Change Management - The Status Quo, with respect to CIP and SCRUM

Nothing is as constant as permant change, a triviality. External changes (“VUCA”) and even more so Corona / Covid19 hit onto those initiated internally – and acceleratedly so. The need for structured change management processes isn’t new, but urgent consequently.

John Kotter’s Change Management Model is, ultimately, pretty well known now. (In order to enjoy a funny version thereof, see his book “Our iceberg is melting“.) It’s meant as a recipe for planned change. Contrary to others Kotter emphasizes that impulses for change may specifically come from employees’ basic level or from middle management. In his concept, he also makes clear that change management processes certainly happen in arguments and conflicts. He emphasizes that different people may play very different informal roles once a change initiative has started, thus. My job in change Processes was and is obviously the methods oriented and “psychological” monitoring.

All in all, Kotter’s concept is absolutely clear. Consequently, his steps are easily understood. Thus, these can easily be related to other, well-known methodological concepts.

In the end it’s important to make his ideas come to life. That is to say, if application is done seriously, no problem. On the other hand, whoever thinks window dressing or lip service are enough is going to run into huge problems.

Kotter defines 8 steps in Change Management Processes:

Steps 1 to 3 remind of Kurt Lewin's ``Unfreeze``

  • “Establish a sense of Urgency” – actually quite easy. Competition, pressure on prices and thus cost, vanishing customer satisfaction … are at hand as an illustration. In contrast, there may have been too many change management campaigns in the past. Furthermore, past success may compromise the critical view onto reality. Still, the sense of urgency needs not mobilize everyone!
  • “Form a powerful guiding coalition”. It helps of course when strong supporters in top management establish goals and shield the change mnagement initiative. On the other hand, at least a significant minority in the whole organization has to do so. In fact, the following task split has proven itself helpful, according to my experience. Firstly the Core Team of max. five active people, recruited cross-functionally. Secondly a Board of Directors consisting of most relevant decision makers. In addition a Barrier Removal Team of decision makers and high ranking specialists. About composition of those teams: basically you just need committed activists. On the other hand, still one habitual sceptic can be useful. Necessary objections will be brought forward thus! (These also have their place in deBonos Six Hats…)
  • “Create a Vision” – positively inspiring. Yet, it shouldn’t be a trivial business target (“The Nr. 1 in…”). On the contrary: it has to provoke and guide action. Still, a buzzword is absolutely sufficient in my experience: SCRUM, KAIZEN, Team work… Of course, a simple list of the obvious must be avoided: “Agile Management and SCRUM in all development processes”… After all, who wants to repeat such trivial sentences permanently? For instance whenever she or he wants to relate to the change initiative?

Steps 4 to 6 in Change Management: Moving

  • “Communicate the Vision” – obvious steps, in the first place. In Townhall meetings, Strategy Workshops, Methods Training for the pilot group, to begin with. But there are pitfalls: In communication the sentence “In the beginning nothing’s gonna change for you” is the biggest mistake – this is all too often heard. Everybody has been shocked out of their comfort zone – why let them fall back there? On the contrary, the pilot group and the first application project have to be implemented quickly now. Thus communication will happen automatically.
  • “Empower others to act on the vision” – make it happen! For this purpose the core team must quickly identify a pilot application. And subsequently train the people concerned and supervise progress intensively. In due time this leads to finetuning of the concept, based on initial experience. Nothing is all too easy here, not so straightaway. In contrast expanding the change menagement initiative is much more difficult. Neighbouring teams may be much less open minded than the pilot group, even minor failures may lead to negative rumours, the number of sceptics subsequently rises.
So what about the ``Nay-sayers``...
  • Factual or alleged victims will now step forward. What to do about them is all too often simply overlooked. One exemplary personal experience: in this case the foreman level in production was to be eliminated for thepurpose of flattening hierarchy: But when finally time came for practical implementation there was not an offer conceived for the real, live people in this function. My proposal and in effect the solution was to offer them positions in the relevant technology team. And what happened thereupon: half of the guys were happy to get rid of the formerly (unspokenly) disliked responsibility of people management, thus accepting the offer. Well, the other half did not…
  • “Create short-term wins” – in other words (or concepts): to “harvest low-hanging fruits”. This is subsequently linked to the step before: Going ahead straightaway with help from all specialists and support teams, like ergonomists, IT department, logistics, …. Even if initial ideas come across a little strange and even if the necessary investment or cost seem high (but still manageable) these should be tried out. Yet, it’s important to lead groups to elaborated proposals and even first steps towards implementation; stacks of ideas and requests to others to act are not enough, undeniably.

