Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Why so much trouble with partial implementations? What can be done?

Studies repeatedly show major change initiatives frequently don't fully deliver the expected results. Surveys indicate "partial implementation of change" as a common contributing cause of this widespread problem.

Here's one take on why this is so:

Most major initiatives slow or stall during implementation. This is caused, in large part, when "change leaders" move on to their next objective before the work is complete. This is understandable - these leaders are often problem solving and process design experts whose skills are in high demand. Once they have made their valuable contribution to the effort, others can handle the drudgery of implementation.

Unfortunately, implementation is often where many issues are uncovered - issues requiring dedicated expertise to resolve properly.

Here's what can be done to keep it from happening to you:

  1. Identify the project finishers on your cross-functional teams right from the start. Choose these key players based on their previous performance in a similar role - it takes a certain stick-to-it-iveness to do “finishing” work. Include “front-line” people - they know they have to live with the changes and will be motivated to get it right.

  2. Audit and verify changes for completeness and effectiveness through observation, measurement, and, most importantly by talking things over with those whose work has been impacted. Do they think the changes are working? Have they noticed problems? Do they have concerns?

  3. Once your implementation is well under way, hopefully you'll be seeing measurable benefits. If so, to prevent backsliding, put an easy-to-use metric in place to identify a future slip in performance. Place it in regular view of a person with the authority and incentive to make the changes stick. Make sure this person agrees to perform this role.
In my experience, following these guidelines makes the implementation of sustainable change easier and less stressful.

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