It means “change for the better,” always looking for ways to make processes better, more customer friendly, more productive. It’s not about procedural audits or manuals, though. It’s also not about change for the sake of change.
It’s cultural. It involves everyone from the CEO to the part-timers who sort the mail. It means welcoming – encouraging – everyone to look for ways to improve their jobs and the jobs of those around them. Not so everyone feels better but so that the business thrives and grows profitably.
Continuous improvement is a strategic imperative.
Continuous Improvement - Continuous Change
To a lot of people, “change” is scary. And yet, change is the natural condition. Growth cannot occur without change. Improvement cannot occur without change. Just as uncontrolled, unmanaged, growth is unlikely to produce positive change, uncontrolled, unmanaged change is more likely to result in chaos than improvement. So how do you manage change? How do you ensure continuous improvement rather than continuous chaos?
The answer is rooted firmly in the first strategic imperative, a strategic view. Every improvement – every change - should be made within your strategic context and with an eye on the consequences as well as the outcomes of change. Here’s how to think about change strategically. Ask yourself some questions about your proposed change and let the answers guide your decisions.
- Will this change help us achieve one or more of our strategic goals?
- Who will be affected by this change and in what ways? Employees who are directly affected as well as across the organization. Customers and future customers. Carriers. Even vendors.
- What will it cost to make this change? Be sure to consider indirect as well as direct costs. You’ll want to be clear about what it will take to implement this change, in terms of both tangible and intangible costs.
- What consequences can you see coming out of this change? As you consider effects across your organization, keep the customer in mind. Will this change benefit the customer in some way? (Remember the discussion of “lean” thinking from the June article on Organizational Excellence.)
- What are the expected outcomes from the change? Best case. Worst case. Most likely. Also give some thought to what other changes might get you the same desired outcome and would an alternative approach be better.
- The last question is also the first. What is the next – first – step required to implement? Who must do what by when? And then, what additional actions must follow? If you can’t see your way through the implementation, you should seriously reconsider whether you want to start.
Sound like a lot of work? Well, if it’s a big change, it might be. Not only does the implementation get more difficult as the cost or the consequences increase, but complexity also increases the likelihood that the change won’t “stick.” So, if the change is small and easy to implement, you can run through the list of consider-ations pretty quickly. The more you do it, the more natural this kind of thinking becomes.
If the change is significant in terms of cost and complexity, you’ll want your thinking to be more disciplined. To help, we’ve developed a worksheet you can view or download from our website. Strategic Change Management Worksheet.
There are two reasons to make change: To take advantage of strengths and opportunities. In other words, continuous improvement. Or, to mitigate against weakness and threats. This is also continuous improvement. Either way, you can make positive change happen and you can make it stick, if you take a strategic approach.
If a threat or weakness is forcing you to change. If a strength or opportunity is calling you to change. If you are constantly making changes that don’t help or don’t last. If your staff has trouble adapting to change. Or if you want help in putting positive changes into strategic perspective, we can help.
Time flies when you're having fun.
Now that we are in the second half of the year, it may be time to reconsider the strategic imperative. First, last and always, a strategic view to keep you focused on the important things and help you deal effectively with the urgent things. Then, accountability, competitive advantage, organizational excellence and a commitment to continuous improvement. With these you build business value as well as profit, and your business thrives. You keep the alligators from breeding and you sleep better at night.
If you need help with any or all of the strategic imperatives, let’s have a conversation. Call or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit our website www.transformationadvisors.com.
In future articles we’ll talk about some of the general and specific issues that keep you up at night. In the meantime, visit our blogs and join the conversation. Tell us what’s keeping you up at night.
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