IQPC’s Process Excellence for Financial Services conference just got to one of my favorite topics — change management. The more I work in process transformation, the more I realize that change management is absolutely crucial for determining success or failure. Also, driving innovation and sustaining a culture of innovation is closely linked to how well the organization does change management.

The panelists include:

  • Karl Friedman, coaching/training lead, Allstate Insurance Co.
  • Larry Duckworth, COO, The Quality Group.
  • Christopher Gaver, vice president, service excellence, Prudential.

Here are some of the key issues that surfaced during today’s discussion of change management gotchas:

  1. The biggest obstacle to change is middle management. Top management usually sponsors strategic process transformation changes, and business workers often like changes to their day to day activities or changes to how the software works, but middle managers often worry about how change will negatively impact them. Often they are afraid of losing power or having their job diminished. (That illustrates the need to get middle managers on your side by involving them in the change management activities and communication plan.)
  2. Change management gets much harder in environments with unions. In my own experience, it’s crucial to get the chief people officer involved in change management and process transformation. I have seen process transformation and change work successfully in a union shop, but it required a closely aligned working relationship between business execs, the HR exec, and the CIO.
  3. Talent management is a very important. At Prudential, they are challenged to grow Six Sigma talent fast enough. The panelist noted that it’s important to develop and expand process improvement skills and codify it in the talent management software. The reason? Green belts and black belts should be your change agents throughout the organization, so you need to systematically grow, train, and use them by tracking their progress in the talent management system.
  4. It’s important to prioritize changes. If you have eight major change initiatives, that’s too much. The organization can only handle so much change at any given time, so prioritize initiatives and reduce them down to a manageable number.
  5. Never tie downsizing to a process improvement initiative. The panelist from Allstate said they make a practice of avoiding downsizing initiatives with process improvement so process transformation doesn’t pick up a negative connotation.

It’s interesting — the need for a communication plan didn’t surface in this discussion — yet it is SO important.  In fact, “communication, communication, communication” is the single most important part of change management’s success or failure. Many change initiatives start out with a bang, communicating the goals, strategies, and business purpose. But eventually communications starts to peter out and eventually end with a whimper. I’ve recently found myself saying to people “you cannot overcommunicate.” So I would add insufficient communications to the list of gotchas.