previous columns, I’ve suggested that many of
the processes companies have in place don’t really
serve any useful function. For example:
Strategic business plans that are locked up where nobody
can read them
Control charts that don’t control anything
Internal audits that only check to see that documented procedures
are being followed
Procedures that require multiple signatures when only one
person actually checks the process
Part of this assessment should include flowcharts or process
maps of the overall process to help identify the biggest
opportunities for improvement.
An evaluation of existing resources should include the
employees who’ve been trained in previous improvement
initiatives. How many of them are actually applying what
they were taught? My experience is that for every 20 people
trained, there are one or two actually using what they learned.
In many cases these individuals are good candidates for
participating in, or leading, the change process. Their
use of skills makes them natural team leaders--whether official
or unofficial. Although they might be at a lower level of
management than others on the team, they’re always
highly respected, which shows when those in higher levels
of management defer to their judgment.
Identifying available resources and potential opportunities
also means analyzing them to ensure they correspond to the
strategic plan’s goals. We must invest our resources
where they’re most likely to help achieve those goals.
Setting priorities involves locating the greatest opportunities
for improvement and focusing on them. The strategic plan
helps set priorities by clearly defining outcomes that should
be valued in terms of increasing customer satisfaction,
improving profits, reducing cycle times, lowering costs,
and growing and developing personnel and the organization--in
short, yielding benefits to all stakeholders, including
The process of managing change will vary, depending on
the basic cultures that affect an organization. Today, given
the global economy and media’s international scope,
the Internet and consumer products, many cultural aspects
are universal, but others are still national, regional and
local. Typically, several cultures must be considered:
Corporate cultures. In IBM, GE, Panasonic or American Express,
certain corporate rules and ways of getting things done
exist, regardless of whether the facility is in New York,
California, France or Japan.
Occupational cultures. Engineers, software designers, scientists,
electricians, carpenters, accountants and so forth often
use common vocabularies, employ the same tools, follow similar
procedures and generally feel most comfortable with others
who understand their skills and problems.
Ethnic and/or national cultures. A plant with a large minority
or ethnically diverse workforce might have different communication
problems, serve different foods in its cafeteria and establish
work rules that accommodate certain ethnic customs.
Facility cultures. Many multinational conglomerates grow
by acquiring smaller, established firms. Although certain
corporatewide processes (e.g., financial reporting) can
be imposed on the acquired entity, the already successful
acquisition often has its own culture, and under most circumstances,
management won’t tamper with it.
Change management is leadership-driven, and it imbues
quality improvement methods into routine activities throughout
an organization. It establishes a continual improvement
process that produces short-term improvements while creating
a solid foundation and a constancy of purpose that encourages
Stanley A. Marash, Ph.D., is chairman and CEO of The
SAM Group, which includes STAT-A-MATRIX Inc. and Oriel Inc.
This article is partially adapted from Marash’s new
book, Fusion Management (QSU Publishing Co., 2003). Note:
Fusion Management is a trademark of STAT-A-MATRIX Inc. ©2003
STAT-A-MATRIX Inc. All rights reserved. Letters to the editor
regarding this column can be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.