Implementation

The F.P.I.E. process (pronounced ‘eff pye’) underpins The Change Consultancy’s approach to change projects. F.P.I.E. draws heavily on our collective experience; in particular, it taps into project management and business psychology practice. As a consequence we can offer substantial experience in consulting on change projects from start to finish. We now look at Implementation.

Stage Step
# 3 Implementation (I) # 8 Implement the Selected Option for Change

#8 Implement the Selected Option for Change

“At some point you have to stop planning and start doing.” Anonymous
‘How are we doing?’ is a remarkable trigger question. The answer to it lies at the heart of implementation. It sparks related questions:

  • Does everyone know what is expected of them?
    – Allocation of roles
    – Clarification of expectations
  • Are we following the plan?
    – Clear processes
    – Quick, accurate communication of adjustments to the plan

It culminates with, “Is the selected option in place and working?” The truthful answer is likely to be, “Mostly.” When plans meet reality, the winner is reality. The change project has to be adapted and dovetailed with reality. Plans must be flexible, not rigid. However, this points straight to the capability and motivation of the change leader, change team members, and the change team as an added value unit.

“A plan is only as good as those who see it through.”  Anonymous

A client in bespoke fine chemical manufacture asked me to intervene; there was a communications breakdown in a project team – go fix it!

The team – a mix of chemists, chemical engineers, engineers and production specialists – gathered for a diagnostic meeting. (You could have papered the walls with university degrees!) Sure enough there were communication issues; withholding of information, messages received too late, update meetings that failed to clarify issues and lead to fixes. But something deeper emerged.

Nowadays overstretched organisations lean heavily on matrix management. Put simply, team members have some of their time allocated to the project, essentially to support plan-do-check-review activities. In this mode they are managed by the project leader, who may be leading more than one project. Think of this as the ‘away’ role for team members.

At the same time the team members are expected to continue to meet the expectations of their day role. Think of this as the ‘home’ role for team memebers.

Of course the situation was ripe with opportunities for role conflict. On the whole the team members were able to problem solve and think for themselves. However, faced with contradictory instructions from two leaders with different goals, they defaulted to their ‘home’ role. More often than not, the ‘home’ role was dedicated to keeplng production running. Inevitably the ‘away’ role suffered, which was interpreted as communications breakdown.

The fix resided in the hands of the managers of the team members, but they were unmoved at first, believing that since they had coped with such situations when they were ‘pups’, the team members should be able to do the same. When it was pointed out that the organisation was now two thirds its original size, the argument struck home

In reality, the whole senior management team had to become involved. They identified that they had to agree how to handle instances of role conflict. Since the organisation was not large and it had a culture of quick decision making, it was decided to use a form of arbitration to resolve role conflict issues, set against the needs of the whole organisation. It worked for this organisation.

Getting the people component right in implementation is no easy matter. Most change leaders would happily settle for Pareto’s famous 80/20, recognising that balancing the level of challenge with capability – for individuals and teams – is no mean feat. Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi introduced us to the concept of the ‘flow state’, where challenge and capability are in harmony. My most memorable occasion concerns Usain Bolt.

In 2009 Usain Bolt posted his personal best 100m (9.58secs) and 200m (19.19 secs) world records at the World Championships in Berlin. At the end of both races, to the amazement of onlookers, he found the energy to run half way around the track and engage in his trademark selfies. How, we wondered? ‘Flow state’, answers Csikszentmihalyi.

During the races he was relaxed, his motion efficient, seemingly effortless, while his fellow racers looked laboured, struggling to find form. At the end of the race Usain Bolt had boundless energy, while fellow racers were gasping for breath or collapsed on the track. For him, the challenge of breaking the world record was equalled by his world record-making capability. For the rest, it was an impossible challenge, beyond their capability.

The sport analogy works, but what about the working environment? It speaks to motivation. Motivation plays an important role, where purpose and autonomy are vital requirements. A person is more likely to improve their performance if they want to… This is a necessary condition but not sufficient. What about preferences – everyday work style – where like to…influences performance? This is also necessary but not sufficient. To cap it all, the person must be capable of doing the task. See the diagram below that neatly brings this together.

The Venn diagram nicely presents the challenge of achieving flow state; it’s the segment right in the middle!

Critical thinking skills have been mentioned to The Change Consultancy as being problematic in practice. They are learnable.

Critical Thinking Involves:

  • Recognising underlying assumptions
  • Scrutinising arguments
  • Judging ideas.
  • Judging the rationality of justifications by comparing them to a range of interpretations & perspectives
  • Providing positive as well as negative appraisal

There are phases of critical thinking that can be used to concentrate the mind on what is often referred to nowadays as agile thinking. While it is not something that we recommend all of the time to clients, we have found that learning activities held outdoors, designed to challenge critical thinking rather than to challenge physical prowess, can be really helpful in getting key learning points across. In this way people of all ages can safely interact and learn. The Phases of Critical Thinking are depicted below.

Phases of Critical Thinking

Stage # 3 : Implementing Change Toolbox
Step # 8 : Implement the Selected Option for Change
Hard Techniques
  • Gantt Chart
  • Critical Path Analysis
Soft Techniques
  • Business Change – Impact on People
  • Individual 360
  • Kubler-Ross Curve Applied to Business Change
  • Myers-Briggs Type Indicator
  • Socratic Questioning & Critical Thinking
  • Team 360
  • Interests Schedule (motivation)

Discussion: Do you agree with our views? In particular, do you agree that a plan is only as good as those who see it through? Have you personal experience of the flow state? If so, what was the situation? Is critical/agile thinking as widespread as you would wish? We invite you to add to the toolbox, which will be updated and shared with readers of Interactive.

Interactive builds The Change Consultancy’s library of articles about organisation change. It is edited by Tom Lindsay who is also a major contributor. Our heading of Interactive is a deliberate choice, because The Change Consultancy is keen to engage with its audience. Each article contains Discussion points. If you wish to comment, then we cordially invite you to get in touch with Tom at tom@thechangeconsultancy.com

Tom Lindsay is a graduate Chartered Psychologist and MBA specialising in business psychology. In the 1990s he was part-time Course Tutor of Planning & Managing Change for the North East Region of the Open University’s Business School. Prior to this he held personnel positions in blue chips and the NHS. For the past twenty eight years he has been a consultant concentrating on the people aspects of organisation change. He is a director of The Change Consultancy.