When Bad Things Happen to Good Ideas

Published by Mark Zerbach on

I tried to find where I got this from – but no luck as of yet. I think it makes very valid points and I want to share it out there.

Chances are your improvement team will need to untangle some knots that show up after you launch.  The benefit is that you will have been working together for a while by then and should be able to communicate well and work as unified problem solvers.  The Price Waterhouse Change Integration Team gives us a list of reasons to help determine why good ideas can go awry, even in sometimes optimum settings.

  1. Failure to deliver early, tangible results. When people do not see some kind of progress early on, they are prone to lose motivation to implement further change. If you do not see measurable results within six months of an innovation, you are apt to see diminishing support for it. While large improvement efforts can take years to adopt, you need to make sure there are ways to measure progress early.
  2. Drowning in details. The downside of most books and conferences is that you see the results of what others have done without experiencing the details. But when organizations strive to implement similar innovations, they can quickly become bogged down in the minutia of details, only to get stuck in the mud. The most effective improvement instructions tend to simplify processes and don’t reflect the innate complexity involved. As well, too much management tends to complicate things. Strive to keep it simple, streamlined. Empower people to make the calls necessary to implement the improvement ideas.
  3. Everything is high priority. Seek out the 20% of the changes that have the chance of yielding 80% of the returns. You cannot prioritize it all. When you expect your employees to make everything a front-burner item, you will create unnecessary frustration, conflict, and stress. Figure out what it is you want to achieve and focus on the few things that will maximize the possibility of doing them.
  4. Old performance measures block change. If you want to see different behaviors in your office, you need to measure and reward different actions. If we rely on the old way of measuring effectiveness, we will tend to get the old levels of productivity. Make sure you have adopted and explained new measures to your staff and workers, so that they are motivated to do the things that are acknowledged as important.
  5. Failure to connect the dots. When we get too many divergent improvement ideas going at the same time without a string connection between them, we run the risk of losing energy. People begin to pit ideas against each other, vying for limited time and resources to accomplish them. This can be especially true in larger organizations, where staff members drive their own organizational silos and feel aloof to whole company’s priorities. Make sure everyone sees the big picture and understands where his or her piece of the puzzle fits.
  6. The voice of the customer is absent. Who are your customers? Are you gathering feedback from them? Who is asking them? What are they telling you? Organizational improvement means detailing who it is we are striving to serve. Many of us plan changes to our services without considering what the customer wants or how to communicate with them. Many of our organizations services are nonproductive because we have overlooked the direct input of the people we hope to reach.
  7. The participants are not heard. When leadership overlooks input from the people who are actually going to benefit from the improvement, they are apt to have buy-in and ownership problems. Because the actual workers usually understand what the customers want and how the organization can be improved, they need to be involved in planning evaluating, and implementing. When a few leaders dictate top-down methods, you are asking for problems. Have you included your teams in the process of planning and implementing the improvement?

8. Senior management wants to help but doesn’t know how. This means that leaders who talk change and employee empowerment must let go of control. There is a natural temptation for those in charge to retain power. Leaders often have a difficult time trusting employees with organizational improvement. They are tempted to put their hands back on the reins even after they have let go. Widespread improvement cannot be relegated to a few people who try to run the entire organization.

9. What’s in it for me is unclear. While some of your people are more motivated to serve others than to be served, most of your people are still thinking in terms of what’s in it for them and their families. This is not necessarily evil or carnal but is a part of emotional growth and maturity. Therefore, if we are to include this large majority in our improvement process, we have to effectively answer that question. When people are not satisfied with why they are involved in the new idea, they are prone to pull back and lose commitment to it.

10. Too much conventional wisdom. New ideas require new means and new processes. Many organizations fail to implement improvement ideas because they try to accomplish them via old attitudes and processes. When you attempt to apply innovations using existing tools, the chances are high you’ll return to the old style of business.

11. Same old horses, same old glue. Nearly always, new ideas require new people to implement them. If you are working with the same leadership team you’ve had over the last few years, chances are you will feel pulled to the former way of thinking. Employing new people in the process can be risky, but it is usually necessary.       New people bring new perspectives, ideas, talents, experiences, and energy. For some existing folk, including others is the final way of letting go of the past and embracing the future.

After you have rolled out the improvement plan you are going to need frequent review and analysis.  Plan on setbacks, unexpected challenges and unplanned opportunities.  Remember this is an art and not a science.  Consistent as well as spontaneous feedback from the team will be key to keeping things from logjamming.  Here is a list of items that you can use as a base to develop your checklist for these update meetings.  The goal of the list is to be constructive and solution oriented.

  1. What are some of the positive results we are already observing (statistics, etc.)?
  2. What has been easier than expected?
  3. What has been more difficult than expected?
  4. What has gone faster than planned?
  5. What has gone slower than planned?
  6. What has happened, positive or other that we didn’t anticipate?
  7. What are some of the challenges that have arisen (conflict, resource, issues, lack of talent, insufficient staffing, etc.)?

a. What have we learned about ourselves and the process?

b. What is our plan of action for each of these?

c. What are the potential benefits of these solutions?

d. What are the possible costs of these solutions?

8. What have we possibly overlooked?

9. Who has surprised us by stepping forward and/or adapting well? Who has disappointed us by his or her response?

10. Who needs to be affirmed and congratulated?       How do we plan to do this?

Categories: Book Reviews


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