PM Articles > PM Perspectives > Holistic Methodologies: Odd bed partners (Six Sigma and PMLC/SDLC), but Harmonious Relatives

Holistic Methodologies: Odd bed partners (Six Sigma and PMLC/SDLC), but Harmonious Relatives


The Softer Side of Change – GE CAP Model

So What Has Change Got to Do With It?

Have you ever been in a situation where the solution to a business problem requires a significant rethink of the current process or product? In a nutshell, Organizational Change Management, where the solution being advocated is so clear to you, but others may not see it that way?

  • Perhaps there is information they have that you do not?
  • Perhaps you have not given them the chance to go through the lifecycle of accepting the change and being able to influence them to see the solution through your eyes?
  • Perhaps you are bringing about the next paradigm shift or just a change that will impact a core business process, which changes the role of one or more actors in one or more processes?

The GE CAP model explores the psychological lifecycle we all go through when change is thrust upon us in our lives, welcomed or not.

In a prior article we discussed Stakeholder Risk using Force Field Analysis as a method of subjectively quantifying the level of resistance or support stakeholders may impose on a project.

Building on that concept, we will explore the softer side of change facilitation using the GE CAP (Change Acceleration Process) model. You may ask, "What has change got to do with it?" Well, everything actually! If you fail to convince the customers, sponsors and key stakeholders of the efficacy of the project product or your approach to deliver the whole endeavor of the project, then product acceptance and subsequent usage will generate significant risk.

GE CAP Model Overview

In the late 1980s, GE launched the concept of "Work Out," focusing on a team-oriented problem-solving methodology, which was the forerunner Six Sigma's introduction into GE's DNA. Jack Welch realized the problem of stakeholder buy-in into the changes the "Work Out" teams wanted to make across GE. He created the position of Chief Learning Officer, through which Steve Kerr researched various industries and academic institutions to find ideas to drive evolutionary and revolutionary change. CAP became an entire toolkit to facilitate change.

The Change Acceleration Process Model


The CAP model explores the human reaction to change in our lives:

  • At first we reject change as a threat to the status quo we are comfortable with.
  • Then we mourn what was, still trying to hang on to our comfort zone.
  • Then gradually we accept the inevitability of the change.
  • Finally, we look for the positive aspects of the new world.

To successfully lead stakeholders through these phases, the project manager needs to be in tune with the key stakeholders as they progress through the phases. In my experience, people can be in different phases at the same time. The transition through phases is not linear; neither does it run at the same pace for all stakeholders. Some people adapt to change quicker than others, so patience is necessary to get to a desirable outcome across all the key stakeholders.

Where the project is in this continuum will impact the approaches needed to successfully navigate the landscape. During the project, the Force Field Analysis tool (zipped XLS file) can be used to assist with monitoring the progress as well as proactively assessing stakeholder risk.

Leading Change

It is probably clear by now that a project manager is by nature a change agent and needs to be the champion or cheerleader for change. Whether this authority is given or self-anointed, influencing skills are paramount to the project manager's and the team's success when institutionalizing change.

The primary factors needed to successfully lead change and buy-in at the appropriate levels of the organization are:

  • Convincing credibility, stemming from the project manager's belief in the importance of the change
  • Sufficient organizational maturity to absorb the change
  • Stakeholder willingness to participate in the change

Current State

Where we are today is probably comfortable. People can summon many defenses for this comfortable status quo:

  • "Why do we need to fix something that is not broken?"
  • "We have always done it this way, why change?"
  • "That won't work."
  • "That is too much overhead."

Assuming that the change is necessary at an evolutionary or revolutionary level, you are about to embark on a crusade to move through the remaining two phases of change.

Create a Shared Need

It may be obvious, but people are more willing to buy in to change if they can see the benefit: "What's in it for me" (WIIFM). WIIFM is a core concept in consensus building and convincing stakeholders of not only personal gain, but a gain for the organization. Fundamentally, it comes down to building consensus one person at a time at an individual level so when the team is brought together the crowd mentality does not kick in and get you voted off the island.

Take the time to listen to what the stakeholder wants and determine if there are opportunities to compromise, keeping WIIFM (for them) front and center. These concessionary olive branches can pay dividends later when tackling some of the more controversial changes needed, where WIIFM is either absent or not in the best interests of the desired result. People respond better when they feel they are listened to and their opinions and ideas are not only respected but acted upon.

Stakeholders will own change if they feel they have some control, even if this sense of control is an illusion. Transparency regarding what they are giving up, as well as WIIFM, will help to help build the necessary trust. These are the two best tools to apply to help facilitate buy-in and create a shared need.

