Helping Organizations OPT for Change

Guest author Carmen Brickner of CLEARbrick, Inc.

“Managing change” is an oxymoron. And anything with ‘moron’ in it can’t be good for the bottom line!

We can’t manage change because we can’t anticipate and control all the variables that are yet to present themselves. And we can’t make people change because each of us has the inalienable right to decide if and when and how we will react to any situation. But we do know why people do or do not choose to change.

We can help them OPT for change by providing Outcome, Path and Tracking.


People need to know where they are going if you expect them to get there. The difficulty many managers have when implementing a culture change such as Lean or Six Sigma, is that they don’t really know exactly what the outcome will be. Disciplines of engineering and accounting neither attract nor reward people who are comfortable with approximations.

Yet there are principles, models and resources to help you imagine what your organization’s desired future will embody. Most managers share just the results such as bottom line or delivery impacts. That is great, but too high level and does not reduce the fear of the personal impact on them. In order to create an image in which people can see themselves participating, you have to describe what it will actually look like, how you will all work together, how your own job will change along with theirs, and why it is important.


Once the destination has been defined, you need to build the path for them to get there. This is the tactical level of change. Eisenhower said “Plans are nothing; planning is everything.” Plans can be helpful, but they must be flexible. I agree that the real power is in the process of planning. We refine our vision, we are forced to come up with answers for questions we had overlooked, and we have to face contingencies and risks.

You need to define:

  • Where you are now
  • How quickly you want to move and what is required at each level
  • Who will do what, when and where
  • What the scope of authority and boundaries will be for teams and individuals
  • How you will create the infrastructure – teams, systems, communications
  • What people will need to know and how you will educate them.


Just as an airplane or ship constantly measures its position against plan to make small continuous adjustments, you need to have metrics and milestones to ensure desired progress and timely interventions.

The key metrics for change are all easily tracked in simple logs. Again, I use an acronym to aid memory – KITE:

  • Knowledge – who knows what, can teach what, is certified in what
  • Ideas – how many submitted, how many implemented, originating person/area
  • Teams – participation and roles, leadership, facilitation, what areas are and are not ‘in the game’
  • Events – areas, types of events, dates, results, lessons learned.

Tracking progress allows you to provide feedback, coaching, training, and plan changes. The real payoff, however, comes when this information is used by future teams or if it helps you identify areas and leadership that are rich in talent or resistant to change.

It is hard to succeed if you don’t know the rules of the game. They feel unsafe, lack trust in you and become resentful if they think you will be evaluating their performance on some unspoken and fuzzy target. They feel sandbagged!

If you let people know what a successful OUTCOME will look like, the PATH to get there and support them by TRACKING their progress and sharing constructive feedback, you greatly increase the chances of achieving change.


©CLEARbrick, Inc. Carmen Brickner is an expert in culture change, specializing in organizations undertaking continuous improvement and team-based approaches.




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