Loose Change

It’s possible to look at change, in a business driven context, in three ways: corrective, directive and routine.  What do I mean by those headings?

Corrective: This is change driven by a problem.  I’m not referring to something as simple as a machine adjustment – I’d put that in the routine category (below).  Rather, this is where there is a desire for broader change to address a problem.  This is where formal improvement project models need to be used (three well known ones being Juran’s Breakthrough Process, 8D and DMAIC).  In many cases, it doesn’t matter which model is applied (though one will often lend itself better) as they all take a staged approach and cover the need to: define the problem, define the resources, define the current situation/process, analyse for root cause(s), identify possible solutions, select the optimum solution, implement the chosen solution, and manage subsequent and ongoing change.

Directive: This is change driven by a desire to reach a specific goal.  In this case, there may not be a specific problem, or it may not actually be definable – but there’s agreement and desire of the need to change.  Most important here is to have a clear goal for, unless this is known, the change process won’t have direction and the organisation may just end up different (or even the same) but no better – and will have spent a lot of resource on the way.  Of course, once the goal is set, it’s then necessary to have a clear understanding of the present situation.  It won’t be an efficient process, nor likely to be as effective, if the starting point isn’t known.  The change process is a journey and to plan the route (the third requirement for change this way) you need to know both ends – the start and the finish.

Routine: This category sweeps up all the changes made in response to what can best be described as the issues that arise during the normal work and need fixing, almost as a matter of routine.  Here I put the aforementioned machine adjustments, rework, review and rewrite cycles – to name but a few.  These may still be problems that need analysis, though not always formal as some fixes are obvious.  The key feature is that they are done as a matter of routine, often managed at the work face with established daily roles and responsibilities.  This is no less an important category – each individual change is often (though not always) of low value but cumulatively, they are crucial to the organisation’s success.  There is a plethora of tools and techniques available here – far too many to even start to list in a short article.

Sometimes a routine change will need to evolve into a corrective change; less common, but still possible, is for routine to become directive.  The boundaries can become blurred but it’s important to realise when the boundary has clearly been crossed and the approach needs to change.  A lot is written about each type and it’s necessary to understand what tools and techniques need to be applied in each case.  One of the biggest problems facing people needing to manage change is that they have learnt some of the tools and techniques and see each change in that light, rather than stepping back to gain a broader understanding of the issues in order to select the most appropriate approach.  The expert is often the person who knows the issue is beyond his or her current competence but knows where to go.

(Posted as a blog 13th June 2016)

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