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Harry Hertz

Quality Insider

Change Is Easy...

When it comes from a vending machine

Published: Tuesday, August 19, 2014 - 16:49

‘It must be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to plan, more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to manage, than the creation of a new system.” This quote is not taken from the words of a modern-day CEO, although he or she might have said it, but from Niccolò Machiavelli in the 1500s.

Combine that statement with the words of John Kotter, well-known for his eight-step process for change management, and you begin to understand the tremendous challenges of change management, ensuring implementation success, and sustaining the changes made. Kotter said, “The rate of change is not going to slow down anytime soon. If anything, competition in most industries will probably speed up even more.”

Given the accelerating rate of change and the need for organizations to sustain changes implemented, one area of study and focus for revisions in the 2015–2016 Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence is the tactical aspects of change management and change sustainability.

Transformational change disrupts the status quo in an organization, forcing people out of their comfort zones, and may cause a change in cultural norms for the organization. Reactions to organizational change have been likened to a body’s immune response—resist and act to return to the prior “healthy” state. Even when initial change is successful, without constant vigilance and monitoring, organizations tend to revert to old, comfortable states.

An article in the November/December 2013 issue of Contingencies magazine cites Center for Creative Leadership data that 66 percent to 75 percent of all change initiatives fall short of their objectives. A 2013 survey by Booz & Co. indicated that 65 percent of respondents had change fatigue (i.e., workers are asked to implement too many changes at once), and that only about half felt their organization had the capabilities to deliver change.

Steps to take

Given these challenges, here are the process steps I have synthesized for maximizing the likelihood of successful long-term change:
• Management commitment
• Set a clear vision
• Prioritize change initiatives
• Mobilize the change management team (senior leaders, managers, and key workforce participants)
• Communicate, communicate, communicate
• Modify organizational structures and operating modes to accomplish the change
• Design for and enable short-term wins
• Establish ongoing metrics that document change process success and effects of the change
• Align workforce development efforts with the new operating mode
• Undo old operating systems and institutionalize new systems
• Reward new behaviors
• Communicate, communicate, communicate

Change from a vending machine is expected and satisfying. Organizational change is challenging and generally disruptive. It requires dedication and commitment. With that dedication and commitment, both satisfaction and success can be yours.

First published Aug. 7, 2014, on Blogrige.

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About The Author

Harry Hertz’s picture

Harry Hertz

Harry Hertz retired in June 2013 from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), where he had served as director of the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program since 1995. For more than 15 years he was the primary architect of the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence, responsible for expansion of the Baldrige Program and Award to healthcare, education, and nonprofits, including government. Hertz serves on the advisory group for VHA’s Center for Applied Healthcare Studies, and on the adjunct faculty of American University. He has a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn, and a Ph.D. from M.I.T.