Steps 7 to 8: Refreezing - but not fully, please!

  • “Consolidate improvements” – now comes the real litmus test: expansion of the concept to all teams and people affected, including low performers, demotivated employees, explicit nay-sayers. Usually everyone demands changes, especially from others, while staying in their own comfort zone themselves. This needs to be dealt with sooner or later. Consequently, all systems have to be adapted: IT, offices, processes of manufacture, remuneration system – although all of this may easily lead to significant investment needs!
change ice bear
time change

It's about harvesting, not haste.

  • At this instant there is quite some temptation to stop or to linger on half-hearted. As if it were better to start the next initiative, because it may motivate anew and promise fresh low-hanging fruits, again. And yet, this means to not really harvest, and possibly to frustrate managers and employees. Simply because they recognize the lack of seriosity in these campaign politics.
  • “Institutionalize new approaches”. Yet, contrarily, falling back to comfort zone is possible at this very moment, like: “Finally, let’s do normal work again!” Setting challenging goals or introducing unusual ideas may be helpful. This way, more and more significant know-how will be piled up consequently. At the very same time it is now important to measure all changes in terms of an increase in performance. Finally, the next generation of standard bearers must be identified, trained and established. Accuracy in identifying these people is essential!

Non-simultaneity of changes

A very important impulse for change was CIP = Continuous Improvement Process. This concept initially started in production. I later also found out that transfer to production-related plant departments and even sales and service was very much possible. On the other hand, just simple transfer of these philosophies and tools to R&D led to very unsatisfactory results!

Meanwhile, the R&D realm (very broadly) has made its own massive step forward: buzzwords are “agile” and, likewise, SCRUM. Sometimes this concept is sold as a transfer of CIP principles (under the common monicker “lean”). Only this is historically not true and does not explain much.

Production must not be left behind!

However, in the meantime I have experienced that some CIP thoughts have lafter all been forgotten in production. Especially where they rather had been lip service and only a cover of very traditional structures and cultures. There is a risk, in any event, that change will occur untimely and not in synchronicity: “progressive” research and development, “conservative” production! But this would in fact not work. Much more, it would reinforce the all too well-known friction when prototypes are pre-produced and even more so when final products are launched.

Innovation in production must not stop, after all – and the first concepts from the SCRUM methodology are finally spilling back over. “Time boxed” for example …

Leadership Responsibility - all too often for Informal Leaders

  • Driving these changes forward is a leadership responsibility though. For whoever usurps this often informal leadership position.
  • Leaders or drivers of the change process have to go through the abovementioned 8 steps twice. First in their own minds and then again with their direct reports or colleagues whom they want to lead through the change effort.

Concepts for the continuous improvement of production from the 90s are currently being critically assessed. Still, “critical” does not in any way mean rejection, but rather disillusionment; you “just sometimes can no longer hear it”.

In the following I want to report specific experiences as a consultant, trainer and process supervisor in different projects. Namely these occured in the electrical/electronic, automotive and mechanical engineering industries.

In most cases, CIP / Kaizen and semiautonomous group work have been closely interwoven – one kind of draws up the other. The context was mostly the process orientation of production and neighboring areas – probably the greatest change and success in factory organization; you can no longer talk about production without using the phrase, ultimately.

Real empowerment!

All of this automatically demands great responsibility from the employees for process control and service provision. These tend to develop the greatest competence for their continuous improvement, instead of industrial engineers, labor economists, executives, or organization specialists. Continuous improvement as a concept has provided a bundle of instruments and methods for this.
The basis is real target agreements at group level – as a task for the management. The groups pursue continuous improvement on their own responsibility to achieve the goals. At the same time, they work on shaping their internal relationships and initially resolve any conflicts themselves. The institutions for this are the group meetings and the group speakers. They should also receive support in this area through team training and coaching.

The areas of responsibility of the groups are increasingly being expanded to include “employee functions”, such as procurement, control, time recording / writing, goods acceptance and shipping. The goals can be all the more complex: downtimes of the machines, delivery capacity divided by inventory, time for the introduction of new products, etc.

Flat hierachies...

Hierarchies remain or become as flat as possible: elected group leaders; Department heads / group officers for several groups with disciplinary authority; the production or operations manager as part of the plant management. Leadership means strategic concept development, creating the framework, setting up the team, target agreement, accompanying / coaching, target control / feedback, decision in the event of escalation, moderation of conflicts.

change management
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change management