In Lean Six Sigma, or any improvement activity, there will always be change, because without change things stay the same, and if they stay the same, there cannot be improvement. So in any effort or project to improve things, managing change will always be a part of the process.

Knowledge of technical tools will therefore not be enough to ensure a successful project; knowledge of change management tools will also be required.

Consider when you have been involved in either a successful or unsuccessful change in the past and list the features of both situations. Components often found in successful change initiatives include:

Unsuccessful changes initiatives involve the opposite of the above points, lack of clear goals, the need for the change was never understood by those affected, there was a lack of leadership, lack of communication or those resisting the change were allowed to “win”.

Interestingly none of the above points include technical tool usage, all of them focus on people issues.

Q x A = E#

Jack Welch, CEO of GE during the 1990’s, recognised the importance of people issues during his tenure at GE, and wanted to accelerate rate of change and improve take up of new initiatives such as six Sigma. Jack challenged a team of consultants to study best practices in change management and come back to GE with a tool kit that GE managers could easily implement.  The result was the Change Acceleration Process, commonly referred to within GE simply as “CAP.”

The team studied hundreds of projects and business initiatives.  One of their key insights was that application of good technical tools is not sufficient to guarantee success.  A high percentage of failed projects had excellent technical tools.  As an example of such a project, consider a business adopting a new Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system enterprise-wide.  Typically a great deal of effort is put into the technical tools – to deploy the hardware and software, train the employees and so on. The team found that it is lack of attention to the cultural factors that cause project failure of such systems – not the technical tools. 

The consultants created the Change Effectiveness Equation, “Q x A = E” as a simple way to describe the importance of cultural acceptance.  It means the Effectiveness (E) of any initiative is equal to the product of the Technical Quality (Q) of the approach and the Cultural Acceptance (A) of that approach.  In other words, paying attention to the people side of the equation is just as important to success as the technical side. Jack advised his Master Black Belts to spend at least 50% if their time on the “A” side of the equation, and not just focus on technical tools.

At Sigma we advise improvement project leaders to consider five key elements when managing change in projects:

Of course, being involved in lean six Sigma means having a structured approach for the above points, and that is covered in the next article!


# Overview of GE’s Change Acceleration Process (CAP) - January 25, 2009, Bob Von Der Linn's HPT Blog