Communication Plan

In the book, Bare Bones Change Management: What you shouldn’t not do, Bob Lewis explained the seven must-have elements for any change management effort to have a chance of succeeding. Here are my takeaways from one of the topics discussed in the book.

A communication plan is the planned approach to deliver information to the stakeholders. The information communicated by the plan should help to bring an accurate reduction in uncertainty.

Bob recommended that the following elements should be addressed in the formal plan.

  • Triggering Event: This is the matter that is driving the need to communicate, whether it is a project milestone or simply the passage of time.
  • Audience: The individual or stakeholder group that is the target of communication.
  • Key Issues: The WIIFM factor (“What’s In It For Me”) or whatever we think each stakeholder will care enough to listen or to act.
  • Desired Outcomes: Form follows function – bottom line up front.
  • Document/Meeting/Agenda Topic: If it is an e-mail, it is the Subject. If it is a report, it is the Title. If it is for a meeting, it is what we would call it on the appointment calendar.
  • Vehicle: The communications medium we will use for each stakeholder.
  • Messages: The key, take-away messages we will deliver to each stakeholder.
  • Assignee: Spell out who is responsible for delivering the communication.
  • Date planned: When we want the communication to happen.
  • Actual date: The date when the communication happens.

When we are trying to change an organization, we will be under constant stress. The stress and fear will likely result in people to communicate less. The best way to fight this lack of communication is to include communication tasks in the project plan.

Without communication, the other six components of business change management (Stakeholder Analysis, Involvement Plan, Metrics Plan, Structure Plan, and Culture Change Plan) will not make much difference at all.

Culture Change Plan

In the book, Bare Bones Change Management: What you shouldn’t not do, Bob Lewis explained the seven must-have elements for any change management effort to have a chance of succeeding. Here are my takeaways from one of the topics discussed in the book.

Bob defined the word “Culture” by borrowing a definition from the field of Cultural Anthropology. Culture is the learned behavior people exhibit in response to their environment. In an organization, culture essentially is how employees respond to their environment, which means every organization has a culture.

Bob suggested practicing the art of describing every cultural trait in both positive and negative terms. With very few exceptions, cultural responses are neither good nor bad in any absolute sense. Mostly, they are good fits for some circumstances; but they can also be bad fits for other circumstances.

The first step in changing a culture is to characterize the culture. Bob believes there are seven situations where the organizational culture matters:

  • Crisis
  • Externally identified performance issue
  • Internally identified performance issue
  • Day-to-day work
  • Work style
  • Problem analysis
  • Loyalty

An organization will usually respond to each situation in two ways, positive and negative.

The second step of changing culture is to designate which cultural traits matter for a change, and how the participants must change. Again, the organization leaders will have to look at all seven situations above and determine what desired cultural response is required to support the change.

Since culture is the learned behavior employees exhibit in response to their environment, Bob believes that organizations can better manage their change initiative by managing the following environments effectively.

  • Physical environment
  • Communication environment
  • Leadership

It is critical for an organization to determine how leader behaviors have led to the current culture, and how it must change to encourage the desired culture.

Training Plan

In the book, Bare Bones Change Management: What you shouldn’t not do, Bob Lewis explained the seven must-have elements for any change management effort to have a chance of succeeding. Here are my takeaways from one of the topics discussed in the book.

When the subject is business change, a training plan qualifies as an assumption, not just an opinion or a “nice-to-have.” Everyone needs to understand their role in the change, and they need to have a common understanding of the shared expectations.

Bob offered the following recommendations for pulling together a training plan.

  • Engage the professionals early
  • Don’t let the training professionals sell employees short
  • Show employees how to do their jobs, not how to use the tools
  • Provide context, not just job-specific skills
  • Do not neglect brand training
  • Train just in time
  • Tailor training to the level of aptitude and confidence
  • Certify knowledge and skills
  • Provide floorwalkers or triage centers
  • Don’t assume you did it right

In addition to training people to adapt to the change or use the new tools, Bob pointed out some additional items.

One, develop a transition plan. While the training plan often describes the to-be environment, the transition plan will bridge the gap between the present as-is and the new to-be situation.

Two, have coping skill training for the managers. Train the managers to help their employees cope with the change. Not everyone will move through the stages of change at a uniform pace. The managers need to understand the dynamics within their areas and possess the skills to help their group implement the change.

Three, train the stakeholders. Rarely a change impacts only a handful of individuals. The organization needs to evaluate the pending impact on the stakeholders and to train/educate them about the change.

Structure Plan, Part 2

In the book, Bare Bones Change Management: What you shouldn’t not do, Bob Lewis explained the seven must-have elements for any change management effort to have a chance of succeeding. Here are my takeaways from one of the topics discussed in the book.

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A structure plan describes how the organization is put together to support the change. The plan includes:

How to organize: To support a change, everyone in the organization needs to know what his/her part of the organization needs to do. If an organization’s basic structure is not consistent with the change we are hoping to install, it will prevent the change from taking place. This component of the plan addresses two key elements: a clear organizing strategy and the specific reporting relationships.

There needs to be clear organizing strategy. Some examples of organizing could be by product, customer segment, size, demographics, sector, channel, or function. After we make the basic organizing decision, we need to define the reporting relationships. The relationships decision can have two folds: 1) flat or deep, and 2) realign, reorganize, or integrate.

Some firms celebrate victory right after the reorganization, but that is too early. A reorganization is not the same as making the change happen.

Facilities: With the organization changes taking place, we will need to plan for the movement and positioning of the people. This component lay out the physical nature of the workplace – who sits near whom and which departments and workgroups are in proximity.

