Contract for Change

This entry is part 5 of 18 in the series Interview Tom Marine Gets Right Upfront


MM: So you simply got everyone to acknowledge, “Here’s how we do our catalog.” With the idea of really coming to understand if not appreciate exactly the kind of frustration each stakeholder had experienced in this process.

TM: And you know, it’s funny you say that. Actually, at three points during the process, we had everyone come up to the board and sign it, that they agreed with everything that was up on the board.

The first time was after we defined the current process. Everybody agreed. Another time, when we defined an interim process that we felt we could implement without the software solution. So we saw some immediate benefits from defining the process. Then the third sign-off was when everybody agreed to the “new optimal process,” which would include the database publishing system.

MM: Fabulous. What you just described, Tom, is the workflow map in the War Room. It became a visual contract.

TM: Absolutely. Yes. That’s what it was.

MM: What made it easy to sign, is that the stakeholders participated wholly in defining the current state, as well as the interim state in terms of, “Here’s what we could do to make things better without having to automate anything.”

TM: Correct.

Who’s Responsible?

MM: As you begin to create this visual roadmap, people naturally begin to argue about who was responsible for what. Or how things got done. Can you take us through a couple of those scenarios, and how they resolved?

TM: Let me step back just briefly and talk about a little bit of the hierarchy we had at Hubert. I think that that had an effect on those types of situations.

At Hubert, we had a VP of Organizational Development. He was a person who reported to the president but did not have any structure under him. He was a change-management guru.

Because he reported only to the president and had basically no agenda, he could work across departments and not appear to be persuaded by one or the other.

Additionally, this man was trained to facilitate meetings. He was really good at what Peter Block would call the ‘what’ question. That is, “If you ask a ‘what’ question, you’re going to get a whole lot more different types of responses than when you ask a ‘why’ question.”

If you ask, ‘why’—you’re challenging somebody. However, if you’re asking ‘what’—you’re asking them to explain what it is that they need to tell you. That was something that he was a master at doing. He was able to allow people to speak freely, but also was able to get them focused on the right path—together—without creating a lot of disturbances.

That said, there are some people in every organization that are going to create disturbances. You have to address those—and sometimes, that means that there’s somebody that’s going to have to go. And at Hubert, there was. There was a person that had to go.

At Central, they were fortunate to not have it to that degree. But, there are always those that latch on to change and those that desperately try to avoid it.

Change Management Toolkit

MM: Could you take us through Hubert’s toolkit of change management? What does that mean?

TM: It is making sure that you do things right the first time, and therefore you don’t have to worry about it later. That lives in several different areas. It can live as a whole— meaning if we hadn’t done the research and the white paper and all that stuff upfront, would we’ve been as successful?

But you can take it down to the minutia, too. That is, Hubert identified during the current process that there was a maximum of 7 times where a price could be entered into the workflow. Now, that 7 times didn’t happen all the time— but it wasn’t unusual for a price to be entered at least 4 times into the system at some point.

MM: You had developed this already in the Hubert organization. Is that correct?

TM: It is. But this was by far the biggest change that they’d ever undertaken.

But our VP of Organizational Development also did some train-the-trainer type things.  It was the cultural paradigm. So, the idea was, that if everyone in the company had this skill-set, and then it would be a better place to work.

Let’s say there is a process that involved Sales and Marketing. Maybe a person in the Warehouse was trained to do it. Maybe the Warehouse person would facilitate that meeting, because he did not have an agenda between Sales and Marketing. But if it were a big process across multi-departments— which this one was— then he would be involved with something that big.

MM: Tom, I have found that very few companies have a structured, defined, and repeatable change-management process in place.

TM: I’ve never seen one other than Hubert.

MM: Exactly. And I say that the lack of such a process makes change wrenching, difficult, expensive, and problematic. Inevitably, change means that people have to get out of their comfort zone and get out of their daily routines and habits, and do what is new, uncomfortable, and probably prone to criticism.

TM: Yes.

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