Chomping on the last bagel in the breakfast laid out on the conference room table, the CEO stands up, stretches, and comments “Excellent presentation, S&OP really drives change… cutting edge ideas…this will definitely work.” The scene has been set. Following lots of nods, another three million in cash is headed down the drain.
Does this sound familiar? The launch of yet another change initiative triggered by a compelling presentation from external consultants, software vendor or even the latest best selling business book. However, after years of initiatives being unleashed on organizations, senior managers should understand that certain success factors must be in place to enable successful change.
1. Provide Strong Leadership
Sales and Operations Planning (S&OP) transformation initiatives are rarely sustainable unless they are led from the top. There is a direct linkage between the success of a change management program and leadership capabilities. An effective leader must demonstrate vision, courage & conviction
- A willingness to take both personal and business risks.
- A demonstrated commitment to change, not simply demanding it of others.
- Organizations such as Motorola and GE that have implemented exceptionally successful change programs include the development of key elements in their leadership training.
2. Develop a Compelling Vision
Developing a clear vision is important in making a culture change a reality. With an inspiring vision, people can visualize exciting possibilities and begin to act in accordance with them. Keeping the vision in the forefront of an organization’s thinking will ensure that energy and focus are sustained.
- What will the organization look like during and after the change program?
- Why should individuals and teams be engaged?
- What’s in it for them?
- What are the concerns that will emerge and how can they be addressed?
These are all critical questions that a powerful vision can address.
3. Ensure Team Commitment
- Whether it’s the CEO or department heads, committed managers are a key to successful change programs.
- Managers who only pay lip service to change are one of the swiftest ways to undermine transformation.
- Building a supportive team is an essential part of the early stages of any effort to restructure, re-design, retool or improve. John Kotter, in his best-selling book Leading Change, refers to such a group as a “Guiding Coalition.”
John Kotter chose his terminology carefully. The word “guiding” defines the group as one that will not actually be implementing change, but rather removing barriers and creating an environment where responsibility is spread throughout the business. Any change program that will be sustainable must involve the full organization.
4. Build a Coalition
A “coalition” (from the Latin coalitus, meaning to grow together) is an alliance. It is a group that has completely aligned objectives. Putting in place a credible group that acts as one and drives change relentlessly is critical.
- Unfortunately, many senior teams struggle to act as a coalition, often pulling in different directions. The biggest threat to any change initiative is when this is done underhandedly, with leaders saying one thing in the boardroom but really challenging the decisions in the corridors. In a true coalition, there is not only unity of thought on the overall objective, but also an environment where differences of opinion on lesser issues can be aired constructively.
- Real change can be particularly threatening to managers. After all, they reached their positions by doing things in a certain way. At a fundamental level, senior people have to review their roles, responsibilities, attitudes, behaviors, personal leadership styles and above all – their relationships with each other.
- Some of this is uncomfortable. Experience shows that a true coalition will learn how to work through conflict to get a shared view as to the best way forward. Training and development play a critical role in facilitating this “growing together” of the coalition prior to launching any initiative.
- Middle managers need to be on board early. Directors have a key role to play in leading from the top, but the attitudes and behaviors of middle managers also are vitally important. During the initial stages of a change program, there can be a great deal of excitement and activity. Keeping middle managers fully informed can ensure there isn’t a feeling of being marginalized.
- An ignored manager can end up undermining and blocking the change progress. Process improvement teams with good local management support tend to go from strength to strength. Conversely, such teams fizzle out and have to be rekindled when managers aren’t interested or see teams as a threat to their role.
5. Identify and Train Change Facilitators
Engaging people throughout the organization in change activities is a departure from the old directive style of leadership. The best way to enable broad-based action through teamwork and securing the success of change teams is by trained facilitators. (The word facilitator comes from the Latin facere, meaning to make easy or simple.) Armed with powerful tools of problem-solving and an ability to inject energy and enthusiasm, these individuals can be the catalyst of any change initiative. By seeking volunteers from the organization who, with training, can be capable and credible agents of change, the backbone of change will be in place.
Meanwhile back in the boardroom, the coffee has been cleared away and the meeting is beginning to wrap up. Then, one by one, board members begin asking questions:
- “How will we communicate this to the business?”
- “How can we engage our middle managers?”
- “Has anyone thought about how we can resource it with trained facilitators?”
- “What exactly do we expect this will achieve – what will the business be like in two to three years as a result?”
- “What capabilities will I need to develop to make this change program a success?”
6. Communicate and then Communicate Again
All organizations know that communication takes time and effort – but the investment is worthwhile.
It is critical for people to be reminded of the vision but also how far they have come. This helps maintain morale and belief in the change process. Positive evidence that things are changing will combat any cynics.
Communicate ten times more frequently than you think is necessary.
- Recent research shows that on average the total amount of communication going to an employee during a three-month period is 2.3 million words or numbers, transmitted in meetings, notice boards, bulletins, etc.
- The typical communication of a change vision during a period of three months is approximately 13,400 words or numbers.
- So on average the vision communication captured only 0.58 percent of the company communication market share – nowhere near enough.
Communication is not through words alone – it’s the dance and it’s music too. Clear messages are sent through actions. It never ceases to amaze that companies struggle to re-launch an improvement program after just having concluded a downsizing where change facilitators were first on the list to go.
7. Measure Performance, Track Process, and Ensure Accountability
Ownership and Accountability is the key to any successful initiative. While ownership requires empowerment, accountability requires the development and use of key performance metrics that enable everyone to monitor progress and identify bottlenecks.
So what’s next? Time to finish breakfast and get to work on building your world class Sales and Operations Planning (S&OP) Process (S&OP Process)!
Note: This article was created based on work by Steelwedge (www.steelwedge.com), John Kotter, the Kaizan Group, the Six Sigma Institute and others.