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Change management and the secret to everlasting improvement

Debbie McCarthy
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We all know that change happens when the environment is disruptive. If we take a leaf out of Mother Nature’s book, some of the most destructive and disruptive events have given birth to new life, e.g. volcanoes destroy but over time they create new mountains and landscapes.

For change to happen, you need to disrupt the current way of doing things. There needs to be a point where “enough is enough”, and people are so dissatisfied with the status quo they are prepared to endure the pain and stress of change, and go through the process to enable change.

The disruption doesn’t stop there as organisations need to become change ‘fit.’

Once the change is in place, the organisation needs to be disrupted again to ensure the change sticks. Old ways, patterns and processes need to change to lock in the new into the existing systems and structures.

Sometimes it takes an external disruption to kick start change; it takes a strong leader to stand up and say “enough is enough”.

Need to enable change in your organisation? Here are six tips to get you started:

1.    Focus on a shared vision and strategy: Communicate these relentlessly throughout the business. Select a few critical projects in which there is clearly a need for change and leaders support these wholeheartedly. Prioritise and support projects.

2.    Hold project stakeholders accountable:  Make sponsors, process owners, project managers and team members accountable for deadlines and deliverables. Set up mechanisms to manage these key initiatives and give these the right support and attention.

3.     Ensure key stakeholders support prioritised projects:  Leaders and sponsors must know and understand their role; they must also be available and committed. Middle managers and process owners need to lift their heads up from their daily jobs and have reason to participate; the project success should be on their scorecards and they should be held accountable for its success.

4.    Ensure everyone is on the same page: Give project managers, process owners, sponsors and team members the same tools and explain the approach to them:

  • Spend time educating people on the approach and your expectations.
  • Build capability and understanding within the business. Once a critical mass has been built, it’s easier and less intimidating to be involved and engaged.

5.    Leaders need to reinforce behaviour.  Ignoring repeated projects failing is an indication problems within the organization are not being addressed.

6.    Your current processes and metrics need to change: These need to be aligned and changed to lock in the new improvements and institutionalise the change. If the team suggests an approach that changes organisation design, processes, job roles and ways that people are measured, this change should be supported and embraced. It is only when you lock the changes into existing systems and structures that change becomes permanent and sustained.


Debbie McCarthy is the founder of Training Leadership Consulting.  She is a certified GE Six Sigma Master Black Belt and Change Leadership Expert and brings 17 years of process-improvement, training, coaching and facilitation experience to Training Leadership Consulting. Debbie's passion is curriculum development and she has created and facilitated courses in change leadership, train the trainer, leading high performing teams, manager and executive development, and Lean Six Sigma.


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