Discontinuities of change and their metrics

Change management is frequently on the short list of challenges when it comes to debt and deficit management. Existing change management methods and tools are often inadequate when radical change is contemplated.  We can only make preliminary guestimates as to how radical some change actually is, but it could be very radical indeed and may be perceived as potentially extremely corrosive to management authority at a time when the organization is pressuring managers to increase the value of production, even in the public sector.  To make matters worse, in conceptual terms, when the costs of change are considered, it may not even be clear to senior executives whether the best course is to strive for radical change, incremental change or no change at all, even if a potential organizational goal is precisely envisioned and represents an unambiguous improvement.  The difficulties many organizations have had with change management depends in large part on an inadequate recognition of interdependencies among technology, practice and strategy.  However beneficial this change appears in isolation, the acid test is how it interacts with numerous other aspects of the company.

Recognizing the critical role that interdependencies and contingencies play in affecting outcomes leads to new analysis and theory.  Research validated in consulting practice has shown mathematically how interactions can sometimes make it impossible to successfully implement a new, complex system in a decentralized, uncoordinated fashion.  Instead, managers must plan a strategy that coordinates the interactions among all the components of the business system.  Not in all instances will algorithms be appropriate to the task. In other cases, interactions can create a virtuous cycle of positive feed back which amplify even small steps in the right direction.  Because organizations have effectively eliminated time, space, and inventory buffers as operations are becoming more tightly coupled, ignoring such interdependencies will be very risky. This represents a set of challenges for which complex heuristics have not yet been made available.

We need tools which can help managers anticipate the complex interrelationships and contingent variables surrounding change.  Specifically, the tools contribute to understanding issues of feasibility (stability of new changes); sequence (which practices to change first), product or service source (outsourced or co-located), pace (fast or slow), and stakeholder interests (sources of value added).

Implementation steps may already be familiar to anyone acquainted with qualify function deployment (QFD) or the House of Quality, for example.  The resulting support for process design, analogous to product design, becomes formal and systematic but remains managerially relevant and intuitively accessible. A significant amount of work remains to be performed here for us to contribute more productively to the ongoing change environment.

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One response to “Discontinuities of change and their metrics

  1. Jon Lenton

    Tools and discussion amongst managers are a part of many businesses. A key ingredient often missing is the focus by senior management to ensure the tools are used and time is spent honing them. It is difficult in our society to look further than a year out, most people invest in RRSPs but how much research do they put into which are the best funds from a macro economy view, admission if found is a lament of I chose the best % return, but what business sector or geography is met with a stare. If the RRSP is to be their personal retirement vehicle for a person 10 or 20 years out, what time is sufficient? Connect this focus of thought to business, is it possible to see past a quarter is not encouraged or normal for most managers

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