Facilitating operational excellence in and for business change projects


Notes from an APM Midlands Branch seminar by Elisabeth Goodman

About 40 people attended this evening seminar in Coventry on 30th January 2014.  The intent was to share a case study based approach of some of my experiences of leading and facilitating operational organisational change projects, and of using Lean and Six Sigma to support organisational change.  It also proved an excellent opportunity for the participants to share some of their experiences, and for all of us to learn from each other.

The delegates present appeared to be a mix of practitioners and consultants in project management, all of whom had encountered Lean and Six Sigma in some form.  It also became apparent as the evening progressed, that many of those present had a real interest in organisational change, with experience of the challenges and some of the successes involved.

Case studies of operational excellence and organisational change with Lean and Six Sigma

My case studies included:

  1. Coordinating a group of cross-organisational champions involved in rolling out Lean and Six Sigma as a way of working in a global Pharmaceutical R&D organisation.  I was also one of a team of four trainers for running three-day (Advocate or yellow belt), and two-week (Expert or green belt) training courses, and coordinated site-based ‘lunch and learn’ sessions for ongoing mentoring of the practitioners.
  2. Leading a global R&D programme consisting of several project work-streams for developing solutions, and implementing new governance and procedures to address the major outcomes of an internal audit.
  3. Project managing the introduction of an operational excellence culture, again using Lean and Six Sigma, for a Contract Research Organisation for pre-clinical studies, in France
  4. Running one-day in-house and off-site courses in Lean and Six Sigma, and in Change Management.

Organisational change case studies

Approaches to Lean and Six Sigma and Change Management in Project Management

It was obviously not practical to go into these approaches in any depth within the time available but my key framework for Lean and Six Sigma projects is the DMAIC framework: Define, Measure, Analyse, Improve, Control.

My approach for Change Management is described in my new book: The Effective Team’s Change Management Workbook .  It addresses the behavioural aspects of change: personal journeys through change; how to move from being a victim or survivor through to being a navigator of change.  Clients I work with have found it very constructive to be able to articulate their concerns in a ‘safe’ environment as well as explore how they could tackle the change in a more positive way.

My approach to change also addresses procedural aspects, for instance using a checklist of questions (why is the change happening – the “burning platform for change”, what are the goals, who will be affected, when, where and how).  Again, my clients have found this relatively simple approach extremely helpful for articulating and gaining alignment on the key messages for their change strategies.

RiverRhee approaches to LSS and Change

I also referred to a previous APM event that my Associate John Riddell and I had led in Stevenage and Norwich a few years ago [Lean Six Sigma and Project Management].  In this seminar we explored the potential intersections and opportunities between Lean and Six Sigma and Project Management.

Riddell and Goodman on LSS and Project Management

Challenges, successes and questions about Operational Excellence and Lean and Six Sigma in organisational change

The participants in the Coventry seminar spent ten or so minutes in ‘huddles’ exploring their challenges, successes and questions and then shared the main themes with the rest of the room.

The challenges discussed included:

  • Change being scary
  • How to articulate the benefits
  • How to gain engagement with both the new processes and the new behaviours involved
  • How to ensure effective and visible leadership
  • How to pull the organisation together and add value quickly when facilitating significant organisational and team change
  • How to communicate the what and the why effectively
  • The importance of thinking about those not used to the world of change that we as practitioners are so well versed in
  • How to start on the right track right from the start in terms of the communication, people and physical aspects of change

The successes were fewer and included:

  • Being able to communicate the what and why of change
  • Ensuring the challenges are not barriers to change
  • Getting over the low points to achieve confidence in the change

Additional questions raised included:

  • How to ensure that the challenges are not barriers
  • How to ensure that the changes continue beyond the life of the project both in terms of culture and in terms of the way the business runs
  • How to accelerate through the change so that the organisation, the people and the processes are all aligned
  • How to apply Lean and Six Sigma in a non-repetitive environment
  • How an individual can use Lean and Six Sigma to make change happen both in their job and in the organisation as a whole
  • How to apply Lean and Six Sigma to services in the public sector
  • Can Lean and Six Sigma be used in IT projects to improve on the benefits delivered
  • How to apply Lean and Six Sigma to specific goals in a global context
  • Hints and tips for success in change projects

Some of these challenges, successes and questions were reflected in the detail of the case studies that I then shared.

