With the proliferation of Operational Excellence Programs, making change happen in the business becomes a part of how the business runs.
In effect, the normal rhythm of business as usual includes the changes necessary to operate with ever improving excellent performance. Or, does it?
Limiting the change in activity, poor execution and follow through, and possibly the struggle of adoption to change are the kinds of routine problems encountered along the path. This is to be expected. After all, the Operational Excellence Program is a norm of our business operation. In light of that, should the change program run like the way the business usually runs? A clear minded look should prompt you to self-evaluative the program and avoid potential business as usual pit falls.
The underlying assumptions of how the company “really runs” are what to look for. So, let’s consider a couple of examples.
First up, the execution assumption is the default mode of how we get it done. This is of course a strong quality in an organization. Execute on everything on all fronts all the time is the right way to make the number – don’t slow down. The down side is planning and preparation are neglected or not done at all. Collaborative, top of mind thinking is lost or not encouraged. Up front requirements are not defined. Performance suffers because of rework, churn, and a degree of confusion from the drive forward. Does the program experience this same kind of churn within itself and on the engagement of groups it helps?
We are healthy and don’t need to change. This reveals a strong ownership in the company, another positive virtue. However, the ownership of the silo will keep outside influence at a distance. Often, change initiatives focus on the internal portions of the silo so long as the leader is preserved from an appearance of failure or risk. This preoccupation prevents cross-silo integration of the value stream and the critical feedback loop on what is working and what are the opportunities to improve. How well does the Operational Excellence program integrate across silos? How often does the Operational Excellence program have a healthy after action review cycle with stakeholders and internal customers?
Change is much like Quality as it is free. This assumption espouses that there is no investment to make change. No additional energy is needed in the system to change the inertia. “Well just start doing that tomorrow”, but at the next level into the organization it just doesn’t translate or hold. The little or no investment of resources, funding, and time grinds the effort into slow motion. The work simply does not become visible. How would we know unless we had the right infrastructure to support the change? The time and resources to make visible, evaluate, solve the problem, test, train, equip, and implement are all lost. Does the program experience this same kind of gap on investment?
No additional energy is needed in the system to change the inertia. “Well just start doing that tomorrow”, but at the next level into the organization it just doesn’t translate or hold.
These are just three examples of assumptions on business as usual that are unhealthy to a change program. This is not all inclusive or exhaustive nor does it mean every assumption is detrimental. This can prompt you to recognize opportunities where business as usual assumptions limit the change program. An Operational Excellence program can advocate and role model the revised assumption on how the company “really runs.” The program can synch up to the rhythm of the business with one step ahead, and avoid a business as usual pit fall.
Andrew S. McCune
Senior Process Consultant, Engagement Director
Strategy Deployment, Operational Excellence, Change Management