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Basic Business Cents: Leadership should follow PDSA cycle

By Lou Schultz / Enterprise business columnist

Leadership likes to believe it can effect change in its organization at its will but it is easier said than done. Inertia and culture can be tremendous obstacles to change. Lip service may be paid to edicts to change but the work keeps on being done the same way with the same results. People are comfortable doing it the same way it has always been done.

A useful formula to remember in making change happen is D x V x F > R, meaning Dissatisfaction times Vision times First steps is greater than Resistance.

Nothing much will happen in the operation to change if the people are not satisfied with the present results (Dissatisfaction.) It may be a simple process, it may be a larger system, or it may be the entire organization that is sub-optimizing the operation. When consensus is reached that status quo is not good enough and something needs to be done to improve, then the stage is set for change. You may want to take advantage of new technology, new method, or increased training.

The Vision is the view of the future that portrays what the organization will be like if the changes are made. It has to be communicated and explained to the satisfaction of all involved so that they become aligned with the direction and buy in to the concept. Employees need to understand the value to the organization and to them and become enthusiastic supporters.

First steps are important because everyone is watching to see if this change will work. False steps can stop or delay the new way. Lorne Ames, President of International Nickel Company/Manitoba said, “What is important is baby steps, not giant strides.”

A good idea is to follow the PDSA cycle. First, Plan what action is to be taken. Then, Do it on a small or trial basis. Next, Study, observe, and check results to see if the trial effort provides desired results. If so, Act and roll it out full scale. Then continue around the cycle and Plan further change, Do it, Study results, and Act accordingly. Continual improvement is obtained by continuing to roll around this cycle.

Resistance is met at every step along the way. As mentioned earlier, “We have always done it this way”, comfort in the old way, inertia, lip service, and some not convinced of the value of the new way are forms of resistance.

Communication is key; people are not opposed to change, they are opposed to being changed. Communication has two parts, sending and receiving. It is not enough to tell people, they must understand. It is helpful to understanding if more than one of the senses is employed. Management can provide written documents so the employees have time to study the message (seeing), tell them orally (hearing), and discussing with others (getting a sense of feeling). Different people learn in different ways.

With acceptance of Dissatisfaction, buy-in to Vision, desired results are obtained with First steps, Resistance will be overcome. The change becomes “our change” and not “their change.”