Insights from case studies on Operational Excellence and Lean and Six Sigma in organisational change

It would take another blog or in-depth white paper to go into the detail of what I presented, so I am only posting the main slides here.  Do post a comment of anything you heard that you would like to highlight if you were at the event, or get in touch with me if you would like to learn more about what I covered.

Operational Excellence learnings

LSS in organisational change

RiverRhee one day LSS courses

RiverRhee one-day change management courses

Learnings, take-aways and further questions discussed

Sponsorship. A theme that sparked a lot of interest was that of sponsor turnover and the importance of getting the right sponsor with the right level of commitment.  Participants thought that there might be a tipping point: when the project is far enough along, or there are sufficient numbers engaged for the sponsorship to no longer be such a key factor for success.  The importance of having strong senior sponsorship may also vary with the scale of the organisation, or of the change involved.

Certainty and Control.  What makes change scary for people is not knowing what is going to happen, and what is happening not being under their control.  Even if the news is bad, knowing it is better than the guessing and rumours that go on with a lack of information.  Lean and Six Sigma approaches give people the opportunity to influence the change.  Using representatives / champions supports two-way flows of information.  Focus groups can also be a good way to involve people.

Lean and Six Sigma can be applied in non-repetitive, creative and service environments.  There is an excellent book by Michael George, Lean Six Sigma for Service that I’ve also referenced in a previous blog [Lean Six Sigma in R&D and service delivery].  My experience of working with scientists in drug discovery, and with people in finance and human resources is that there are always some processes in every type of work that can benefit from being simplified and streamlined to free up creativity.  For the discovery biologists it was the critical review of their cascade of assays for evaluating new chemical compounds as potential drug candidates.

People who ‘get it’ live it.  One delegate was particularly taken by this phrase: finding such people makes our work as change agents easier.  They are certainly the champions or sponsors to start with, especially in organisations that are “too busy” firefighting (and rewarding firefighting [Getting it right rather than firefighting]) to take the time to apply Lean and Six Sigma to make more time.

Effective organisational change is not easy!  There will always be complications and questions to answer to enable the smooth running of organisational change programmes and projects. However, some of those present, who were early on in managing their change projects, were reassured by the fact that the evening’s discussion confirmed that they were going about things the right way.

A good fit with the new APM Enabling Change Specific Interest Group

This was an excellent occasion for the chairman of the new APM Enabling Change SIG, Martin Taylor, to share a few words about the scope, status and next steps for this group, and I will also be sharing these notes from the seminar with my colleagues on the committee.

Notes

The full presentation of Facilitating Operational Excellence in and for business change projects can be viewed on SlideShare.

Elisabeth Goodman is the owner and Principal Consultant of RiverRhee Consulting and a trainer, facilitator, one-to-one coach, speaker and writer, with a passion for and a proven track record in improving team performance and leading business change projects on a local or global basis. 

Elisabeth is an expert in knowledge management, and is accredited in change management, Lean Six Sigma and MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator).  She has a BSc in Biochemistry, an MSc in Information Science, is a full member of the Chartered Institute of Information and Library Professionals (CILIP) and of the Association for Project Management (APM) and is also a Growth Coach with the GrowthAccelerator.

She is currently a committee member for the APM East of England branch, and for the APM Enabling Change Special Interest Group.

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2 responses to “Facilitating operational excellence in and for business change projects

  1. Pingback: Notes for the occasional project manager. RiverRhee Consulting Newsletter, January-February 2014 | Newsletter

  2. Pingback: From stoical survivor to natural navigator – strategies for proactive change programme managers. | Elisabeth Goodman's Blog

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