Implementing success

If I’ve seen it once I’ve seen it a hundred times.

Implementers turn on their tools when a Lean, Six Sigma, Theory of Constraints, Learning Organization or whatever implementation fails.

The implementer, let’s call her June, knows the tool should have worked, if only the people would have done the behaviors as requested.  She tells herself the next time she implements the tool she’ll: push the people harder, report their lack of participation to their boss sooner and redouble her efforts to explain in more-and-more detail why the tool should work.  She’ll tinker with her methods and the machinery behind the tool but she’ll never recover her implementation nor succeed in the future.

Why is that?

Why isn’t turning to the tool and away from the people a winning strategy?

Here’s my theory: the implementation failed because of the implementer failed to win the people affected by the implementation.  The tool worked just as it’s designed to work.

As implementers, we train ourselves in Lean, Six Sigma, Theory of Constraints or whatever. We focus almost all our efforts on learning the tools. We seem to forget, if we ever knew, that in-the-end people have to use the tools, follow the processes, and want to create the results we crave. The tool will do what it’s designed to do; it’s predictable.  It’s the people, with their pesky free will, who don’t listen to our directions.  They don’t follow our suggestions. They don’t do, according to us, the right things.

Every implementer needs to win the people to their side, creating people actively engaged with the implementation,  people doing and driving the implementation.

What can an implementer do to win the people, energize them, and get them in the driver’s seat?

They must drive change in their implementation whenever and wherever they can.  They must choose the change for themselves, share their vision of the destination, and assist the people in removing the barriers keeping them in their current behaviors.

Implementers must focus their efforts where the people are struggling to exchange their behaviors of today (behaviors they’ve probably been doing for years if not decades) for the new behaviors you’ve explained.

As the people struggle, they’ll encounter obstacles, both internal and external, to living the new behaviors.  When they look to the implementer, help them clearly identify the obstacles and create strategies (often using the tools) to eliminate the obstacles.

Don’t drive the people to change by responding with a longer-than-last-time explanation of how the tool work.

Never attack the people by notifying their boss  (often one of their biggest obstacles to adopting new behaviors) that they aren’t cooperating, supporting, changing enough.  (This is the fastest way to lose the people forever.)

When the people look to you for support, understanding, and assistance as they struggle to modify their behaviors, give them what they need.  Help them move the obstacles, show them how to use the tools to destroy the obstacle, or together admit the obstacle isn’t going away and plan a path around it.

To succeed more often with any sort of implementation, stop driving people to change.

Start driving change.

Watch what happens.

Why not try?

2 thoughts on “Implementing success”

  1. What a fun post April…

    Tools are easy; people are hard. That’s why everyone wants to sell you the tools. But you have to win the hearts and minds of people to drive change.

  2. Great insight, April.

    I agree, there is so much more to creating change than using the tools.

    I just recently attended a ‘SPEED of TRUST’ seminar by Stephen M. R. Covey and he really makes the case that trust enables things go faster and cost less, and that it’s the #1 competency for leadership. And that is ‘leadership’ with a small ‘l’. If you want to lead, you must have people who will follow, and they’ll only do that willingly when there’s trust in the leader.

    He also gave us some specific tools or behaviors to build trust.

    I’d recommend the book, if you haven’t read it already.

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