Shaping a vision

Once you've successfully convinced leadership of the need for change, it is necessary to have leadership legitimize this change through communication or direct sponsorship, thereby providing referent authority to proceed. During this phase, defined success criteria and the need for change must be clearly articulated to drive the shared vision down to all the stakeholders and actors in the process. Keep the message SMART (Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Time-based), but also be honest about the risks and challenges ahead. Remember, this is all about trust and transparency! By far, this is the most important component of the whole model.

This phase is where the most resistance typically is felt. This change may take people out of their comfort zone technically, or they may perceive (rightly or not) that it will create more work for them. These aspects need to be fully explored; their impacts and benefits need to be assessed and communicated transparently. Always keep an open mind that they may have something valuable to add to the end product, even if you don't agree with it at the time. This insures that you, the project manager, are not driving change for change's sake just because you were given the authority to do so. Listen to the stakeholder! Remember the Voice of the Customer (VOC)!

Mobilizing Commitment

Assuming leadership support is available and the project is chartered, with the vision and stakeholder analysis in hand, go after those early adopters (Champions +5) and continue to build momentum by obtaining their shared commitment to influence the detractors who can still jeopardize the change. Look for early wins to help convince even the staunchest detractors (-5).

Transition State

This is the phase in the lifecycle where people are:

  • still holding on to the old ideas
  • resisting the change
  • mourning what they are leaving behind

Where they need to be taken is:

  • accepting the inevitability of the change
  • embracing and making a commitment to the change
  • seeking out the opportunities which the change will bring
  • becoming a champion of the change to bring others on board

No Silver Bullets

Every circumstance is different. Political issues, social issues, who is delivering the message, the level of impact, etc. -- all are factors to consider. Expert judgment and life experience will dictate the best way to communicate and implement change in any given organization. Application to the specific circumstances is beyond the scope of this article. Listen to your stakeholders -- through direct meetings, surveys, even gut feel -- and apply the concepts from the stakeholder risk analysis. This allows you to size up the organization and all the affected parties so you can proactively minimize the risks and subsequent issues during the path through the Transition State. Remember, consensus is built one stakeholder at a time.

Making Change Last

In order to make change stick, there has to be a focus on early wins through low-hanging fruit. This convinces the stakeholders of WIIFM and reinforces your credibility in their eyes. For example, how can the staunch detractor's life be made easier through a partial implementation or pilot of the process or product? Develop empirical data to prove the point and back up your opinion. Look for ways to scale up the pilot to support the eventual rollout. Fundamentally, value needs to be demonstrated to build a consensus for change.

Monitoring Process

Making change last goes hand in hand with the monitoring process to confirm there has been no backsliding. This is a critical juncture, since it may still be easy for people to revert back to the old ways. People are pretty good at hiding their reluctance to change if there is limited buy-in. Look for signs of reversion back to the old ways, which may not be obvious. Develop methods of measuring and monitoring how the product or process change will impact the post-delivery environment. Make sure the difference between the current and improved states is detectable. This can be done using milestones or benchmark metrics. For example, how many stakeholders are bought in? How active have the early adopters been? Have they delivered additional requirements, logged into the new product, or used some of its early features? Is the old system still being used and the new product collecting dust on the shelf?

Changing Systems and Structures

In an earlier article we explored the impact that the product may have on core business processes and the operational environment the product is delivered into. This is also known as Organizational Change Management. Sadly, it is sometimes absent from the delivery or execution phases of the PMLC/SDLC methodology. Many times the focus of the methodology and project team is on the delivery of the product and not analyzing the operational impact once it's delivered.

From a strategic impact point of view, the scope of the change may impact staffing models, staff training, core business processes, operational agreements, and service level agreements. In its most challenging manifestation it may even cause a reduction in workforce. Remember that the current operational model is focused on the current state. Therefore, part of the re-engineering has to address some potential elephants in the room which may not have even been considered in scope, or worse still may invalidate some or all of the product's efficacy. Remember to always keep an open mind regarding the eventual result. Progressive elaboration of the operational characteristics may even impact the scope of the product that is being delivered.

It is important to fully understand the dynamics of the impacted systems and structures, since misses will be perceived as the overall improvement being a failure. This is a quick way to turn a "facilitator" (3) into a (-3) "will take action to block" stakeholder. A chink in the armor can destroy the integrity of the entire suit, especially where support is weak to begin with. More importantly, managing perception (for example, if the project manager is perceived as a zealot verses an open-minded change agent) will have a significant impact on your credibility. You have to avoid the "my way or the highway" approach.

These concepts have to be addressed or the change will be temporary and the actors in the process will return to their comfort zone. If possible implementation of the product should prevent any return to the old process. For example, sun setting an old system or technology will prevent a backslide.

In Summary

Only your own life experiences or the expert judgment of others will provide objectivity about whether the change being championed will be successful. The GE CAP model provides some subjective quantification to guide the project manager from "current state" through the "transitional state" to reach the shining city on the hill of the "improved state," while still maintaining a strong working relationship with the core team and stakeholders.

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