What is Change Management?

I think we can agree that too many Lean Six Sigma improvements fall by the wayside. I have found that too many projects succeed at the "DMAI" portion of Six Sigma, but fail in the "C" portion—Control. The Control phase of Six Sigma ensures the change sticks. This is where change management comes into play. There are many different models of change management, but the one I hear mentioned most often is ADKAR®.


ADKAR is a model for change across industries developed by Prosci Learning Center and author Jeffrey M. Hiatt. Hiatt argues that change happens person by person. Employees fear that change means a loss of control. So how do we "facilitate change with one person?" The sequence of change that seems to work best is:

  1. Awareness - Why this change? Why now? What happens if we don't change? This message is best delivered by top leadership. Out of these three questions, the consequences of not changing are the most important driver of change.
  2. Desire - What's in it for me (the employee)? This message is best delivered by an employee's direct supervisor or change champion. To get supervisors on board as sponsors, leadership might consider using the ADKAR model with the management team before attempting to roll the change out to all employees.
  3. Knowledge - How do I work in the new way? This involves training.
  4. Ability - How to practice until the change is mastered. This requires coaching by supervisors and experts. It also requires actively monitoring and managing resistance. I try to keep the skeptics out of the loop until the change develops momentum.
  5. Reinforcement - How do we ensure that the change sticks? What changes need to be made to procedures and recognition/reward systems? I have found that all too often new ways of behavior are not rewarded and languish.

Most implementations of Lean Six Sigma emphasize knowledge and training first without building sufficient awareness and desire for it. The same is true of any Lean Six Sigma project. Successful implementation requires:

  • Communication - you must answer the questions Why? Why now? What happens if we don't change? WIIFM? This can take the form of town halls, team meetings, memos, and one-to-one communication, training and coaching.
  • Sponsorship - if there is no support, there will be no change.
  • Coaching - this is essential to developing the abilities that ensure adoption.

Change management is a key tool in implementing Lean Six Sigma and any improvement project. Having this simple recipe in mind when you embark on such a change will go a long way toward ensuring success.

Rights to reprint this article in company periodicals is freely given with the inclusion of the following tag line: "© 2016 Jay Arthur, the KnowWare® Man, (888) 468-1537, support@qimacros.com."

Free Lean Six Sigma Yellow Belt TrainingTake our FREE Lean Six Sigma Yellow Belt training online.