Most of the talk about 'Change' in businesses today is focused on the idea of making change to process. From, ‘turning lights off,’ & 'reducing travel distance between operations' to 'reducing time delays in machine cycles or information availability' to 'Error proofing to reduce defects and damage' to 'introducing new frameworks and tools', all actions are based on a change to process to achieve cost reductions, increase efficiency and hit targets (QCD).
This seems like we’re talking about change to processes; but really we’re talking about behaviours, habits and reactions in any given moment which lead to misalignment between individual actions and organisational outcome requirements as well as Human Error. We’re actually talking about the level of knowledge and understanding people have, their attitude toward the activities they perform in respect to the outcomes for the company, the context, and the related responses within people, which all combine to ultimately lead to a change in individual actions, such that we see a task performed one-way in the past, being performed differently in the future.
Ultimately, such a change in our practices will lead to improved Quality, Cost and Delivery (QCD) outcomes for the organisations we work for in the short and long term.
But what we’re really talking about is the change in the brain, at a cellular level.
To say we change the way we back-fill a hole (To improve QCD for road repairs) is to say we change the levels of education and knowledge about road construction. That is to say, we change beliefs about what is ‘good’ in relation to the outcomes required. That is to say, we change beliefs to influence the actions taken by individuals and teams when back-filling holes. To say we change the levels of education and knowledge, is to say we alter the neural wiring in the brain, to alter one set of imprinted beliefs about what is good, to an alternative set of imprinted beliefs… recognising there are a multitude of factors in relation to reward and defence mechanisms which influence the capacity to make such a paradigm shift in the private neural universe of individuals, we can acknowledge the idea of 'Change' as a Psychological and Neurological 'process'.
Swap back-filling pot-holes for double handling of parts, vendor rationalisation or delays due to information flows and the same neural change is root cause of outcomes in all individuals at any level of an organisation or society.
The world of Change and more specifically, ‘Change Agents’ (also ‘people’ contrary to popular belief) fail to account for change at this level … in so doing, they/we miss a lot and make many mistakes, leading to 75%+ change program failure rates, reported globally, from all sectors, public and private alike, over the last 40 years in particular and also a long time before that (i.e. Taylorism and Pig Iron Hauling or Ignaz Semmelweiss and Germ Theory).
The use of language in business, with its focus on process, causes us to think of change in respect to our physical surroundings and methods, models and tools, as linked to those financial outcomes which will be positively influenced by improved Quality, Cost and Delivery standards.
We fail to look at it from the opposite end and see that those issues of process and control are also issues of personal belief and deeply imprinted world views of 'good' and 'bad', in context of an individuals self-worth and related defence mechanisms / attitudes.
Leaders today are not trained (normally) to consciously understand the direct connection between actions taken at work & the neural events happening in the brains of individuals and teams, each responding to their prevailing conditions and sanity checking their place in the world against prior experience.
Be it the tools trained, language used, or the imagined / predicted future our organisations will experience, set out and communicated as a strategy and a set of action plans, every action taken by a person in the real world is an outcome of their neural responses to a variety of issues presented by the current conditions they find themselves in.
The comparatively ‘high-level’ language popularised in business and its related focus on outcomes and effects (i.e. behaviour and process change in pursuit of measures and metrics) actually creates a problem few leaders become aware of. It creates a ‘disconnect’ in the social mind, so big it isn’t seen. It is an all-encompassing problem, so extensive it becomes the ‘Elephant in the room’ / ‘the wood for the trees’.
Uncovering that Elephant
We all suffer the mistakes made when we allow and perpetuate the concept of ‘change in people and the outcome of their actions’ to be considered in ‘process’ & ‘method’ terms. The world of organisational change has suffered high failure rates due to this for many years, leading to an over-arching approach to change which is fundamentally backwards. It generally looks like this;
1. To realise an increase in performance (as measured and reported by financial and management accounts) requires change to some aspects of the organisation. This is identified as ‘a need’, and agreed by the Executive team. Specifics are unidentified, requiring external ‘Specialists’ to help identify the touch points and opportunities. However, the change required is considered in respect to the generic application of best-practice tools from the market place, as delivered by such ‘specialists’. (Where ‘tools’, such as ‘Lean or Six Sigma’, developed in ‘manufacturing’ are transferable to another discipline, say ‘Banking and Finance’ or, ‘Public Sector’ the ‘specialists’ are often one and the same provider, with ‘specialists’ speaking the sector specific language while promoting the same principles).
