Making change a reality

Making change a reality

Change management could be described as equal parts behavioral science and process management. It's the discipline of overcoming the human resistance to change in order to achieve an objective's maximum effectiveness. Whether the change is related to a new organizational structure, integrating a new enterprise resource planning system, or even implementing new security-related procedures, a critical but often overlooked factor may be how effectively you prepare for and manage the impact of change throughout the company.

I was introduced to change management in the 1990s during my tenure as trade and customs manager with Compaq Computer Corp. Compaq had just hired a new senior vice president of logistics, Ed Kugler, who also was masterly in teaching the importance of effectively driving and managing change. I still vividly recall many of Ed's powerful examples of companies that failed to change flawed corporate behavior and the crisis-driven cultures that are commonly associated with them. His "Lifecycle of a Problem" showed that the longer a known problem is left unaddressed, the less time and fewer options

there are to fix the problem - and that the cost of the remaining options, and the impact of the problem itself, will increase almost exponentially.

Ed cited the 1986 Challenger space-shuttle disaster, where the problem with O-ring seals had been known for an extended period of time but was never fixed. Over time, the issue was allowed to evolve into a crisis where, finally, the only remaining ethical option - albeit one that represented an enormous loss of revenue to those involved - was to cancel the launch. Instead, a conscious decision was made to proceed with the launch, and the crisis became a catastrophe.

The relevance to security? In a voluntary environment where a sizable piece of the security solution is dependent upon the private sector, how many companies may have similar business cultures that will yield to change only after the next catastrophe hits?

Change management also acknowledges that convincing a company to implement change means the company must believe in the cause enough to endure a certain degree of disruption. (And as I've pointed out in previous columns, there are a substantial number of companies that either don't believe in the terrorist threat at any cost, or have yet to become sufficiently

motivated to justify their investment in security.) Convincing companies to bear the disruptions that accompany change will require getting the support and backing from the highest levels of senior management in the company. If the chief executive doesn't buy it, then no one else will.

But simply having the chief executive's approval isn't enough. People are inherently resistant to change on a number of different levels, so for your project to be effective, the "shareholders" in the new program must be believers who are properly engaged. I've witnessed projects where employees deliberately pushed back or "sandbagged," not because the project wasn't justified, but for other reasons - personal or political feuds with the corporate project owner-department, or bruised egos from simply being overlooked from initial planning sessions.

It is critical to be prepared to deal with potential resistance to the project, as well as to fully understand the impact that the changes will have on those front-line individuals actually responsible for making them work. Other considerations include how the new tasks will affect existing workloads, the potential need to add staff or increase compensation, education and training, and determination of process ownership.

Ed Kugler has since become a leading figure in change management (www.nomorebs.com), and I continue to apply his lessons in nearly every business engagement in which I'm involved because of their fundamental importance in ensuring a project's success. His principles are particularly relevant to supply-chain security projects, which commonly require changes not only by the company but by its domestic and-or foreign vendors. The effectiveness of those changes may hinge on how effectively a company manages them.

William G. "Jerry" Peck is president and founder of Global Trade Management Solutions. He can be reached at (815) 462-1732, or via e-mail at wgpeck@global-trade-ms.com.