Terrence Magee
January 04, 2019

Why Is Change So Hard?

Terrence Magee has written an article on his interpretation of the Global State of Operational Excellence Survey Report - Critical Challenges & Future Trends - 2018/2019.  Click here to download the full Survey Report 2018/19.  

The Most Comprehensive Study of Critical Challenges and Future Trends within Operational Excellence

With nearly 1000 respondents, 37 insightful questions, detailed analysis & insights from 40 industry thought leaders, and the BTOES Insights executive team, this 130 page report is recognised as the most comprehensive study of critical challenges and future trends within Operational Excellence, and is considered a key resource for the industry. Areas covered include:

  • The Critical Operational Excellence Challenges faced by executives.

  • The Current Scope of Operational Excellence.

  • How is Operational Excellence success measured?

  • Key Findings & Roadblocks.

  • What are executives focusing on over the next 12-18 months?

  • What have been the greatest developments?

  • What are the key drivers pushing change in Operational Excellence?

  • Industry Perspectives.

  • Small, Medium & Large Corporation Perspectives.

  • Detail Analysis & Insights from BTOES Insights Executive Team.

  • Detailed Analysis & Insights from 40 Industry Thought Leaders.

  • Analysis of key themes, including Cultural Transformation, Customer Delight, Sustaining an Operational Excellence program, Need for end-to-end Business Transformation, Keeping up with new technologies/impact of digitalization and Leadership Buy-in & Understanding.


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The most recent BTOES edition of challenges and trends for the Operational Excellence community is a thought-provoking and substantive view into the new developments, current obstacles and future trends within the industry. Based on my experience of driving Operational Excellence initiatives, I wholeheartedly agree that the number one challenge faced by leaders within our community is the process of evaluating and reinvigorating company culture. Click here to read the full Survey Report 2018/19. 

Why Is Change So Hard?

A company’s “culture” is its personality, which reflects their mission, values/ethics, expectations and goals. Building a positive work culture is important because it plays a pivotal role in retaining and binding people to the organization, which then translates to fulfilled employees and satisfied customers. However, many companies have stagnant cultures that desperately need attention, but are difficult to change.



Why Is Change So Hard?

When I consider the challenges of culture change, I am reminded of a story about a man who went for a walk and passed a group of elephants and their trainer along the way. To the man’s surprise, the elephants were only being held by a small rope tied to their front legs; there were no chains and no cages. It was obvious that the elephants could, at any time, break away from their bonds, but for some reason, they did not. Click here to read more Articles on The Global State of Operational Excellence: Critical Challenges & Future Trends - Research Report 2018/19.

The man inquired about the elephants, to which the trainer replied, “When they were young and much smaller, we used the same rope to tie them. At that age, it was strong enough to hold them. As they grew up, they became conditioned to believe that they were unable to break away. They still believe the rope can hold them, so they never try to break free.”

An organization’s culture can be difficult to change because it involves an unlearning of old values, behaviors, and assumptions before new ones can be adopted. As with the elephants, a culture can be restricted by self-limiting mindsets and behaviors. The people within a culture may be stuck in their ways, accepting modes of behavior, processes and systems that may have once worked, but have since become outdated.

The responsibility of assessing, developing and monitoring the ongoing health of a company’s culture primarily lies in the hands of the champions/sponsors of Operational Excellence in conjunction with an organization’s CEO and top leadership. While Operational Excellence leaders drive the initiatives that improve a company’s effectiveness and efficiencies, functional leaders across Human Resources, Finance, Quality, Training and Development, Supply Chain and Compliance also have an important role in influencing these efforts.

It is essential that organizations recognize the potential impact each sector has in supporting or resisting the changes that are made. Without thorough evaluation of the root issues that cause misalignment between a company’s mission and their culture, the growing threats to Operational Excellence’s sustainable success may be further exasperated.




Evaluating Where You Are

In order to start breaking free from our own restrictive “ropes”, it is critical for us to obtain a deep understanding of our company culture. For those who have tried and failed to change or improve the culture of their companies, my experiences within Operational Excellence have identified particularly important questions to answer in order to start the evaluation process:


What is the climate of the culture? How are decisions made and communicated within the workforce? Is the culture one of inclusion? Is failure viewed as an opportunity to develop a better product or service? How is the determination of results valued? Are operational excellence initiatives aligned with the company’s vision and mission? Does the performance evaluation program evaluate employee results? Are employee behaviors in alignment with the values of the organization? Is there a genuine desire to change/improve the culture and what are the motives for doing so?


These are just a few questions to help define and analyze the current state of our company culture. The answers we obtain should then be used to develop action plans which include a feedback loop for continued assessment and improvement based on the specific needs of the organization.




SMART: The Building Blocks To Lasting, Successful Culture Change

Start: Begin with a clear set of objectives. Develop a clear purpose of the company’s product or service that allows employees to better envision the impact their individual contributions have on the company’s overall goals. Employees from all organizational levels should be able to actually believe in the mission and see that their efforts are beneficial and valued.


Mindset: Create and encourage a collective mindset that is open and ready to accept change. Facilitate the change process through clear communication and genuine understanding. Observe employee behaviors in response to these changes, creating smaller goals as needed until the larger goals are sufficiently reached.


Accountability and Responsibility: These terms are often confused and used interchangeably. It is important that leaders understand and clearly define the differences. Responsibility for tasks can be shared, yet there should only ever be one individual who holds and accepts accountability for the overall results of any process.


Respect: In the workplace, a respectful environment is one that acknowledges and fosters the expression of different viewpoints, experiences and philosophies. Respect should be demonstrated across all levels of an organization, irrespective of one’s rank.


Trust and Teamwork: Trust is the key to achieving long term, sustainable results. Consistency breeds trust and trust encourages increased and prolonged participation. Create a vision around team culture, meet regularly, create leaders opposed to mere managers, provide feedback and develop a culture that knows how to solve problems together.




Final Thoughts

Studies have shown that Operational Excellence programs continue to grow and enhance organizational processes and technology. However, further growth could be hindered by unhealthy company culture, which continues to be a major obstacle for many Operational Excellence professionals. While the re-build effort requires a high degree of commitment and patience, it can produce a happier, more efficient workforce, thereby yielding loyal customers-- the cornerstone of Operational Excellence.  


Want to learn more? Download the full Report.
Why Is Change So Hard?

About the Author 

Terrence Magee: Why Is Change So Hard?

Terrence Magee

Continuous Improvement and Customer Experience Leader, Operational Excellence Lead, Ciox Health

Terrence Magee is a global Quality and Operational Excellence executive who has worked in healthcare and pharmaceuticals for the past eighteen years in a global capacity.  Terrence is a results oriented with proven success in developing and improving people, processes and technology. Check out LinkedIn page.

As Continuous Improvement and Customer Satisfaction Leader, Terrence is employed with Ciox Health and is based in Phoenix, Arizona within the Clinical Data Analytical & Insights division. Ciox is uniquely positioned to access, facilitate and improve the management and exchange of protected health information.

Terrence earned his Bachelor of Science degree n Biological Sciences from California Polytechnic University, Pomona; is an accomplished Lean Six Sigma Black Belt from Villanova University and holds a master’s certificate in Logistics & Supply Chain Management from San Francisco School of Management.


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