2. Consultants are consulted. Proposals for the facilitation of the proposed changes are submitted, often providing a similar ‘tone’ to the solutions presented, depending upon the knowledge in the exec team and the relative selection criteria used to suit their own biases. (The consultants selected to ‘pitch for work’ may primarily focus on ‘Lean’ or ‘Agile’ or OpEx’ or ‘Six Sigma’ for example).
3. A winner is selected based on promises and commercial sensibilities (including consulting company size*).
4. ‘Tone’ related ‘Best-Practice’ tools &/Or ‘Latest Fads’ are trained and implemented following the preferred methods favoured by the service provider. Typically this is a method determined by previous experience, rather than method determined by customer requirement.
5. Initial expectations are not realised over 3-5 years. Initial incumbents are dropped as promises and project time-lines are missed and budgets are exceeded. New providers, promising to out-perform the previous suppliers are contracted-in. The change program ‘failures’ are blamed on the various sets of consultants.
6. Ultimately, it is identified that the reason the ‘tools’ approach hasn’t worked is because it wasn’t linked to a strategy. The 'tools' and 'consultants' are blamed.
7. Steps 1-4 are repeated for Strategy Specialists.
8. Initial expectations are not realised over 3-5 years, often including one or more sets of consultants. CEO’s and other Exec team members leave or are removed. (In the Public Sector, this is also influenced by Local and national elections). New ideas come in with new Exec’s. Plans are dropped and chopped. Culture becomes one of inconsistency and insecurity / uncertainty. (Not beneficial to ‘Change’).
9. Socially and psychologically, Blame is required, so failure can be justified. It is identified that Strategy and Tools’ didn’t work because of the organisations ‘Culture’. The strategy and 'consultants' are blamed.
10. This pattern repeats across different sectors roughly in line with economic cycles of 15yrs or so, seeing consultants promoting largely the same process, survive by migrating between target markets as markets and sectors aim to replicate the best-performing examples through each economic down-turn.
11. Consultants identify the need to change terminology and ‘Sell’ the same support using the language of the newly interested markets or under the banner of ‘Culture Change’ for those in the existing market place**.
12. Steps 1-4 are repeated for ‘Culture Consultants’. The same companies and practitioners who sold ‘Tools’ return with a different marketing message proposing to sell fundamentally the same ‘tools’ based approach as a solution to ‘Cultural’ problems.
NO-ONE openly addresses the issue of blame and accountability for outcomes. The politics (self-defence strategies) play out and the elephant remains firmly in the room.
*If the CEO selects the ‘Biggest’ (even if most expensive) consulting company for the change program, and it doesn’t work, He / She can’t be blamed. They will say, “after all, I paid for the best, what more could I have been expected to do? The Consultants failed, not I.” In this sense, the term ‘Commercial sensitivities’, also include insurance policies for individuals where issues of ‘Blame’ and ‘Fear’ will prevail in the face of perceived and reported change program, or even, company failure. We have after all, created a social dynamic premised on fear and blame, led aggressively by our politicians at every PM's question time.
** The titles given to subtle variations of TPS (Toyota Production System), since the 1970’s, all promote the tools with no fundamental differences to the approach. Largely unaware of TMS – Toyota Management System and TTW – The Toyota Way, the introduction of TPS as a first step to address 'Change' regularly provokes the cycles and blame described above. To expand on that a little, we can give a quick re-cap of recent history. 1st we had Quality Circles. As that failed, the same approach was re-branded as Total Quality Management with a few more aspects of TPS thrown in, then came World Class Manufacturing and as the application of ‘tools’ became clear to those presenting themselves as leaders of Change in the West, we ultimately settled on calling the approach ’Lean’ following Womack and Jones publishing their book ‘Lean Thinking’ (Which didn't deal with thinking). The 3.4PPM and SPC aspect originally trained under the banner of TQM and WCM highlighted the benefit of Stat’s in a high volume arena and Six Sigma with a whole load of additional statistical tools like Chi Square, DOE, Regression Analysis etc. was introduced to the world by Motorola, who had actually used the Shainin Method, but presented 6Sigma in application for the Baldridge award. As the failings of a Statistics only approach highlighted itself, the 6Sigma fraternity quickly adopted ‘Structure’ and ‘frameworks’ from Lean to help project manage Six Sigma interventions, through the 90’s we saw Design For Manufacture (an original principle in TQM) converted to DFSS (Design for Six Sigma). Plan-Do-Check-Act, also known as Continuous Improvement (CI) or the Deming Cycle, was translated to DMAIC (Define Measure Analyse Improve Control) including a 12 step process to follow a similar ‘project step method’ previously developed within the Lean approach under the banner of ‘Kaizen’, also a word synonymous with CI (Missing the true philosophical meaning of the Japanese word) and a combination of Voice of the Customer and Value Stream Mapping was wrapped up as SIPOC (Supplier-Input-Process-Output-Customer). Alongside these ‘Latest Fad’ cycles, we also had others taking the same principles, developing subtle variations to method and re-branding claiming originality. We now have OpEx (Operational Excellence) and Agile, all variations on the theme … all rooted in TPS … all missing the fact the origins of that particular toolbox exist not in TMS (Toyota Management System), but in TTW (The Toyota Way), i.e. in the Culture and the philosophy, the true beliefs of the founders of Toyota.
