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Fake It Until You Make It: Is Structural Change a Prerequisite? April 14, 2014

Posted by Tim Rodgers in Management & leadership, Process engineering.
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Change management is frustrating. It can take a maddeningly long time to convince the required supporters that change is necessary, and then more time to get everyone moving in the new direction. Then once the tipping point is reached it becomes a runaway train. When the benefits of the change are significant and well-understood by all, there’s a lot of pressure to get it done already without regard to process, or documentation, or training other “details.” It’s hard to manage expectations during this transitional phase. Can’t we just hold on for a minute while we get our act together?

Well, you could, but would you risk losing momentum and tempting people to revert to the old ways of doing things? Can change management succeed when it’s implemented on a limited basis without structural changes? Can you “make it up as you go along,” and firm it up later?

I don’t see why not. In fact, there’s a lot of value in this kind of launch-and-learn approach. It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to anticipate and plan for all the consequences of the change, and early experiences after the change is implemented will identify these improvements. For example, the change may impact processes and organizations that are infrequently engaged, and it might take time to discover that the change is more or less effective than you expected.

Consolidating the change and fully-integrating it into the system is still important and shouldn’t be neglected. I’ve seen many quality management systems and process documents that are completely out-of-date because they were never updated after the change. At minimum that’s a non-compliance on an external audit, but it’s also a potential source of confusion when new people try to figure out what the right process is.

Nevertheless, if the change is worth doing, then it’s worth looking into ways of implementing it quickly in order to realize some benefits, demonstrate some early successes, and build momentum.

 

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