10 Steps to Successful Change Initiatives

Date: 07-03-2011 17:30 | Author: Cyril Dyer | Category: Change management | Tags: change, process, improvement, effective, efficient, Buy-in, Initiatives

So, you have had an idea. It’s a great idea! You get one of your best teams to look at how to get the idea on-stream, but after 6 months… still nothing. So why did the initiative fail?

It’s a common problem. There are quality initiatives, there are production initiatives, there’s process improvement. So why do 80% of these well intentioned initiatives fail?

Your bright idea...

10 steps to success…

The first thing is to look closely at your idea and ask what is it I’m trying to change and why?  What problem are you fixing? If you can’t explain what the problem is then 80% of others won’t recognise your big idea!


STEP 1 – write down what you think is the problem that your big idea is fixing

STEP 2 – test your problem on a colleague, do they agree?

STEP 3 – refine your problem, or if need redefine your problem

STEP 4 – test again, get consensus, have you articulated the problem well enough for other to recognise?

STEP 5 – get your coalition together and agree the problem in open forum (BUY-IN)

STEP 6 – NOW go for it, try your big idea! Does it fix the problem?

STEP 7 – test your solution

STEP 8 – test again, get consensus, have you articulated your solution well enough for others to recognise?

STEP 9 – get your coalition together and agree the solution in open forum (BUY-IN)

STEP 10 – BINGO! Your big idea just became reality.

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Understanding what good looks like – what’s our target?

Date: 22-02-2011 15:51 | Author: Cyril Dyer | Category: Process improvement | Tags: change, process, improvement, effective, efficient

When we start out on any journey there’s always a good question to ask, what does good look like?  It doesn’t matter if it’s a holiday, a day out with the kids, and a visit from parents, all in all there’s no reason to ask yourself what does good look like?  But remember what good looks like to you might not be what good looks like to others,  beware good in many cases is a collective good, not just for you.What does good look like?

Here’s another thought - how do you set expectations?  It’s another part of the same question, what does good look like.  What good looks like is defined by what people expect!

In our ever changing world one of the most difficult things to do is to get to good by setting expectations for the people who will go on the journey with you.  Let’s face it setting the expectation of a group is one thing, setting individual expectations is quite different – in today’s fast changing world it’s the latter that’s most forgotten – but it’s the individuals who you’ll be relying on to get you there!

Now, I’m not saying it’s different in every case, not at all, the expectation for an individual maybe in fact the same as what good looks like for the group.  However, in many cases there are individual expectations that need to be set to allow the group to achieve its target.

In summary, good is in the eyes of the beholder, for an individual that maybe one thing as a leader of a group that maybe quite different!

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Understanding the end to end service – why it matters

Date: 15-02-2011 15:07 | Author: Cyril Dyer | Category: Agile transformation | Tags: change, management, service, delivery

It’s not obvious from what we do day to day just what it is that makes the customer feel good; it’s never that easy, in the main because we’re so removed from the real customer it’s difficult to know if we’re doing a good job!

In this age of the service delivery more and more is about retaining and cross-selling products and services to your customers.  Having the ability to create value is the challenge that the service now faces.  

For many it’s hard enough just getting through the day, dealing with every little piece of the working process just to keep things going.  And yes it’s important and sometimes even urgent but we should never forget that we all have a part to play in ensuring the end to end process - and therefore service - works.

Why end to end thinking?

1.       Making decisions about what to change; and understanding why we are making the change

2.       What adds value versus what adds cost

3.       Breaking down barriers

4.       Process Owners, understanding the links in the chain

5.       People, knowing your role in the end to end service with the Customer

In every sense improvement of the end to end service, as opposed to individual pieces will add the value which is craved by both the end Customer and the Business.

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The System Development vs Service Delivery Headstand

Date: 09-11-2010 10:53 | Author: Derek Glen | Category: IT strategy | Tags: development, support, service, delivery

Isn't it time that IT development and support responsibilities were turned on their head?


Wouldn't it be much smarter to go to the Support team and say "I need you to run a service for the next ten years…oh and by the way can you go and commission a system to support it during the first year?", rather than go to the Development team and say "I'd like you to build me a shiny system, and then throw it over the wall to a team who are underfunded, undervalued, and ill-equipped to support it"?

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Polished processes: the road to nowhere?

