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Leadership Development

A Recipe For Change Management

One of the many concepts I gleaned from Peter Drucker’s writings was his belief that, when making a decision, we should look at whether the issue at hand is what he calls a repetitive problem (i.e., one that will recur) or, rather, one that’s truly a unique situation (i.e., one that occurs rarely).

Unique situations, such as the Y2K issue, call for unique solutions. Repetitive problems call for systemic solutions. Unfortunately, Drucker says, most of us expend enormous energies applying unique solutions to repetitive problems. We should simply acknowledge the repetitive nature of these issues and then develop solutions that can be repeatedly applied.

A Changed Approach to Change
This same approach works just as well when applied to the issue of organizational change. Think back over all your years in leadership in the food world. Has there been any significant period of time when there wasn’t considerable change taking place? Barely a few weeks go by without some moderate change – a manager leaves, a new manager is hired. A recipe is upgraded, improved and then rolled out to customers. The local health department alters sanitation standards. You get the idea.

At Zingerman’s, we had never developed an effective, systemic, repetitive approach to introducing and managing change. Instead, fell into the exact trap that Drucker warns us not to – so every time a change comes along, we react with some new solution. Sometimes we even go into denial and act like the change hasn’t taken place.

Enter Stas’ Kazmierski. Stas’ has the sort of wisdom about organizational change that Julia Child has about cooking; they don’t even realize how much they know. (And the great thing about both Stas’ and Julia is that they’re marvelously modest and never presume to know more than others.)

I first worked with Stas’ 10 years ago. My partner Paul Saginaw and I were leading – or trying to lead – our company through the equivalent of a mid-life crisis. We’d happily and successfully attained our original vision of Zingerman’s. Yet we were no longer clear, nor in much agreement, on how to grow the organization for the future. Stas’ was a partner with a nationally known consulting firm whose office was up the street from the Deli. We hired Stas’ to guide our organization through the change process. I was often frustrated with how long it took to get the entire organization on board and clear on where we were going. But the result was wonderful – our people were far more engaged, and our vision for the future was clearly defined.

Later, we hired Stas’ to help us design our mission and vision for Zingerman ‘s Bakehouse. Then, in the fall of 2000, Stas’ joined our organization, becoming a second managing partner (along with Maggie Bayless) in ZingTrain, our training and consulting business.

Bottom line Change®
Since change issues come up over and over again, we must develop a recipe for change management; a recipe we can write down, teach, practice, refine and reuse. Over time, we should become as good at making constructive change happen as we are at making chicken soup.

Bottom-Line Change (BLC) is a simple, clear and quick process for creating compelling change – large or small – in any organization. The process involves five steps:

1. Create a clean and compelling purpose for change.

Most people do not like the idea of change. If we want them to move forward, we must sell them on why the change is important. This step is simple – just tell the people who are going to be impacted why it’s worth changing.

2. Create a positive vision of the future and develop leadership agreement on that vision.
The vision is a picture of how things will look after the change has been successfully implemented. It needs to be:

• Inspiring – to get people excited about what they will create.
• Strategically sound – it must be attainable. If we have no hope of making it happen, it’s merely fantasy.
• Written – there’s more power when the vision is on paper.
• Agreed upon by the entire leadership group.

3. Plan the change rollout event.
Like a new product, an effective introduction means a planned rollout. In the BLC process, the rollout is often a meeting when the organization will formally hear about the change. An effective rollout will:

• Build enthusiasm and support.
• Create agreement on the first few steps of the action plan.

The rollout could be:

• A 10-minute presentation at an already scheduled meeting.
• A one-hour session about the topic at hand.
• A written piece.
• An all-day staff session held off-site.
• Anything in-between.

Someone or some group must take the time to plan the rollout to maximize the effectiveness. Who plans the rollout? Ideally, it’s a “microcosm” – a group that is representative of all the key elements of the organization to be impacted by the change. In a small organization, the owner might do it in 10 minutes on the back of an envelope, with the consultative assistance of two staff people. In a bigger organization, it could be a team of six to 10 from various parts of the organization.

4. Generate organizational support.
When the meeting ends, we should have positive organizational energy that will get us moving toward making our vision for change into a reality.

During the rollout session, map out a first set of action steps to implement the change. If the change is small and/or low risk, that could be done in 20 minutes. All those involved create a list of actions; we consolidate, and on we go. In a bigger or more complex group, only broad action steps will initially be planned. Smaller rollout meetings will address each functional area. The rollouts should be inspiring, so make them fun and memorable.

5. Implement the change.
Execute the action plans in each area of the organization that needs to participate to make the change happen. Attach names and completion dates to each action step.

Why BLC Works
Edward Deming, the well-known quality expert, said that “management’s responsibility is to create a system in which people will be successful.” Bottom-Line Change fills that bill.

BLC is, in itself, a system. It gives us a recipe we can rehearse, a dance step we can do over and over to perfection. When we get good at the BLC process, change becomes something we are prepared to deal with at every organizational level.

Organizations are systems rather than a collection of independent beings. When one element is altered, almost every other element will be impacted. BLC addresses this reality effectively because it acknowledges up-front that almost everyone will be influenced.

BLC requires people to own the reality that – like it or not – they’re going to be involved in the change. It then requires them to participate in designing how the change will impact their area. As Stas’ always says, “The wisdom needed exists within the organization.” The BLC process grants us access to that wisdom. People are infinitely more likely to get behind the change, to get it to work more quickly and effectively. No one likes change when it’s done to them, but most can deal with it when they are part of the process.

The Results of BLC
Without BLC, there is usually minimal management to maximize organizational effectiveness through the change process. The benefits of BLC include:

1. Better bottom line results. More effectively managed change means less wasted energy and more focused use of limited resources, yielding better bottom line results.

2. Faster, more meaningful change. Though the work begins more slowly, we get results more quickly.

3. Development of more skillful leaders. Everyone involved will improve leadership and work skills.

4. We become good at change. The organization internalizes and normalizes the process. Effective change management can become as routine as making chicken salad.

5. Ultimately, we grow to be the organization we want to be. That is valuable, unusual and very, very rewarding.

I’d like to say that we’ve been using the BLC process in every aspect of Zingerman’s for years. Yet while we’ve used it with great success on a few key issues, it’s only recently become clear how easily we could have adapted it to work with much smaller changes. We’re now on the way to making it as much a pan of our everyday organizational life as our recipes for rye bread, chicken salad or great service.

Key Things for Leaders To Do

Here are a few important things that leaders can do to increase the odds of change being successful:

1. Model the behaviors outlined in the vision for change. For instance, if the change is about introducing a great new menu item, serve it, eat it, talk about it.

2. Negotiate performance targets and use them to get people to work together. Track the results.

3. Actively market the compelling reasons for change along with your vision for the future. Remember: we need to sell the organization on the need to change the status quo.

4. Make sure the right people are in the room. We often define “who’s impacted” far too narrowly.

5. Don’t abandon the process.

5 Steps to Bottom-Line Change
1. Create a clear and compelling purpose for change.

2. Create a positive vision of the future and develop leadership agreement on that vision.

3. Plan the change rollout event.

4. Generate organizational support.

5. Implement the change.