In this age, if you aren’t changing, you’ll be left behind. In most professions, change in some form is an unavoidable daily occurrence, and in the tech industry you won’t succeed without it. However, change is not something most people handle well. We naturally resist it. It’s the human condition to embrace routine; enjoying the security and predictability that it brings. So how can we affect the culture of a business to try and make people comfortable with change and even actively seek it out?
First and foremost, the most effective change comes from within. This sort of change is more acceptable, relevant and fun for those involved, and it’s consequently more likely to stick. It may be necessary to instigate change from the top down occasionally, however this will only exacerbate our natural aversions to change and shouldn’t be common practice. So, if we are looking for change to come from within our teams, what can be done to draw this out? How do we get something that doesn’t come naturally to be part of the day to day? These are all questions we’ve asked ourselves at RedEye and these are some of the things we’ve learned when trying to answer them.
Give teams a target
Without something to aim for, would you expect to hit the bullseye? The first step to encouraging change is to set teams a goal and ask them to think creatively to reach it. This will also ensure that the changes that are happening are directed appropriately. Having the best archers isn’t much good if they are aiming in the wrong direction!
Agreeing a hierarchy of management and departmental objectives, and asking teams to keep referencing back to these in their improvement projects, can be a great way to implement this. Just make sure they are visible and accessible.
At RedEye we’ve built a system for our departmental heads to record their teams’ objectives and link them to the management teams’ objectives. We then utilise Kallidus
, a tool for employees to add their personal objectives, which must also be linked to the management teams’ objectives; keeping these front and centre in their mind.
Creating improvement champions
Managing change is not a new subject and there are many tried and tested techniques for executing change. Deciding what techniques to use internally, and training appropriately, is an important step in developing champions who are equipped with the confidence to regularly drive change and engage colleagues in the process.
At RedEye we promote the PDCA (Plan – Do – Check – Act) process and a selection of champions across different front-line teams in the business have been trained; completing a 1-year apprenticeship in Improving Operational Performance (Business Improvement Techniques). This has had three significant benefits:
- The individuals involved have received a recognisable qualification in formal improvement techniques.
- Real improvement projects were completed during the course, delivering some tangible improvements to the business.
- It has exposed individuals to the challenges facing other teams that might otherwise not have been communicated when executing change in siloed departments.
Make change positive
Kaizen or ‘change for the better’ is focused on driving continuous improvement. It aims to systematically take a process or system, scrutinise it objectively, and decide what could be done to make it better. So often in practice, change occurs because “it’s broken” or “we’ve had enough”. These are both typically reactive and negative reasons for change. To get the best results, its important change is regular, proactive and is perceived as positive where possible, even when the chosen change is to fix something that is ‘broken’.
Encouraging regular review of a system can help to become less reactive, giving rise to changes that are forward thinking and positive. This could manifest itself in the form of a formal process review/audit, or simply a regular group discussion. As the business adopts an improvement culture, this will become accepted and easier. When a change is made, and life does get easier, celebrate it! Recognise the efforts of those involved. At RedEye we use an in-house Kudos system to help with this.
Standardise the approach but use the right tools
Using a recognised framework for implementing change, such as the PDCA process, can take some of the effort out of finding a change process that works for your business. However, when implementing a framework like this, you/your teams will have to decide what specific tools you would like to use to facilitate it. Being prescriptive about what tools to use across the entire business could have the benefit of improved standardisation, and better analytics. However, allowing each team to pick their weapon of choice will likely lead to better framework adoption, perception and efficiency.
For example, lean kaizen makes use of an A3 report to summarise the outcomes of each step in the PDCA (or DMAIC) journey. As we are paperless at RedEye, we have found using a digital Kanban board, such as Trello, Microsoft Planner and LeanKit (or even an ITSM ticketing system) to manage and report on the PDCA process to be more effective than a traditional A3 report. The specific tool used varies across teams, allowing each team to use the tools that are most accessible and familiar to them to facilitate the PDCA framework. The general A3 report and PDCA framework is there, but the tool to manage it varies. Depending on your business you may find being more prescriptive works better for you, just be sure to evaluate your priorities and entertain the different ways your departments like to work.
When you are ready to take your PDCA system to the next level, you may even choose to shoot for an ISO standard, such as the ISO 9001 for Quality Management Systems
which includes the PDCA cycle at its core.
Encourage feedback, recognise progress
Key to any improvement cycle is to get honest feedback on your changes in order to plan for future enhancements. As the team instigating the change, identify who your customers and stakeholders are and get feedback from them following the change. Be open about the changes and communicate clearly what you are looking to achieve. Define a feedback mechanism (survey, email, phone) and review the feedback as it comes in. As people often don’t like change, regardless of the reasons, always be prepared for a few grumbles, then act objectively where action is necessary.
Following each change ensure you have a grace period to digest the responses and recognise positive progress. Even when a change doesn’t go as planned, your team will have learned something and it’s important not to forget that.
There are no hard and fast rules to moulding a business’ culture to embrace change. Every business is different. It’s an organic process which requires patience and introspection. It also requires support from all levels and a lot of constructive discussion.
Are you in the process of changing how your business approaches improvement? Hopefully, some of our experiences can help you decide your approach. Good luck!