Lessons From the Change Lab

Bob Schultek
Author of
The Gauntlet

Change projects are time-consuming, demanding from those involved an investment of discretionary time that most don’t have to invest. Among the barriers to success are disruptions to be navigated, resource constraints to be overcome, and the egos of affected stakeholders to be managed.

So, when your team and you are developing and implementing your change initiative action plan, these lessons can help overcome your barriers to accelerate your progress:

Choose a project leader: While you need to stay actively engaged in the change initiative, you’ll be relying on a project team to plan and implement the change. The team will need a leader who is solely dedicated to, and personally committed to, the project; avoid assigning project tasks to the leader. Build the project team together, and include those who have the will, experience, communication skills, and influence to effectively collaborate; preclude those who are the loudest voices. Secure each team member’s commitment and willingness to share accountability. Encourage them to openly and

consistently discuss alternative ways forward so the most effective actions may be identified and implemented.

– Complete the most challenging remedial actions early: Your team’s energy is highest, and most of your budget is available, in the early days of your initiative’s implementation, so take advantage of that to build momentum. Reserve some resources for anticipated high-risk actions or decisions, and for those you can’t foresee. Build slack buffers for critical, dependent action steps.

– Find the primary constraint: Thoroughly diagnose the current situation – what’s working and what needs to be improved – by identifying the current process steps, plus who is responsible for and who is affected by each one; then clarify how much time is consumed by each step and by the intervals between steps. The primary constraint is located where work-in-process grows, inhibiting productivity; it is often found in the ‘between step’ intervals. Assess why it’s happening, and design your remedy to remove it or maximize its productivity, keeping in mind that secondary constraints may exist, or may be created by your effort to resolve the primary.

– Seek to optimize agility: Anticipate that adaptations to your proposed remedy will be necessary. Minimize actions or steps that depend solely on the prior step’s successful completion, replacing these with parallel, alternative steps where possible, or developing contingencies if no other option is available, so you have another way forward if you encounter a roadblock at one step.

– Identify and test ‘go/no go’ milestones: Choose progress milestones based on irreversible actions or unrecoverable cost. Then stress test the actions or steps preceding these milestones to discover potential weaknesses in the remedy that may cause them to fail when activity is at its highest.

How might these lessons accelerate your change initiative?

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