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In This Issue
When Managing Quality Systems, Don't Forget about the People
Are You Getting the Return on Your Investment?
In Your Shoes

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Summer 2011

kate and stacy 2010
Kate Nelson and Stacy Aaron
Changing the way an organization operates almost always involves process, technology, and people. Project teams need an integrated strategy to address all three. In today's newsletter, the articles emphasize the importance of the people component - the need to integrate people elements into Quality improvement initiatives, and the impact that managing change can have on your project Return On Investment (ROI). After all, a plan is only a piece of paper if no one is willing to follow it and a goal is just a number if no one is willing to achieve it.


Enjoy the newsletter and, as always, let us know what you think! E-mail Feedback.
All the best,
Kate and Stacy

When Managing Quality Systems, Don't Forget about the People

Every organization thinks about quality in some way. Large organizations often have people who focus only on quality all day every day.


To meet the needs of those who make their living worrying about quality, there is a slew of quality tools and models out there. An example that many have heard of is ISO9001. ISO9001 is a common standard for managing quality in business with a strong emphasis on continuous improvement. Essentially, this emphasis drives continuous change in an organizations' processes and systems in order to improve performance and meet customer needs.


The standard has requirements for proactively determining the customers' needs, effective communication, and training for employees. Even with these requirements, however, it is not uncommon for people in companies to resist the changes that conform to ISO9001 standards.


What ISO9001 doesn't address are the people issues and challenges of change. If organizations want to build a sustainable quality management system (QMS), implement effective corrective actions in their QMS, or drive successful continuous improvement initiatives, there needs to be a systemic approach to managing the people issues resulting from change. Effectively implementing change management practices dramatically increases the success rate of these efforts by helping the employees with the transition process and insuring they are ready, willing, and able to support the change.


Change management should be integrated into quality projects throughout their entire life, just as quality should be integrated into the way an organization operates from start to finish.


So how would you integrate change management in? For example, start with the planning process. This is when quality practitioners should insure that the team has identified all of the people who are required to support the project and/or those who will be impacted by the project activities. A realistic and manageable change management plan should be developed for the project. People should understand their role or how these changes are going to impact their areas of responsibility.


This initial level of understanding will build initial support and it will help prepare people for work to come. By going through the process of defining the change management plan and the key messages to be disseminated, the managers can gain a better understanding of the project benefits and the justification for these investments and, as a result, be more willing to share those messages.


Effectively incorporating a strategic change management plan and system in your quality initiatives will increase the adoption rate for new processes, increase the speed for realizing the objectives and benefits, reduce productivity losses, and foster the support for future continuous improvement initiatives. A formal approach for managing change, beginning with the leadership team and then engaging key stakeholders and other leaders, should be developed early and adapted as the change initiative progresses and impacts the organization.

Are you getting the Return on Your Investment?

How much money has your company spent on IT systems in the last couple years? Whatever the amount, these implementations are a substantial investment for companies small or large.  What was the business case for buying that system? What was it going to accomplish? Has it met that promise?

No - this isn't an audit but I do start out with a lot of questions.  They are questions you have probably asked yourself or others. This article is not about the questions but about achieving better business results from internal projects and initiatives.

How much was spent on other initiatives: cost reduction? quality? product launch? What were the business cases for these initiatives? What was invested in these efforts externally and internally - in terms of budget and people? What was the projected ROI of these efforts? Have you reached that promised ROI yet?


Odds are that you haven't. Many times, the promised benefits are not reached in the projected time. Sometimes, they are never reached. So, maybe you've made it some of the way there. Maybe there are valid, unforeseen causes for not reaching your ROI. Maybe, it was just a frustrating process!


You're not alone. Google "project failure rates" and you find pages of articles and research. One example is the 2009 Standish Chaos Reports (research on client success and failure implementing IT systems). This report states that only 32% of survey participants characterized their projects as "successful". 24% characterized their project as "failed" and the other 44% characterized their project as "challenged".


What if I told you that there was a key element you may be missing related to reaching project ROI? This key element takes resources, thoughtful and proactive planning, special skills and leadership commitment. However, it's shown time and time again to improve project ROI. I've conducted research on it. I've read others' research and I've seen it work firsthand. What is it? It's a transition strategy or people strategy that addresses how stakeholders are impacted by the project.


Projects fail to meet objectives for many reasons but among the most cited reasons are related to people issues: leaders not aligned in support of the effort, lack of communication, lack of understanding, resistance, lack of support or skills, lack of reinforcement of the effort.


A people strategy is a required component to reach a project's ROI. After all, it's people who use the technology, adopt the new processes or sell the new product. Without a majority of people willing and prepared to make the change happen, it is doomed to fail. Influencing people to change takes a strategy. It takes a plan. It will not happen effectively just because you say so.

We call this key element Change Management. Change Management is a people strategy and planning approach that prepares employee to transition from how they work today to how they need to work in the future. Just like project management or Six Sigma, there are proven processes, tools and tactics that help company's create a thoughtful proactive people strategy. A Change Management approach easily fits hand in hand with a project plan to implement a new technology, process or the like.


Albert Einstein is quoted as saying that "the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result." If you haven't achieved the ROI on your past projects, don't go about the next project the same way. Include a thoughtful, proactive people strategy and get a different result.

In Your Shoes 

vicki casto 

Vicki Casto

Quality Specialist
Change Guides, LLC

Have you approached projects differently
after the certification? If so, how?

Absolutely!  I find it extremely helpful to get as many people as possible involved in the early assessment phase to drive a collective understanding of the organization's readiness to support the upcoming change and to have them gain an understanding of our strengths and weaknesses relative to the project objectives.  Depending on the situation, I may use various combinations of tools such as the Change Readiness Review, Stakeholder Analysis, or SWOT Analysis, for example. By soliciting the feedback from many others and also sharing a summary of the assessment results, I am immediately gaining buy-in and support for the changes because these people are now aware of what is going on and there is a greater chance they feel they are a part of the effort.  Sometimes when getting people involved early, it causes some questions to be raised, which is a good thing because when people ask questions it is a sign that they are beginning to emotionally engage.  Potential benefits that may come out of this  dialogue: (1) additional support because the person has a better understanding and (2) our project team may learn of another obstacle that  wasn't originally considered, thus we can now plan for it and mitigate the negative impact it may have on our objectives.


What advice do you have for others trying to drive change?

Quality systems and many process improvement initiatives affect large numbers of individuals, depending on their scope and scale, so remembering the linkages from one process area to the other and the specific people responsible for those processes and linkages is extremely important. There are probably more people impacted than initially considered. So, take the time to identify those processes that feed into the target process or activity your changes are primarily focused on and also consider the processes that will be impacted by the output of your changed process. The people who own those processes (responsible for the effectiveness of those processes) should also be included in your Stakeholder Analysis and Communication Plans, at least. Insuring you are effectively addressing the linkages from one process to another will help remove some potential obstacles that could negatively impact what you are trying to accomplish and it will increase your chance for success!


What one thing has helped you the most in driving change in your organization?

The Change Management Pocket Guide has been a tremendous help by always having a set of tools that I can readily pull from to effectively assess a situation and/or to help to proactively put a plan together that addresses the people issues that result from the changes that occur in my type of work - which is always driving some sort of change! Those of us from the Quality world are used to using tools from systems such as the ISO standards, Lean Manufacturing, and/or Six Sigma, which are all very helpful, but they don't deal with the people issues that result from the changes these programs initiate. The tools in the pocket guide fill that gap and help to address these challenges.