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The Devil Is In The Details...Of Change

Aug 17, 2007
We have all heard about the importance of getting all the details taken care of and getting them handled right. That's true for wills, contracts, recipes, blueprints and lots of other things. One subject, however, really needs to have attention to detail but it rarely happens.

Moving an organization from "doing things one way to doing things another" is a "details job." The following five parts of the change process are practically meaningless without the right details:

* New Vision - if you want to paint a picture of how the organization is supposed to be operating after a change, then "seven crisp bullet points" on a page labeled "Our Vision" will not cut it! For a vision to be useful to help people understand the desired future, the vision needs to be written more like a script for a play than a skimpy list of mom-and-apple-pie statements. Invest in detailing the vision ... or pay the consequences of confusion.

* New Work Processes - obviously an organization will not work "a new way" unless the work process steps are altered to enable the vision. And a high-level diagram of the "new work process" will not cut it! For folks to be able to follow new processes they must see and understand in detail each step that must be done differently and they need to understand how the steps they will do differently fit with the steps that their teammates do differently. Invest in detailing the future work processes ... or pay the consequences of poor results.

* Roles - Telling folks that their jobs will "only change a little" or that "they can derive their jobs by looking at the Vision" will not work! Think about it this way: if we want to get work done with a set of contractors, we would labor long and hard over a detailed statement of work that both we and our contractors would sign. Invest in detailing the employees' statements of work (job descriptions) as they must be after the change (our internal statements of work) ... or pay the consequences in hesitation mis-steps.

* Payoff Rules - Telling the troops that they will be judged on how they accomplish work after the change would be a leading-edge concept for many organizations, but even that just won't work! As we would labor over payment details in a formal contract, so should we invest in detailing compensations pay-offs for our troops ... or we will pay the consequences of inattention to the change.

And finally, one place where details abound turns out to have the wrong details.

* IT Procedures - Providing the employees with detailed training on the "87 billion" operations the new software will perform is not only a time waster but a huge miss-communication exercise. What employees need are the details about exactly how the new screens on their PC need to be handled when employees are working on the new work processes. They really don't need the other 86 billion details. Invest in detailed work process-related IT procedures ... or pay the consequences of non-used software.

Is that all? No, there are more details to complete accurately and in a timely manner or change will be off target, off budget, and off schedule. If you are managing a change effort, you cannot afford to be caught without a command of the details!!
About the Author
Get a free copy of the 250-page change manifesto Change is the Rule: Free Change Management Book

Dutch Holland is principal and founder of Holland & Davis, specializing in helping clients implement change.
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