Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Change is inevitable, but it’s the speed of change that determines success.

I am constantly trying to find ways to accelerate performance without burdening the process or people. The first question that comes to mind is “If performance is accelerated how can the process be burdened?” To find that answer, let’s start at the very beginning. At some point a need within the company is recognized. Something is not being done as well as it could be to the benefit of the company. A new process is defined, new job descriptions are developed, compensation equal to the effort is determined, and extensive search for the right employee is undertaken. A business ecosystem is developed that like all biological ecosystems is based not only on the inhabitants of the local system, but also the interaction with the contiguous systems surrounding it.

In James Moore’s book “The Death of Competition” he talks about the difference in the biological ecosystems of Hawaii and Costa Rica. Hawaii is an island that is somewhat sheltered from outside biological influences. Costa Rica is a virtual highway of migrating plants and animals. Costa Rica hardly notices a new entrant into its ecosystem, while Hawaii is devastated by every variant. So it is with business ecosystems. A business process that is virtually independent of other process within the business has less tolerance for change than business processes that are heavily dependent on external processes. The dependent process is constantly being pushed to and fro with changes from the co-dependent processes. Employees are so use to change that they notice lack of change more than change. Someone is always doing something to disrupt their karma.

Highly independent processes are more rigid and inflexible. They change only when the inhabitants want the change to take place. Homeostasis dictates that change is hard to accept, so given an option, it won’t happen. When change is thrust upon this independent process it is very disruptive. People fight back. They intentionally or unintentionally sabotage the desired results. Wayne Anderson wrote an article “People Performance: Can you believe what you see?” In it he discusses Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle which says the very act of observing performance changes the performance while it is being observed.

So, when an opportunity arises to make a change that will theoretically improve performance, a close eye has to be kept on whom it affects. A highly dependent process will adapt much easier than a highly independent process. The performance improvement that is expected from the change may be eroded or eliminated in an independent process by the disruption to the system. While a more dependent process may take it in stride, make the adjustment and reap the benefits more easily.

Change is an inevitable and desired aspect of running a business. To constantly evolve is to continue to grow, but at what cost? Before diving into even obvious change, determine the ability to absorb the change. Change is inevitable, but the speed is dependent. Engage all the stakeholders. If they appear to be a fairly homogeneous group get buy in up front, take the time to paint a clear vision of how things will be better after the change is complete and implement the change in well documented stages. If this sounds familiar it’s because it follows Gleicher’s Formula for Change. Gleicher doesn’t have a time element. But timing is very important.

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