Governance: Every organization has a culture, and the culture defines how we make decisions. This plan component describes both the official process and the informal ones that precede it and surround it.

Accounting: The accounting system tracks the ownership of which expenses and revenue attributed to the change. Bob recommends doing everything we can to keep all political considerations out of the accounting changes.

Compensation: This plan component puts considerations around two concerns: whose compensation has to change, and how evaluation criteria need to change. The behaviors, attitudes, skills, and intangibles the company values for the change must be expressed through training and awareness campaigns.

Structure Plan, Part 1

In the book, Bare Bones Change Management: What you shouldn’t not do, Bob Lewis explained the seven must-have elements for any change management effort to have a chance of succeeding. Here are my takeaways from one of the topics discussed in the book.

In the book, Bob described the structure as the configuration of the organization that is required to support the change. “Structure is how the organization is put together.”

Most organizations have a stabilized structure that can be very hard to change because it took a long time for that structure to converged and adjusted to its current form.

Without accounting for the changes to the structure and making a plan to achieve the needed structure, most planned changes will slide off the organization as if it were Teflon coated.

An organization’s structure includes the following elements:

How to organize: It is the dreaded organizational chart and needs to be consistent with the change we are trying to make. It starts with a clear organizing strategy supported by the specific reporting relationships.

Facilities: This is the physical nature of the workplace and environment.

Governance: This defines how the organization makes decisions – both the official process and the informal ones.

Accounting: A properly structured accounting system is necessary. Without an accounting system that tracks financial measurements properly, it can entirely block a change.

Compensation: This defines what behaviors, attitudes, skills, and intangibles the company values; what is often called “incentives.”

Over time, organizational structure ensures the organization as a whole will tend to remain in a stable configuration, whether or not that stability is appropriate to changing circumstances or not.

That means we need to figure out which elements of the organizational structure have to be modified, and in what ways, so they reinforce the change we are trying to make.

Metrics Plan, Part 6

In the book, Bare Bones Change Management: What you shouldn’t not do, Bob Lewis explained the seven must-have elements for any change management effort to have a chance of succeeding. Here are my takeaways from one of the topics discussed in the book.

What are the differences between performance metrics and service levels? Each has its purpose and use case.

Performance metrics tell us how we are doing, generally in statistical terms such as mean, standard deviation, and other measurements. With performance measures, we can apply on-going continual improvement activities.

Service level metrics tell us when failing to achieve some level of performance; something will cause problems. Unlike performance metrics, an additional improvement on the already-met service level metric will not result in business benefit.

When constructing a metric plan, Bob suggested to include the following components:

Component #1: Business improvement goals. This component describes the bottom-line benefit the organization plans to achieve, the business outcomes that will make the bottom-line benefit happen, and the internal improvements to effectiveness that will drive the business outcomes.

Component #2: Business improvement metrics. This component includes metrics for the planned improvements to internal effectiveness. The metrics typically include the six major categories: fixed costs, incremental costs, cycle time, throughput, quality, and excellence. It also includes our decision as to whether to use performance metrics or service level metrics.

Component #3: Targets. If the business case calls for it, we might want to go beyond defining metrics and establish improvement targets. Targets can help the organization realize, once the change has been put in place, a clear statement of how much improvement is good enough.

Component #4: Reporting system. This component describes how we build data collection into the process flow, build the means for using the collected data to support the project work, and develop communication mechanism.

Component #5: Metrics parsimony. This component describes the tactics we can use to ensure the metrics fulfill the qualities of being: connected, consistent, calibrated, complete, communicated and current.

Metrics Plan, Part 5

In the book, Bare Bones Change Management: What you shouldn’t not do, Bob Lewis explained the seven must-have elements for any change management effort to have a chance of succeeding. Here are my takeaways from one of the topics discussed in the book.

When it comes to quality and excellence, some organizations believe that quality = excellence. Bob explained why these two terms are different.

Quality essentially means free of defects. When organizations improve quality, they reduce the number of defects and increase the number of units that meet specification.

Improved quality can reduce or increase the incremental costs depending on the approach. Improved quality through standardization using fine-tuned and automated processes often can reduce costs. Improved quality through inspection sometimes can increase the incremental costs.

In any case, quality improvement often will improve customer satisfaction in that the company is less likely to ship defective products.

Excellence, on the other hand, means customization or “deluxe-ness.” The customers get exactly what they wanted or get something that is so sophisticated or luxurious.

The biggest fringe benefit that comes from excellence is revenue. Companies can sell excellent products at higher prices, and usually at higher margins as well.

Adding excellence generally makes it harder to achieve quality. Excellence achieved through customization or sophistication is very much the opposite of standardization required by quality.

Metrics Plan, Part 4

In the book, Bare Bones Change Management: What you shouldn’t not do, Bob Lewis explained the seven must-have elements for any change management effort to have a chance of succeeding. Here are my takeaways from one of the topics discussed in the book.

Bob outlined some tactics to consider when working with the cycle time and throughput constraints.

Improved cycle time is about increasing customer satisfaction while improving quality. Lower cycle time brings about lower fixed costs because fewer assets are tied up by the cycles.

The common trade-off for improved cycle time is reduced throughput.

Organizations can consider the following options to improve cycle time.

  • Shorten the cycle step
  • Reduce inter-step buffers or queues
  • Consolidating steps

Improved throughput is about increasing volume with the same unit of time. Higher throughput brings about scalability and lower incremental costs.

The common trade-off for improved throughput is longer cycle time.

Organizations can consider the following options to improve throughput.

  • Shorten the bottleneck step
  • Add parallelism to the bottleneck step
  • Splitting a bottleneck step