Planning is a critical element to any change / continuous improvement initiative. Unfortunately it is an area where most of us fail! I discovered this early during my own Lean journey. Based on my understanding of Lean at the time, I introduced a number of improvements over a 12 month period of time that appeared rather impressive. Reality set in when my leader at the time complimented me on the changes that we introduced while wondering out loud WHY he couldn’t see this reflected in his critical performance indicators – Quality, Efficiency, Service, Staff Engagement and Safety. This was a defining moment for me to re-evaluate what we were doing and why. Planning took on a new meaning that involved the following elements:
- What will impact our organizational priorities? Our Clients?
- What are the measurable objectives and goals? Can we measure them today?
- Can we define, describe the current problem?
- What will our scope be? Where does it start, where does it end?
- Do we know what are known challenges / strengths are. Can we articulate them?
- Who should be involved?
- Are there specific milestones that we should establish?
- What training or education is required to support the initiative?
- Can we accomplish this on our own or do we require support from a facilitator?
Most change practitioners underestimate the power of communication. How many of us have introduced something wonderful and then complain when we run into strong opposition and resistance. If we step back a moment, we might even remember when we were the resistors. A colleague of mine once quoted “everyone supports improvement but hates change”. Unfortunately you can’t have one without the other. Our communication plan must provide the reason why and must be tailored to the specific audience –
It is also important to tailor the message based on the level of impact to your audience –
- directly impacted,
- indirectly impacted,
- no impact
Organizations contemplating Lean must give equal measure to the three fundamental components of Lean – Philosophy, Process, and People. Remember Lean is really about creating a culture of continuous improvement and an understanding that the path to successful and sustainable improvements requires engagement across the organization and at all levels of the organizations. An early mentor of mine described this to me in terms of how his role changed. He knew he had turned the corner, when he know longer had to push and pull people along the journey but rather had to learn how to get out of the way and provide support only when needed. He achieved this by clearly communicating the need for change, engaging people to participate in change initiatives and providing them with the authourity to make change happen.
There are often trust issues within organizations. In many instance a culture of mistrust has developed over time. There is no magic solution and if not hndlede properly it can become a barrier to sustainable change. Refer back to our discussions above. During the planning stage it is important to understand your organizational culture and to develop your plans with this in mind. Communication is critical as the fear of the unknown is powerful in an organization with trust issues. Finally as you involve staff and introduce change remain true to your message and be transparent. Trust is earned over time.
Surprisingly, this is often where many organizations fail. I have seen great plans and initiatives documented, presented but never implemented. There are many reasons for this:
- Teams were given the task to fix a problem but not the authourity to do so. Often a trust issue resulting from poor planning and communicating.
- Teams identified solutions beyond their scope. Again a planning issue.
- Organization not truly committed in terms of providing the time and resources to complete the initiative. There can be many reasons for this from poor planning/communicating to fear. (if the change is ‘too transformational’ and the organization is not ready.)