Jeff Cole – Chapter Eight

Jeff Cole

Change Management Street Smarts


In these brutal economic times, the rules have changed. What our text books taught us years ago didn’t necessarily foresee the extent to which America’s workforce has been stretched thin. Hourly fears of job security and layoff survivors being overwhelmed by the work left behind from fallen comrades is the order of the day. Global markets are churning, and the corporate landscape is seismically shifting before our eyes. A key to personal or organizational survival and advancement lies in mastering core fundamentals of organizational change. Some say that’s 80% of the battle in DMAIC projects.

This chapter is dedicated to the people in charge of making improvement happen: the CEO, executives, department managers, Six Sigma Belts, Lean facilitators, and the floor supervisor. Each of these people play a role in managing change in the organization, and the tactics and tips presented here are applicable to each and every one of you.

This chapter will help you to:

  • Get a clear understanding of why you must attend to the human side of any process change.
  • Use the nine strategic and tactical tips to address the human side of change in a Six Sigma effort.
  • Learn how to get a group of people who don’t report to you to change their behavior and use your process.

Why aren’t people using the new process?

Leo was puzzled. Last month’s meeting seemed to go very well; he had been invited in to show all the managers the process changes made by his project team. They all seemed friendly enough, smiled and said they understood the new process. By now, everyone should have changed, but the reports showed only a few people were actually following Leo’s new process. He was very curious about how things had gone so wrong.

Leo is not alone. The harsh reality is that you or I can come up with the world’s finest, most brilliant process, but if the humans who need to use it don’t do so, we’ve wasted our time and money. Unfortunately, there’s no button in Excel® or Minitab® we can click to make somebody follow our new process.

Like many before him, Leo had attended dozens of hours of training on the technical side of process improvement and maybe an hour or so on the human side. He was technically very savvy in isolating and fixing root causes and identifying sources of variation and waste. In a methodology like Six Sigma that is jammed to the rafters with cool technical elements like degrees of freedom, residuals, and p-values, it is easy to get absorbed in the technical side of process improvement while the human element gets short-changed. More than a few projects have crashed and burned because of this very problem.

The Need for Street Smarts

Leo thought he had the human side covered – he even read a book on teaming and ran his project team very well. So what went wrong? What Leo lacked in this case was the street smarts required to get the dozens or hundreds of people who don’t report to him to change their behavior – to stop doing things the old way and start doing them the new way.

The market is rough. It’s no longer good enough to say your business follows Lean or pull together a bunch of metrics and processes and lay back on your laurels, feeling confident that process improvement will take care of itself. Special times call for special tactics, and that is where our journey begins. The following tips are not intended to provide you with a soup-to-nuts change management approach (download a free workbook for this chapter at for recommendations). These are change management secrets and practices that were born of the hard-earned successes and gut-wrenching failures of many project managers who walked this path before you. Let’s get started.

Tip #1: Recognize the need

Change management is the process of helping an organization move its people, processes, strategies, culture, and systems from the current state (status quo) to a new, desired state. If you design a new process or change an existing process, change management likely needs to be addressed. Think of the need for change management as a spectrum ranging from 0% (no need) to 100% (definite need). Any project that impacts human beings has some need for change management. The question, however, becomes, “How much?” As part of your Six Sigma project risk assessment, consider the following questions:

1. To what extent does your process change potentially impact others?

If you’re conducting a small-scoped Green Belt project on a process you personally own, and you’re the only person impacted, you likely don’t need the full arsenal of change tools. If, however, your project potentially impacts a number of other people, your need to formally address change increases correspondingly.

2. How complex is the process change?

Often, the more complex a project is, the greater the need for formal change management.

3. To what extent does this change fit with your organization’s culture?

The further away from your culture the process change strays, the more critical managing change becomes.

Tip #2: Start early

One mistake some people make is to assume that change management is an issue to be addressed only in the Control step of DMAIC. (See Chapters 13 and 19). Not true. Start as early as the Define stage by a) understanding who will be impacted by this process change, and b) what their potential issues will be.

There’s a world of difference in having something done “to” you versus “with” you. People like to feel they have a say in what they do and how they do it. Starting early allows you to identify those who will be impacted by the change and find ways to engage them throughout the process. This will help build a sense of ownership in their minds and reduce potential resistance during rollout. There are many opportunities where you can bring in ancillary team members for this purpose: process mapping, VOC, FMEA, data collection, DOE, pilots, control plans, etc. By implementing change management techniques early on, you can also start understanding where your target audience’s concerns or issues may lay. Consider these questions:

  • What are the best ways to communicate with those impacted?
  • How can we establish two-way communications?
  • What should our messages be and who should those messages come from?

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