A leader for quality in a large pharmaceutical supply organization described pressure to launch a Six Sigma improvement project, but she was hesitant. “Have we laid the groundwork for success or are we just pushing ahead? Are we ready?” I asked her to say more.
She said she was referring specifically to cultural and behavioral readiness in the company — what I would call the people factors of change. She was concerned that moving ahead with a major change initiative without first addressing underlying success factors like these would undermine the project. Wow, I thought. This was a really wise insight and it was based on her considerable experience. She praised her company and its culture but offered that it would be a challenge to promote a focus on people readiness as part of the proposed project. I recognized in her statement what I had seen in my own practice. It is easier to accept the risk of negative project impact later than to invest now in workforce beliefs and behaviors needed for success. Do you recognize this condition, too?
I began to think about why this is so. Here are several real-world reasons: 1) the question, “Are we ready for this?”, is too big to answer; 2) examining beliefs and behaviors, much less shaping them, feels like uncharted territory better left unexplored; 3) employees have to support change and improvement as part of the job anyway; and 4) we don’t have the time.
How can the change leader, who wants to ensure change success with a readiness strategy, answer these objections?