(Sakichi Toyoda – founder of Toyoda Automatic Loom Works, Toyota Industries and the Inventor of ‘Jidoka’ today called ‘Autonomation’ and considered as part of TPS, but originally a principle that meant ‘ the machine stops itself when there is a problem’.
Kiichiro Toyoda – Son to Sakichi Toyoda and original Director of Toyota Industries.
and their two most famous report;
Taiichi Ohno – Considered to be the Father of TPS, having identified Kanban and the 7 Wastes as principles, Ohno was born in China, but, due to thepositive relationship between his Father and Kiichiro Toyoda, after graduating from Nagoya Technical High School, he joined Toyota Spinning, eventually Joining Toyota in 1943, rising through the ranks to become an Executive.
Shigeo Shingo – With a ‘Fusion Specialist’ background at the Taiwanese Railway, Shingo Studied at Japan Management Association becoming a consultant focused on the improvement of factory management. With experience at what is today known as ‘Mazda’ and Mitsubishi Heavy Industry, he Joined Toyota in 1969, reporting to Ohno. He is recognised as being the inventor of Poke Yoke (Previously known as Idiot or Mistake Proofing in the West) and SMED (Single Minute Exchange of Dies) or, for those who don’t speak ‘lean’ – Rapid Changeovers. As with all of history, the lines become blurred, but many accept Shingo and Ohno as forces behind much that we consider ‘Lean’ today, including the idea of ‘Pull Production’ and Just In Time.
What is missed,by the western world of change consultancy, is that the evolution of these methods and principles were solutions to specific problems facing these leaders in their own company. They were not ‘off-the-shelf’ solutions they applied to their business by copying others. This ‘Innovation’ was enabled and provoked by the fundamental view of the world constructed in their own brains – they were influenced culturally by social control and conduct expectations, i.e. levels of Tatamae and Honne (That we might think of as the Face vs. the reality of Honesty, Respect and Trust within the Japanese culture), the Shinto religion and other philosophical principles like Kaizen, which, when accurately translated is more akin to ‘Love thy neighbour’ and ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’ from a Western religious history, than it is anything to do with CI or a project management 12 step approach to organisational Change implementation.
What is also often missed is the focus on only the 7 wastes (MUDA) promoted in the West, following Ohno’s development of it. We fail to acknowledge the other ‘Balanced’ aspects Mr. Ohno also included automatically as part of his ‘World View’. Those other aspects of ‘Waste Elimination’ being MURI and MURA, translating as ‘Over-burden’ [Possibly Stress], and ‘Spiritual Imbalance’ [Possibly Cognitive Dissonance].
This is the point we are currently at in the evolution of ‘Change’ in business. Those who originally Innovated within Toyota, including the Toyota Family, Ohno and Shingo (and all those who reported to them I’m sure) have been copied in the West, quite unsuccessfully in many cases, largely due to the ‘tools only’ approach sold to the markets by Consultants who received only a shallow view and shallow understanding of the mind-set and prevailing conditions which led to the Innovation of tools and principles in the minds of people leading the Toyota Company.
This has led us to an approach in the west which fails to focus on the development of innovative inspirational leaders and instead, provokes leaders to impose change on their reports. We now even have formalised courses training this approach to the masses, while those who really make a difference remain those who think for themselves, create and innovate as entrepreneurs (be they an entrepreneurial employer or entrepreneurial employee).
The ‘Culture Change’ programs we can expect to see over the next economic cycle, in the various sectors now turning away from ‘Tools’ and ‘Strategy’ to look for the next ‘Golden Bullet’ will inevitably follow the same cycle, as at base, very little, if anything has changed in the approach being sold in the world of change.
Programs will fail, CEO’s will migrate and some other catchy phrase will take over from the term ‘Culture Change’ within the ‘organisational Change’ market, with very little, if any change to practice, process or procedure… Unless we do something to change it!
So, what's the answer?
I suggest a possible solution could be to completely reverse the approach.