Date: 05-11-2010 12:40 | Author: Derek Glen | Category: Process improvement | Tags: change, management, communicating

Change management is all about getting an organisation to respond in a different way than today. Perhaps to its suppliers, maybe to its managers, almost always to its customers, even just how its employees respond towards each other. And of course an organisation is made up of people, so when we want an organisation to respond differently given the same inputs, what we REALLY mean is that its people must behave differently.

Often, consistency of response or behaviour is one of the key objectives, and defining top-down policies and standard processes is a way of directing this new behaviour.

But there are still those who focus only on the process. Those who view the writing, reviewing and approval of the new process as the END of the change process, rather than just the beginning. Documents are lodged in repositories and milestones on change project Gantt charts are duly ticked off. Has anything changed? Well a few more megabytes of storage on a server somewhere may now be occupied...but no. Nobody is reading those documents, nobody is using them, nobody is checking to see if they fit the needs of the organisation in practice, and everybody is just doing exactly the same as before.

Even worse are those organisatioWhere's the value?ns where whole libraries of such documents are produced and polished, in an impossible quest for the 'perfect' process - with no hint of any roll-out or deployment until the final product is just right.

But such polishing (without publication) is pointless - because just like a road, the purpose of the process is simply to get us there. If we all stopped driving on roads because they contain a few potholes, we'd never get anywhere. Processes only work when people are using them, arguing about them, replacing them, improving them and making sure they take the organisation in the right direction based on its current drivers and environment.

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...every problem looks like a nail.

Date: 21-10-2010 12:58 | Author: Derek Glen | Category: Change management | Tags: change, agile, scrum, process, improvement, tools


In yesterday's post, I explored how people may (unintentionally) limit themselves when it comes to tackling problems, based on what they know and what they can do. It's interesting to note that we've come across a few telling examples of this over the past year whilst developing our 'Agile Framework'.

The company, for example, which has invested heavily in its agile environment, building state-of-the-art 'pods' which are geared up to support small, integrated Scrum teams. They major on communication, with interactive whiteboards and a communal, touch-of-a-button video-conference system which can instantly link the team to their counterparts at any of half a dozen other sites. All of this technology focus is home territory for a company at the cutting edge of communications technology.

But is it working? Well no, not yet. The technology is lovely, but the teams (and the individuals within them) have not yet adopted the right behaviours to get the most out of them. Savings have been made, of course, through lower travel costs, but have the benefits of Scrum been realised? No.

An internet company with a 'difficult' supplier (which develops much of their core platform) has plans to adopt Scrum as the heart of its agile development approach. The benefits case, however, is incomplete, as contractual constraints make it too difficult to bring the supplier along on the transformational journey.

So Scrum may be used in a small way, by some peripheral teams, whilst the real value proposition - changing the development of the main product to agile - remains untapped and on the 'too hard' pile.

Then take a third case - an organisation with a robust and well-established development methodology, has invested heavily in agile techniques over the last couple of years, trying to introduce elements of agile into its existing lifecycle. However, certain parts of the lifecycle, such as a structured, but inflexible test and release cycle, have prevented even those teams which have whole-heartedly adopted agile from reaping the benefits of early success.

The consequence in this particular company? Well it seems their interest in agile is waning, with fewer teams adopting it, and management interest has started to move on to other ways of 'doing things differently'. Some are still using it in places, but the benefits are hard to find. Yet across industry in general, agile methods are very much in vogue, with more and more companies embracing them.

More evidence that in order to identify and embrace opportunities for improving efficiency, you must look at the problem through a variety of lenses, not just the familiar ones closest to hand.

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When you only have a hammer...

Date: 20-10-2010 12:59 | Author: Derek Glen | Category: Process improvement | Tags: change, process, improvement, tools

We're having some work done on the house at the moment - stripping walls, ripping out fireplaces, that kind of thing. The latest challenge we face involves a couple of pipes and a few bricks from an old fireplace that stick out beyond the line of a wall that we'd like to make flat.


Last week, we had a joiner in doing some other work and my wife asked his opinion about what we should do. He explained that we needed to put a false wall in, bringing the whole surface out by a few inches, which would hide the obstacles. He even offered to do the work for us - all eighteen feet of new wall!

