The Eiger-Nordwand, or North Wall of the Eiger, in Switzerland, is said to be one of the most iconic climbs in the Alps. Its orientation, size, structure and history make it a magnet for all aspiring climbers and its history is littered with tragedy and triumph in adversity. According to those who have completed it, from the first ascent in 1938 by a team of Germans and Austrians over 3 days, to Ueli Steck’s record of just under 3 hours in 2008, you need to be both mentally and physically prepared for a great challenge. In addition, they say, there is another factor for the Eiger, and that is commitment. Once on the wall, retreat is not always possible or easy, and in the face of storms, rockfall, water, cold, variable face conditions and little shelter, the only way is up.
Preparedness and commitment apply similarly, when we talk about ham and eggs for breakfast, as we understand that the chicken is interested and the pig is committed. I sometimes wonder if improvement initiatives have too many interested observers. Read here about Ueli Steck’s commitment to breaking the record he set in 2007.
You can have all the ropes, slings, harnesses, ice screws, nuts, hexes, cams, quick draws, crampons, belay devices and harnesses but you still need to know why you need them, what job they will do and what to use in each situation. While no improvement initiative or business strategy is likely to involve questions of life and death for an individual, failure may have a very significant impact on an organisation and its other stakeholders. The qualities of readiness, resources and commitment are central to your success, however, having the resources in and of themselves is not enough. You also need to know what you are intending to achieve, what job these resources will do for you and how these jobs are coordinated to deliver the outcomes you need to succeed. Given that overall success is reflected in the realisation of the benefits identified in the original business case, lets begin by considering the primary components you need for a successful improvement implementation:
- Alignment with the strategic business objectives;
- Clear communications that build engagement and alignment;
- Implementation support to help people get on with the job of improving operations and deliver results;
- Feedback on management & performance to demonstrate progress;
- Shared knowledge that permeates and sustains the improvements;
- Operational support into the future where systems and other technology is involved.
Bearing in mind that we are addressing the very practical issues of implementation, not the theory of the change cycle or process, a starting question to be answered is: “What are the resources needed to improve the chances of change success?” It seems to us there are six key resource categories:
- Human resources that are appropriately skilled, motivated, adaptable and flexible;
- Financial resources being realistic investments that reflect the value the improvement will bring;
- Tools that allow you to capture and encapsulate the overall rationale for the improvement including the business case, benefits realisation plan, proven theoretical frameworks, and technology;
- Methods for enabling these tools to be used effectively and to make the right things happen;
- Artefacts that flow from effective use and service as both information and knowledge including plans, websites, portals, documentation, training material, communications material and achieved outcomes;
- Results that are employed to validate progress, build a learning organisation and provide valuable inputs to future initiatives and actions.
In our experience, many improvement and change initiatives tend to selectively focus on some of these resources without understanding or managing them to work together. Our approach to improvement concentrates on addressing all the resources and binding them to work cohesively, based on the job they are required to perform. In so doing, it is possible to compile a Resourcing Map that links each of the resources with their principal job for the initiative. We have identified four job roles to be performed.
- Broker and negotiate access, continuity and suitability of resources to ensure fitness for purpose;
- Influence peers, subordinates and supervisors as to the relevance and value of commitment to the improvement initiative;
- Activate the various practical steps of change implementation;
- Sustain the change to ensure benefits are realised and continuous improvement takes place.
In every case, it is essential that the resources are relevant and tailored to the consumers’ situation, using terminology and processes to which they can relate. It does not require additional translation and it demonstrates a clear understanding of what can be improved and why. This is one of the continuing characteristics of successful change programs, that everyone involved understands what everyone else is saying, why they are saying it and what it means for them and the organisation as a whole. At the beginning, people will be in different places, so the resources, applied correctly through their jobs, will serve to bring people together, understanding the change in relation to their real world business situation. If change initiatives fail at a high rate, perhaps it is here that we need to begin to look and learn.
Overall commitment to change involves all of these areas and not simply some of them. If you want to see how we link these together and what a Resource Map would look like, including the various elements, drop us a line through the contact page and we will send you a pdf.