How to Support Change Management

January 1, 2011

Successful change management begins with the understanding that first we must manage change effectively.

The Change model below lists the five things that any organization must have in place order to effectively manage complex change. Complex, because there are no two identical situations and there are a myriad of inputs depending on your company’s business sector and input variables.


(Above: Without the proper Vision there’s confusion, without Skills there’s anxiety, etc.)


Management must provide a specific vision or purpose of what they want the organization to look like down the line. This vision must be specific, and employee buy-in is critical and cannot be single-dimensional based on one person’s opinion.

What does it mean for an organization to have a purpose? Is it simply to make money or is it to provide a way of life that builds value for society and internal stakeholders? What impact do you want to make in the world? In addition, if your organization has committed to the vision of Lean and Six Sigma as a way of life, this means committing to continuous improvement and eliminating waste, if you’re missing vision, then most likely, confusion will ensue.


Many companies talk about how the employee is their most valued asset, so it would seem that employee development and training would take on a more important role for managers and leaders. Many managers delegate this responsibility to others and then hope for the best or blame their employees when they fall short of the mark. I grew up in organizations that stressed that “there is no such thing a stupid employee, but there is such a thing as a stupid manager that fails to effectively develop his/her direct reports.”

It is important to take on personal responsibility and work “side-by-side” regularly with the employee to ensure the success of your workforce. Make a plan to upgrade your skills, train-the-trainer and develop a succession training plan where people are expected to share information and skills while growing others.

Break down each job into tasks and activities rather than the old-fashioned job descriptions. Then set about identifying employee competency and categorize each employee at the apprentice, competent or proficient level to improve their skills to the next level. Stress for at least 70 percent minimum competency at each level and grow from there.

Ask yourself. Does the employee know:

  • Safety and evacuation procedures
  • Quality and what a quality job looks like
  • Cost control, including “Open Book” management
  • Aptitude for the job – agility, dexterity, talent, formal training, people skills, etc.

Provide an ongoing training plan and different levels of achievement. In six sigma there are different belt colors assigned depending on skills attainment. White, Yellow, Orange, Green, Black, Master Black belt, etc. Publicize the skill attainment either on a board, with lapel pins in office environments or on the uniform or hat in a production or service environment. This makes it handy for the supervisor to look out and access their talent. This also creates a growth track, smoother succession, continuity and sharing of knowledge, excitement and a sense of pride among the workforce.

Provide daily skills development training and reviews. Audit skills and processes daily. Without the proper skills development then employees will become anxious and uninvolved.

“We must make it easier for our employees to succeed than to fail.”


We can lead all we want, but without the proper rewards, recognition and incentives it is going to make the transition or transformation much more difficult. Sometimes, just the fact that the situation is getting better is enough to motivate the workforce, but proper motivation is key to sustaining the effort. Proper incentives send a clear message of the kind of behavioral change that we want. If you want quality, then put in a Quality Incentive, if you want increased productivity, then put in a Cost-Reduction/Efficiency incentive, etc. Without proper incentives change will not come about, or will be more gradual than you expect.


All this will take time, and money – two very valuable resources as we try to rebuild the train that is screaming down the tracks at 100 m.p.h. Time may include time away from performing their daily duties, so in the short-term your “numbers” may suffer, but in the long run, everyone will be better off. Money may include new equipment, tuition for additional training, new office machines, computers or tooling on the production floor.

In one recent case a company spent $2,000 on quick disconnects for hoses on a press, but this eliminated 30-45 minutes of downtime during set-ups. The current revenue created by that machine is $3,500 per hour, this investment paid for itself after the first set-up! Don’t just look at what the cost is or what the labor cost is. Take a look at the hourly revenue or additional revenue that can be created. Even in office environments. You must provide the proper resources for people to do their jobs. Otherwise the workforce will be frustrated.

Action Plan

Finally, without a proper Action Plan in place we will never get off the ground. A good solid action plan showing start and end dates, deadlines, timelines, milestones, critical success factors (behaviors that we want) and Key Performance Indicators to let us know if we are “on track.”

Managing complex change is very difficult and time consuming, but well-worth the wait to those savvy enough to build the correct infrastructure to support long-term positive change. Without a proper Action plan many companies flounder with false starts.

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