This website covers topics on knowledge management, personal effectiveness, theory of constraints, amongst other topics. Opinions expressed here are strictly those of the owner, Jack Vinson, and those of the commenters.

Change management's hidden secret #TOCICO16

Kevin Kohls had an entertaining talk on the topic of The "Bad Luck" Obstacle - Management Churn. Essentially, he is asking the question of how people who do TOC (or any other) implementations deal with the fact of life in organization: management moves around.

Kevin drew a couple threads together that seemed to be percolating arond the conference. One is the "consultant's conflict" that swings between optimizing for me (make money) vs optimizing for the customer (make them successful). It's a conflict because it seems the things one might do for the customer prevent the consultant from making enough money. Similarly, making money for the consultant may not serve their customer well (and could potentially damage their long-term opportunities).  This is particularly troubling for the many TOC implementers that operate as solo entrepreneurs.  

Another thread (maybe another end of the same thread) is that maybe the consultant is getting in their own way - that the consultant/implementer has their own obstacles. I have seen others talk about this idea as well. Any change management effort has many different viewpoints. The consultant may think their ideas are the best thing since slices bread, but maybe the client doesn't see it that way. Or maybe the consultant conveniently ignores, or maybe they don't even know that there are other types of obstacles. Kevin called these blind spots: loss of interest and support, TOC team failure, political machinations, rejection of the consultant's personality, lack of custumer ownership, management changes, etc, etc. Most implementations don't acknowledge that these kinds of things can happen, because they often feel outside the control of the consultant and customer team. Maybe the consultant thinks this is the "customer's fault." But really, it is and obstacle for the consultant that must be overcome.  This was an interesting line of thinking.

Where does this lead the discussion? Kevin's approach is based around getting early wins and establishing new routines so that any change (that is worthwhile) sticks. These ideas should sound fairly familiar. Successful change efforts have to create meaningful results fairly quickly - meaningful results for both the client and the consultant. Then those results need to become mechanized or routinized, like we heard in the conference from Fleetguard Filters, Alaska Airlines, Mazda, and others.  This also links to the research of Charles Duhuig in The Power of Habit and Sull & Eisenhardt's Simple Rules: How to Thrive in a Complex World. The new routines have to fit into the rest of the way we do things, and they have to make sense to the job of the organization, so that when management churn does happen (and it will), the routines stay around.

Small wins are part of how keystone habits create widespread changes. A huge body of research has shown that small wins have enormous power, an influence disproportional to the accomplishment of the victories themselves.
— Karl E. Weick

Kevin refers to his "lilypad" approach to improvements. Create small wins, establish the routines and go for the next improvement, and the next, and the next. Jump from lilypad to lilypad, establishing the routines along the way. This way, even when the "surprise" of management change (or other structural changes) happen, the routines of the last several lilypads are already in place. 

No matter what happens in the details of a project, the consultant should always look for opportunities to improve. We don't know everything(!). Even if a favorite manager moves to a different position, the consultant's approach should always be to set up that manager to be successful wherever they go.


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