Change management has gained traction in contemporary businesses with the objective of preparing organizations for change, equipping their employees and building their capacity for change processes and eventually improving organizational outcomes. The practices of change management have become necessary due to the inevitability of change that has left organizations with the option of either capitalizing on it to unlock new opportunities or losing their competitive edge (Hayes, 2014). Walt Disney has a now famous slogan where they explain the reason for change- moving forward. They state how they do not look backwards for long and instead keep trying new things eventually coming up with new methods and discoveries. This paper expounds on that theme: Change as a driver of progress in organizations. Further, there is an extension of how change management is important in promoting quality while seeking organization progress with reference to the lean six sigma quality management technique.
Change Management for the Purposes of Moving Forward
Change management helps in keeping up with technology. In this case, practices like understanding technological change, its uses and building capacity to accommodate it comes in handy. There is no greater assurance of progress in today’s business landscape than embracing technology. It almost guarantees increased efficiency, progress in form of revenues and profits and sustainable competitive advantage (Hayes, 2014). Since the turn of the current century, the applications of the internet have revolutionized business worldwide. Brick and mortar stores are becoming obsolete as businesses move into e-business models, smart systems are now the mainstay of business process modeling while other developments such as Software-as-a Service (SaaS) and Internet of Things (IoT) suggest even further changes in the future (Pepper & Spedding, 2010). The business landscape has become more dynamic than ever due to technological applications that can create or void a firm’s competitive advantage in no time. Business can only keep up with these changes and move forward if they are ready for change, with the right corporate culture and organization structure, visionary leadership and embrace emerging technologies. Training staff on the latest technologies and equipping them with the same, inculcating a culture of innovation and keeping abreast of all the changes in the technological world are some of the change management practices that can allow businesses to grow in their use of technology and general market performance.
Various change management practices also lay the ground for progress in form of meeting changing customer needs. These include foreseeing change, readiness and adaptation to it. Many businesses have been outfoxed from the market due to changing customer preferences, while those who have been able to adapt have realized growth and expansion (Langley et al., 2013). For instance, advancement in the design of consumer electronics has deflated demand for cameras, torches, radios and hardcover diaries. Most of these products are now available in smart phones and other computer-related technologies with customers largely deeming their original forms as anachronistic. Businesses that were able to foresee such changes adapted well and differentiated their products, expanded the range or adopted new business ideas that augmented with customer needs. Examples include Sony, which upon noticing the smart phone revolution, embraced the wave and diversified their portfolio with sophisticated mobile handsets that are able to compete favorably in the market. Meeting customer needs to keep moving forward means an investment in research and development or investing in big data and analytics to keep track of what customers want and thus probable market shifts (Langley et al., 2013). These change management practices fuel progress as the business is able to anticipate changes and position themselves to take advantage of them rather than end up caught unaware.
Another way in which progress is realized through change management is by weathering disruption. All market segments and industries are prone to disruption, more so due to technology in the current age. Companies that fail to weather disruption and get their activities back in line effectively lose business. The most important aspect of dealing with disruption is embracing change. All disruptions are essentially changes in ways of doing business that render the previous methods uncompetitive (Hayes, 2014). Most businesses are swept aside by disruptive technologies because of their refusal to accept change and abandon their old methods of doing things. Those that adjust and let go of the old realize new markets and progress under the new dispensation. An example of such disruption is in the battery sector where the introduction of power-charged torches, radios and other electronics rendered batteries useless. Companies like Eveready lost business and closed shop in some of their locations. However, by designing their own electronics using their strong brand name in line with the new battery-less technology, they have been able to maintain competitiveness in some geographical niches (Pepper & Spedding, 2010). Therefore, embracing change is key to dealing with disruptive technologies and allows businesses to sustain their competitiveness and grow.
Application to Lean Six Sigma
Lean six sigma is a quality management technique that combines lean processes and six sigma. Lean systems are highly popular in manufacturing and service industries where they minimize wastage while maximizing value to the customers (Goetsch & Davis, 2014). Wastage is reduced through much faster services, reducing downtimes and ensuring that there is perfect timing of processes. Other methods include increasing efficiency and being economical with resource usage. Wastage can also be reduced by delivering satisfactory quality with minimum defects. Lean processes accelerate six sigma, whose objective is to reduce variation in products. In other words, the technique ensures that there are minimum defects in production (Goetsch & Davis, 2014). When combined, the two systems form an elaborate lean six sigma system that encompasses six steps: Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control (DMAIC).
Change management helps to maintain quality in the lean six sigma technique while seeking progress by diagnosing the system and forecasting problems. Change management involves analysis of internal and external environments to understand current and future challenges that necessitate any types of changes (Langley et al., 2013). This is especially true when dealing with technological advancements. Businesses must scan their environments and realize what technologies are being used to improve process, increase efficiency and drive innovation. They should further understand their problems that need technological solutions and the cost benefit analysis of such solutions. This is in line with the lean six sigma approach that begins by defining the problems in a process or system. By scanning the environment to understand customer expectations on technology both in the current and future ages, change management automatically fulfills the first step in the lean six sigma framework which entails defining the problem. Elsewhere, the cost benefit analysis of the technology that follows as a change management practice also coincides with measuring the problem in the DMAIC model. Thus, change management practices in seeking technological progress end up reinforcing the first two steps of quality enforcement in the lean six sigma framework.
Some change management practices in meeting customer expectations such as change readiness and adaptation are also relevant to the six sigma framework. Changing customer preferences demand that companies are always aware of the factors behind the changes and the new products and services that find favor with the consumer base. Change management ensures that businesses not only embrace these demands but are ready to take on new systems and adapt. By doing so, the change management process fulfills the analysis and improvement facets of the lean six sigma approach. The same applies to pursuing improvement in form of dealing with disruption. Change management in this case requires adopting and embracing change, which amounts to the improvement process in lean six sigma. Therefore, in both the context of meeting changing customer needs and managing disruption as progress, change management offers valuable ingredients that automatically assimilate with some of the components of the lean six sigma approach.
In conclusion, there are various avenues under which the reason for change management is clearly achieving organizational progress. These include technology, where anticipation, readiness and adaptation practices help firms to take advantage of new technologies and exploit them as sources of sustainable competitive advantage. Those companies that fail to embrace technology and adapt lose out in business. In the same way, meeting changing customer expectations, a progress scenario that guarantees market survival requires adapting to change, foreseeing it and fostering readiness. The same applies to managing disruption which has become ubiquitous in the present technological era. As it also emerged, these change management practices reinforce quality management processes in the six sigma approach, including define, measure, analyze and improve.
Goetsch, D. L., & Davis, S. B. (2014). Quality management for organizational excellence. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.
Hayes, J. (2014). The theory and practice of change management. Palgrave Macmillan.
Langley, A., Smallman, C., Tsoukas, H., & Van de Ven, A. H. (2013). Process studies of change in organization and management: Unveiling temporality, activity, and flow. Academy of Management Journal, 56(1), 1-13.
Pepper, M. P., & Spedding, T. A. (2010). The evolution of lean Six Sigma. International Journal of Quality & Reliability Management, 27(2), 138-155.
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