Change is key to improving a business. At Fluere, we believe all types of change can be broken down into two main types, either: step change or increment change. Understanding the fundamental differences between the two, the advantages and disadvantages of both and how to drive each type of change will help to determine which, or what combination, is more suited to help improve your business.
Effective step changes can be considered large initiatives, carefully managed and structured to reach a specific goal. To achieve radical improvements and benefits that are typical of step changes, there must be radical changes and overhauls of existing ways of working.
Due to the large size and scale of step change transformations, successful projects typically require strong project management throughout. As mentioned in our previous blog on Six Sigma, the DMAIC process can be used as a project management tool.
As for incremental changes, they are designed to direct the company towards an ideal state through a number of smaller steps. The steps between current and ideal state may not be defined perfectly clearly, however, provided change is directed towards this desired state it will help to improve the company.
As opposed to rigorous project management, successful increment changes often use different techniques and rely on a company’s continuous improvement drive and workplace culture.
Which is best?
So what type of change is better: a project managed step change to re-structure a business with a goal to make big improvements; or incremental changes that ever increasingly shift focus towards a new and improved way of working?
Often it can be simple to analyse what the change is to determine if a step or increment change will be more beneficial. Typically, step changes naturally involve large-scale projects with closely inter-dependant departments or processes, as well as time and effort spent analysing, designing a solution and then implementing it. From a company-wide organisational re-structure, to designing a purpose-built factory layout or incorporating a new system, effectively dealing with step change requires managing it on a large, comprehensive scale to result in the change being successful.
Step changes are often performed as there is no alternative, some changes are too big or impactful to be broken down into smaller steps so the change initiative must be considered as a whole. It can be beneficial, and preferential to be able to see the bigger picture, as if the single step change is effective and successful, it will generate some massive improvements and impact the company for the better. Issues with step changes can consist of the big phases that are part of the project, initial planning to implementation will take time, and if not monitored carefully, can leave a company stationary and lose its competitive edge.
A project that would intuitively require incremental changes may be halving the set-up time of a machine. The continuous improvement culture of employees in the workforce could be realised to keep making changes that result in the set-up time reducing a little each time. Eventually the final target for the set-up time would be achieved. Involving the workforce to improve an existing process within a company requires management leadership, but not project management time, and often results in employees taking ownership of their department and developing it for the better.
Incremental changes have smaller teams that are easier to influence, and overcome resistance to change, as well as smaller, more dynamic and practical improvement stages. This means they are easily repeatable and often completed sooner than step changes, providing benefits and extra motivation to a workforce sooner also. Often with smaller changes means smaller improvements that may be less defined than step changes. It is still good practice to view the change holistically initially as it ensures the change will provide a benefit once completed.
Any type of change can be disruptive, stressful and intimidating for employees. Depending on the scope of the change initiative, there may be resistance to it. While some degree of scepticism will highlight flaws or weaknesses in a proposed change initiative, heavy resistance to change will detrimentally affect the results and goals of improvement drives. There is generally less resistance to increment change than step changes during implementation, due to local ownership by employees.
There may be instances in which both types of change are involved in a change programme. Generating momentum through completing several incremental changes and realising the benefits can help to overcome resistance to step change in future improvement initiatives. Ensuring that any type of change within important improvement drives are communicated well and managed effectively is key to their success.
Increment changes are usually simpler to implement than step changes. This is due to their relatively minor disruption to the usual way of working, with a proportional improvement to efficiency or productivity of the company. As step change is characterised by its large size, scope and complexity of the change proposed, larger efficiency and productivity improvements can be made, but with a more complex implementation. Both types of change require specific timescales and a strategic importance to the business to ensure they are managed carefully to become successful change initiatives.
The impact of change
Determining the impact that a change initiative will have on a company is one of the first steps to be completed in order to achieve a successful change. Metrics should be put in place to measure the current, or original, way of working so that a baseline of data is available to compare results against. Without this fundamental metric, it will be impossible to judge if the change has been successful or not, as well as quantify the level of improvement gained.
Predictions and estimations can be made before a change programme is implemented, to determine the viability of the programme and the expected effectiveness of the change. This is a key step in any successful project, as full commitment is required from the entire company. Unless you and your company are serious about improving the business, then it’s likely a half-attempted improvement initiative will result in little progress and sour the impression of change for employees, impacting any future improvement directives.
A factor worth considering that is often overlooked is the impact of not changing. Can your business afford to keep processing products, services and jobs in the same manor? For many companies, triggers which may prompt evaluating and questioning how the business functions, leading to positive change are often ignored until it is too late. By considering the future, and how best to remain adaptable and change ready, businesses can remain competitive and successful.
Change well with Fluere
Implementing change can be a daunting, complex task, but when successful can help companies drastically improve and reap the rewards. Almost every company is capable of great change that will positively impact their business and workforce. The Fluere team is trained to lead and assist with change management and business improvement using efficient and proven techniques.
Whatever your situation, there is always opportunity to improve and implement step, or incremental change for the better!
For more information, get in touch via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
or contact us direct on 0113 250 6768.