Needless to say we declined, but this was a striking example of how different people will come up with solutions to problems based on what they know and what they are comfortable with (echoing the adage that if the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem will look like a nail). The joiner's solution was hopelessly over-engineered - had we asked a plumber, the answer would have likely been to simply move the pipes back a few inches.

If you're faced with changing the way an organisation works, it's worth getting a range of opinions about how to solve the problem. There are always lots of possibilities, and some will be more appropriate than others.

After all, you don't want to build a whole new wall if moving some of the obstructions would be a cheaper, quicker and ultimately more effective solution.

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Have you Got Talent?

Date: 18-06-2010 09:46 | Author: Derek Glen | Category: Process improvement | Tags: process, improvement, assessment, roadmap


The latest round of television talent shows, whether they are searching for a leading lady or an act to perform to royalty, are looking for a 'triple threat': a future star who can act, dance AND sing.

The term originated in American football, used to describe a versatile gridiron player who could run, pass and kick well. Now it is employed more widely to describe anyone with three conspicuous talents.

So could you be a triple threat: are you fit for success? I don't just mean physically fit and mentally fit, but also process fit. It's not enough to have the energy and the intelligence to succeed. You must also have reliable, repeatable, improving systems in place to provide world-class delivery for your customers.

Just like these other conspicuous talents, measurable with a bleep test or IQ test, your process fitness can be measured against a range of international standards and frameworks.

This will highlight your current performance (your 'personal best', if you will) as well as letting you set targets for the future, which can then be used to build a Roadmap for improvement.

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Don't shoot the developer!

Date: 13-04-2010 15:21 | Author: Derek Glen | Category: Process improvement | Tags: management, process, supplier, robust, QA, vendor

A recent report on the top 25 most dangerous coding errors has been used in support of a push by IT security vendors to encourage customers to hold IT developers responsible for the security of their products.

As reported in the online press, this includes a contract template which includes the clause:

"Developer warrants that the software shall not contain any code that does not support a software requirement and weakens the security of the application..."

As the article notes, "In other words, when it comes to application security and QA, the buck stops with the developer. And that's in a contract that likely won't even be seen by the developer and will be signed on his behalf by his employer. It renders the contract unenforceable - so why add a clause like that in the first place?"

The article goes on to state that "management should be taking the lead to impose processes on development, rather than blaming the programmers for a breakdown in process."

This of course emphasises the need for sound development processes, but also demonstrates the purpose and value of effective QA to identify and eliminate defects, as well as to support and improve the use of expected processes and standards.

The Register article concludes: "It's good to see that QA has come back into fashion, despite being re-branded in the guise of security and the paranoia of an 'unseen enemy that cannot be defined'."

Of course, this has always been one of the fundamental elements of the CMMI model, and crucial to a successful process-based transformation programme. One of our clients is presenting a case study this summer about how the creation of a strong and principled QA team proved to be one of the key tipping points on their journey to maturity.

So don't shoot the developer - instead get your standards up to scratch using strong and effective QA.

[This might be a good time to mention Compita's 'QA and Vendor Management' training, which was developed specifically to support the improvement drive of a CMMI Level 3 organisation and embraces the topics of software quality assurance, internal auditing in an IT environment and supplier management. It can be run internally as a 3-day intensive workshop, or spread out and delivered over a longer period. Give us a call to discuss who, in your organisation, would benefit most from this workshop.]




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What can you change in a 'morrow'?

Date: 12-04-2010 18:02 | Author: Derek Glen | Category: Change management | Tags: change, management, getting, started

My daughter's four and a half (don't dare forget the half!) and she measures things in 'morrows'.

So Grandma and Granddad are coming to visit, and she asks, 'Are they coming tomorrow?' 'No.' 'Are they coming the next morrow?' 'Yes.'

She's making a flag for them out of card and crepe paper, and it's going to take a while. 'How will you get it finished?', I ask her. Undaunted, she tells me, 'I'll start it tomorrow, then finish it the next morrow.'

There's a lesson here for big change - the kind of seismic change that is required when we are faced with the wrong shape, size or capability of organisation to satisfy our current and future customers. We need to break it up and make a start.

So if you are daunted by the scale of change you're facing, don't look for parts of the picture to cut back on or avoid. Instead, figure out what you can change in a morrow. (And not just any morrow - tomorrow!)

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