Saturday, March 16, 2013

7 Deadly Sins of Process Improvement/Change - #2 Inertia

Continuing on the theme of 7 Deadly Sin of Process Improvement and Change, my second deadly sin is Inertia, the tendency to do nothing or to remain unchanged. Inertia may be caused by a number of things including fear, ignorance, lack of confidence, uncertainty but it has the same effects regardless of the cause. At best, inertia will lead to nothing happening at all - a kind of nothing ventured, nothing gained situation. At worst, inertia will cause a groundswell of apathy and complacency which will have a long term effect on making change happen in the future. This is most likely to happen when change initiatives are launched with great hullabaloo from the leadership, promising great things, getting everyone excited and then doing nothing. Typically it’s a behaviour associated with leadership changes who then fail to deliver on their promises or policies, and particularly with politicians after their honeymoon period is over!


Manifestations

  • Failure to Sustain Momentum : How often do organisations introduce a new initiative with great fanfare and gusto only for it to almost immediately disappear from view? Hype, without substance, is its own worst enemy, regardless of whether it's a product launch (think about previous versions of Windows, announced long before they are ready to ship), a government policy or a business improvement or change. The problem with hype is that it sets expectations which, unless there is substance to work with, will rarely be met. Rumours and innuendo become rife and now matter how good the initial premise, failure is the most likely outcome. Change management experts often rally their followers with calls to 'Communicate, Communicate, Communicate', and this is fine, as long as the communication is planned in advance and is consistent with the progress of the initiative. The best changes are only formally announced when a considerable amount of background work has been performed, including planning, feasibility studies, pilots, and other activities associated with change management. Once momentum is lost, it is very difficult to rebuild and will inevitably lead to additional costs as you have to go over the same ground again. Along the way, disenfranchised team members will be lost, and the hearts and minds that you won over in the initial excitement will turn against you. Not only will this project fail, but future projects will also be put into jeopardy as your reputation to deliver change is tarnished. It's not enough to whet people's appetites, you must continue to feed them.
  • Analysis Paralysis : a common problem in traditional waterfall software projects is the tendency to spend too long performing analysis and then trying to rush design, development and implementation. This leads to poor design, poor quality software and partially untested products hastily implemented and ultimately leading to systems failures. Similar problems occur in change projects and are usually a sign that a change team simply doesn't know where to start. Organisations need to perform some basic change management activities prior to embarking on the actual change to ensure that they are fully prepared. Such activities include establishing whether the organisation is ready for change, whether it can absorb additional change, and even whether the change is right for the business. Again, good up front planning will help with this problem, as will 'agile' techniques such as time-boxing and incremental delivery. 

Laws to Overcome Inertia

1st Law - Plan the Change before you start broadcasting the message

2nd Law - Keep delivering morsels even if you can’t deliver the whole meal

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