1. Culture change will be understood at deep psychological, neurological, physiological and sociological levels, as it connects to and incorporates a need for Strategy and the application of Tools by those offering their services as change agents. Culture Change will be understood in respect to the ‘Cultural layers’ apparent in all organisations relative to degrees of responsibility and imprinted context through experience. (See Dux Master Class).
2. Executive teams will be educated by service providers to understand the psychological and knowledge related mechanics of ‘People change’ as ‘Root cause’ of organisational performance behind strategy, systems and control over process via ‘tools’ application; such that Executive teams can make informed decisions about the approach to change required to maximise organisational performance. (This can be considered in-line with Demings SoPK – overtly addressing 1. Variation control [process] 2. Systems [at all levels, from ERP / MIS to Systems Thinking models] 3. Psychology 4. Theory of Knowledge - or more accurately, Neuroscience).
3. Once ‘Culture’ is understood in such terms, Strategy will be developed, with the Executive team, to incorporate their new awareness of Cultural Layers & the relative communication boundaries such culture layers embody, such that the ‘Culture-Change relative Strategy’ is purposefully designed to be ‘Psychologically congruent’, overtly addressing the ‘Disconnects’ often promoted and perpetuated where Strategy is introduced as an off-the-shelf, one-size-fits-all model in response to failing change programs (e.g. BSC / EFQM / STEP / SWOT / PESTLE / Blue Ocean etc.).
4. Through the development of such a psychologically congruent strategy (incorporating and psychologically considering the utilisation of ‘Goals and Objectives’, ‘Culture’ ‘Process’, ‘Technology’, ‘Systems’(ERP / MRP), ‘Governance’, ‘NPI’, ‘Market segmentation / differentiation’, ‘Finances’ etc. etc. as will be ultimately covered by all other models combined), the incumbent leadership team will take responsibility for defining and delivering a solution for their own business while remaining cognoscente of issues surrounding ‘Control’ and ‘Fear’, measurement and judgement mechanisms, ownership, engagement and all interconnected aspects of organisational performance which combine to create ‘Culture’ (learned at step 1), led, as it is, by their own attitudes and actions, reflecting their EEE based beliefs (developed at step 1.).
5. Once defined, with control and communication mechanisms considered / identified, any appropriate & supporting tools (previously developed in the world) will be identified and introduced in ways conducive with the ‘people process’ in pursuit of the desired organisational outcomes.
This is what one might call ‘Alignment’, however, it is alignment at a depth current approaches fail to realise in practice. It considers ALL parameters which typically undermine an organisations capacity to attain true alignment across the cultural layers we fail to recognise or address consciously.
In Summary – the current ‘Change’ market looks like this:
Current approach. (Sector by Sector).
1. 3-5 years tools based change (= Time to failure = Delay waste)
2. 3-5 years Strategy based change (= Time to failure = Delay waste)
3. 3-5 years Culture Change based on Tools application & Behaviour analysis (= superficial = Time to failure = Delay Waste).
Total – 9-15 years (approx.) realising little if any tangible performance improvement at excessive cost. Roughly tracking economic peak-to-recession cycles, said to be approx. 15 years.
Any workers still with the business will now be closed down to any and all change due to initiative fatigue. They will be sceptical of any and all consultants, as all will be seen to be peddling ‘Snake oil’. They will undermine any positive attitudes in new recruits, while training cost’s remain excessively high to keep new starters educated to the same level as those who are lost due to high attrition rates.
1. 3-12 Months helping Exec team understand Culture Change at a psychological and neuro-scientific level (attaining highly aligned belief in what is ‘Good’ / ‘What works’).
2. 3-12 Months supporting Exec teams apply their knowledge to the development and implementation of a psychologically congruent strategy which targets sustainability and cultural layer connectivity. (Concurrently training senior & middle management and supervisory / team leader level staff in the principles the Exec team will be pursuing***).
3. 1-3 years ‘arms-length’ support and capability building (provision of beneficial tools) within the in-house leadership team, ensuring ‘Change’ can be an on-going part of the organisations culture, free from Blame and Fear built into control systems and leadership attitudes.
Total – 18Months – 5 Years. To ensure ‘Culture’ is led by leaders. Full responsibility for outcomes is built into the capability of leadership teams and efforts align across cultural layers to maximise performance.
***To include, for example, a business re-engineering program to attain value streams and day-by-the-hour P&L accounting capability for the shop floor, to remove assumption and cultural / psychological issues typically associated with delays to financial feedback ... which is just one of many possible solutions that may suit an organisations specific needs.
This is just my view of the world following 20yrs experience around Europe. I'd be interested to get some feedback / comments on this to see if it makes sense to others with similar experience. Please feel free to leave a comment or two below.