Want to Be a Change Agent? Here is a Method and a Challenge

Change agents often are working on efficiency and not effectiveness. The key is to know the difference.

Maybe I shouldn’t assume you don’t – and in that case if what I write here is not unfamiliar to you than it is probably someone else. In fact, I know many Lean and Six Sigma folks that get it.

There are four areas that you need to understand if you are do make your organization effective and this means something very different than being efficient. They are:

  • Systems Thinking
  • Theory of Variation
  • Theory of Knowledge
  • Psychology

Yes, this is Dr. Deming’s System of Profound Knowledge and the message that he was delivering was to management. Yet, many doing Lean and Six Sigma are only addressing machines and front-line workers to increase productivity (efficiency). Management is -after all – the ones that hired these folks – internal or external. Don’t bite the hand that feeds you, right?

The problem is that we are walking by the largest gains that are only achieved by being effective. So, what is being missed?

Well, if you are in service industry you may be missing the functional separation of work. Too often I see lean practitioners making a process efficient that doesn’t need to exist at all. Balancing workloads between front-office and back-office doesn’t make a lot of sense if there is no need for the back office. You won’t be very popular when you start stirring up the office politics. The back-office executive will label you as trouble and the fun begins.

What about performance appraisals? Biggest waste of time and effort on earth. Yet, most mid-size and larger organizations have them. The loss is enormous in terms of time and effort. However, if you don’t understand variation and why ranking and rating people is ridiculous – you won’t address an enormous source of waste.

There is more to the Deming philosophy than getting rid of back offices and performance appraisals that sets management on a track to effectiveness. The benefits of the Deming philosophy are well-documented through the Japanese Industrial Miracle and many organizations in the US and elsewhere.

A reason that the Deming philosophy is hard to embrace is the mindset shift that has to take place. This is the reason I wrote a short eBook (62 pages, but a big font!). There are four chapters. The first two chapters takes you through an “unfreezing” process. Organizational mindsets are frozen with internal measures and institutionalized processes and work designs. Getting a different perspective will help melt the ice.

The two perspectives that will provide the heat to melt  the ice are a Customer-In and a Cultural perspective. The Customer-In perspective is Chapter 1 of my eBook and Chapter 2 is the Cultural perspective. If you do the things in Chapter 1 to get a Customer-In perspective and you identify the Cultural beliefs and assumptions in Chapter 2 you are on your way to unfreezing “Arendelle” (yes, from the movie Frozen).

Chapter 3 and 4 set the stage for a redesign. I have found most large organization’s cultures so institutionalized that the best way to make change is to have a fresh start. I like to call it, “What if . . . ?transformation.” The incremental improvements you get from small step improvements are fine, but let’s go for the total effectiveness. I lay out some things to try as you build your new organization. This is the time to find out what makes a better organization, but start on a small scale.

Intrigued? You can download my free eBook from my website at www.newsystemsthinking.com.

Down load my free eBook at www.newsystemsthinking.com. Take a look at your organization as your customers see it – our 4-day workshop has been called “an awakening experience.” You will understand the customer view of your organization and take inventory of the assumptions, beliefs and perspectives that drive performance. Tripp Babbitt is a service design architect and organizational futurist. His company helps service organizations understand future trends, culture and customer. The 95 Method designs organizations to improve the comprehensive customer experience while improving culture and management effectiveness. Read his column at Quality Digest and his articles for PEX and CallCenterIQ. Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbitt or LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.


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