Rate of Change and Change Management: What's Agile?

Post by
Scott Francis

We work a lot with both our clients and with experts in operational excellence, decision management, and process improvement. And one of the hold-overs from a prior era of expertise on the subject of operational improvements is to really focus on the human elements of change management and not to focus on:

  • Equipment or machinery
  • Physical space or layout
  • Technology (hardware)
  • Technology (software, applications, or changes to existing software or applications)

The basic premise had merit -? it is hard to change the physical plant (or it can be in many circumstances); equipment and machinery are expensive, and may require precise layout as in a factory floor situation; technology (hardware) depreciates quickly, and Technology (software) has a spotty record historically (see: 1990's ERP implementations!).? So, the logic went, focus on what you can change - the stuff people do and how they do it together.

Today, that thought process needs a fresh look.? let's review the list of what is most likely to change in your business:

  • Rules that drive decisions
  • Process details
  • Pricing
  • Products offered
  • Services offered
  • Trained skills and methods of your staff
  • Capabilities of your staff
  • Culture
  • People - Do you have high turnover relative to the other agents of change?

Is there any doubt that the hardest and most time-consuming changes are the people-oriented changes: culture, capabilities, and training have to be the most time-consuming changes you can make in a scale organization.? In other words, changing human behavior in an organization is not an agile process. It requires planning, thought, and patience.? And if you have high turnover, it compounds your challenges because the investment you make in a new operational approach are lost as they walk out the door.

Counter-intuitively, changing rules, process details, pricing, products and services - these are things that have a lot more agility.? Modern software platforms are more conducive to these changes.? Decision platforms were designed for the rules and decision criteria to change frequently without having to revisit the whole implementation of software.? Process platforms were designed so that the flow of processes and the details of implementation can change from a business perspective without having to rewrite back-end systems or re-do the process from scratch.? Digital platforms that leverage these technologies allow for the roll-out of new products, services, and experiences more rapidly.

So we really have to rethink change management in our organizations.? In many respects, we should think about the behavior we want from our teams, and then think about how the software we use can be updated to make that behavior the easiest path for our teams to follow - leveraging human nature rather than fighting it with training and artificial incentives.

After all, there's no magic to ignoring technology while improving operations. The idea was to ignore constraints - or avoid getting caught up in the constraints. Today, we have the opportunity to break down constraints with technology by understanding the capabilities that are available.? Technology is a catalyst rather than a constraint, and it completely upends the approach to being an agile enterprise.

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