Creating Sustainable Improvement

Many times, when new practises are required in an organisation, there tends to be an uphill battle convincing people to adopt new ways of working. This article briefly discusses the importance of creating a sense of urgency to help implement change in an organisation.

To embark on a transformation, considerable time needs to be spent upfront with key management staff to create an environment conducive for change. This usually starts with defining a sense of urgency or a “burning ship” scenario. Why are we doing this and if not what will happen? Real change comes when people within the organisation understand what there is to win or lose.

For example, a company looking to improve delivery times and quality to their customers must first communicate what the effects are of late deliveries and substandard quality.  These could be loss in revenue, bad reputation, loss in market share etc.  The resulting effect comes down to job security on the shop floor. Using these reasons, the management can establish a sense of urgency.

Kotter defines Sense of Urgency as a “combination of thoughts, feelings, and actual behaviour with a sense of coming to work each and every day with a commitment to making something happen that is of high importance to the company. It’s also a sense you give off to other people that, we’ve got to get going on this because it’s so important“.

A good example where change, illustrated as a fable by Kotter, is the book The Iceberg is Melting. Here a Penguin colony must look for new icebergs as their old way of living on a single iceberg does not conform to the current conditions. This is achieved by a group of learned Penguins who spread information about their melting iceberg so as to convince fellow inhabitants to adapt a nomadic lifestyle.  This in turn guarantees a successful existence of the colony.

Similarly, these soft areas like change management, must be dealt with importance so as to implement any transformation in the organisation successfully.

From a lean six sigma perspective, long term sustainable implementation means that the organisation must ensure upfront why the improvement methodology is to be implemented. In many organisations, these initiatives are normally top down driven i.e. management sees an opportunity to reduce waste and therefore improve efficiency, but the ground staff have not been informed why the change is needed.

In today’s day and age, the entire organisation must be involved in understanding the business direction and the path required to reach that. Management need to take the time to provide direction and leadership to all people associated in the process. Therefore, there is a greater need to address reasons for change.

Why are we doing this? What value will it add from both an individual and organisational stand point?

Are you trying to create a transformation in your organisation and would like to some tips on how to manage this? Please send us an email on