A few years back I was tasked with designing and implementing a Lean Six Sigma based continuous improvement program for a community hospital and it's clinics - approximately 500 FTEs. As we all know, a change like this touches every employee - everyone was going to feel change in some way. In fact, many were going to be asked to analyze processes, lead teams, and implement changes themselves...
...Change is scary, but leading change may be even scarier.
Looking back, I wish I had crafted a better vision sooner for the leaders to use when they were faced with implementing improvements and leading the change efforts. After all, it was the leaders we were asking to go into the trenches, work with teams of people, implement improvements and make change happen!
The message...early on
In the early days of deployment, all the time I was asked "why are we doing this Lean Six Sigma thing?" And by all the time, I mean in training, in the lunchroom, in the halls, during project kickoffs, etc. etc. etc. The newly trained leaders were repeatedly asked the same thing.
Our typical responses: "to make things better", "to save money", "to help our patients" or something very similar. While those answers are all true, they just led to more questions...(and were very underwhelming)
"whose idea was this anyway??" or "aren't we doing a good job?"
If people are questioning the purpose or importance of your change effort, they are confused, and confusion can be a real killer of effective change.
The shift that made the difference
The repeated questioning of the reasoning behind this pursuit sounded an awful lot like resistance - but it wasn't. People weren't resisting, they were honestly confused, and looking to understand why were we doing this. They couldn't understand the big picture vision - and it was up to us to help them understand, not get frustrated because "they didn't get it".
We revised the vision for the program and rather than talking about the results (to make things better, to save money, etc.) we started communicating our beliefs and core purpose about the work we do.
The new vision...
"Our communities depend on us to take care of them. They deserve our absolute best at all times. We have a responsibility to ensure every time they need us, it is a better experience than the time before. These are not name-less people. These are our friends, our neighbors, our children, parents, aunts and uncles. Real people. And we need to come through for them."
It was like turning on a light bulb. People instantly understood "why" and became inspired and excited. They still had questions, but the questions were much different...
"how can I help?" or "what do I need to do?"
I'm glad you asked :)
Is your vision clear and inspiring?
So many change efforts struggle to get going because the vision isn't clear. Employees ask questions, leaders get frustrated, it turns into an "us" vs. "them" situation and everyone wastes a lot of time working against one another.
We blame. "Why don't they get it?"
We dismiss. "They just want to do things how they've always been done."
What we should do is listen. Listen to the questions that are being asked. If it sounds like people are confused, create a clearer and more inspiring vision - you'll be glad you did. :)
Christopher M. Spranger, MBA, ASQ MBB
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