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Three Simple Questions: How to make the change happen?

Three Simple Questions: How to make the change happen?

By Bob Sproull


In my last post we completed our discussion of “To what to change to?” as well as the layers of resistance faced by all companies making changes.  As a refresher, the seven layers of resistance which must be addressed are:

  1. Agreement that there is a problem.
  2. Agreement on what the real problem is.
  3. Agreement on what the direction of the solution should be.
  4. Agreement on the value of the solution.
  5. Agreement that the solution won’t cause new problems.
  6. Agreement on the strategic plan.
  7. Agreement that you should proceed with the plan

We also began our discussion on how to make the changes happen. In today’s post, the final in this series, we will complete our discussion on this third question and then summarize what we should have learned.  

How To Make the Change Happen

As I said in my last post, once you have laid out your improvement strategy, it’s simply a matter of making it all happen.  In order to avoid the disappointing results of many past improvement initiatives, my suggestion is to make this effort a way of life with no end point.  That simply means that your improvement effort should be unrelenting.  It should be the way you run your company going forward!

The Theory of Constraints (TOC) provides the focus needed that has probably been missing from your past improvement efforts.  Equally important from TOC is the concept of holistic improvement rather than improving isolated parts of your system.  As I explained in a past post, the sum of isolated improvements to parts of your system does not equal system-wide improvement.  Only by identifying the leverage point (i.e. the system’s constraint) and then focusing your efforts on it will you achieve superior results.

Summing It Up

I want to finish this series of posts by quoting Frank Patrick [1] of Focused Performance, where he tells us that there are three steps to sustainable success which tie quite nicely into this blog post series.  They represent a summary, if you will, of what these four posts are all about.  Mr. Patrick’s three steps are:Determine what’s stopping you from improving your bottom line.

  1. Mr. Patrick tells us that the first step in any bottom line improvement is to figure out what is limiting it.  This corresponds to our first question of “What to change?” He tells us that this common sense, yet too often overlooked, concept is a key element of the Theory of Constraints.  Spending your valuable time and attention on anything but the limiting factor of your efforts will result in more disappointment than results. Mr. Patrick explains that your constraint might be physical or it might be a policy.  It might be in some internal function of your organization, or it might be outside your four walls.  It might be associated with either lack of demand for your products or insufficient supply of some critical material or skill.  Achieving clear focus on your constraint is the first step for you to take.
  2. Create a strategic road map to your new, better future. Mr. Patrick explains that there are three basic ways of determining “To what to change to.” Namely these three ways are trial and error; benchmarking or best practices for solutions that have proven to be effective elsewhere; and taking tactical actions involving changes in paradigms, policies and practices based upon logic.  These changes typically drive the desired behaviors rather than moving blindly down a trial and error road or accepting questionable promises based on someone else’s efforts.
  3. Develop a universally bought-in plan to get you to that new level of performance. Finally, Mr. Patrick tells us that once a strategy is laid out, spelling out proposed tactics and the anticipated preferred future reality that will result with its implementation, it’s a matter of making things happen.  This corresponds to “How to make the change happen?

Mr. Patrick completes his discussion by telling us that to make sure that there is a real process of on-going improvement, one more set of questions needs to be asked.  Too often, the issue of what to do when you succeed in raising your performance is overlooked. Mr. Patrick’s three additional questions are, What will you do with the new performance to maximize its bottom line effect?  What new constraint will pop up once the current one is dealt with? Will it emerge in a way and in a time that will block your expected results?  Mr. Patrick completes his discussion by telling us that these questions need to be addressed in the implementation plan to make sure you get the best bang for your improvement buck.

[1] http://www.focusedperformance.com/implement.html

Next Time

In my next post, we will begin a new discussion on another part of our improvement efforts.  As always, if you have any questions or comments about any of my posts, leave me a message and I will respond.

Bob Sproull

About the author

Bob Sproull has helped businesses across the manufacturing spectrum improve their operations for more than 40 years.

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