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Simplification of Change

One of Einstein’s more popular quotes was “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough”.

The most prevalent “theme” of project work I have been involved with in my 20+ years at Insyte revolves around helping companies implement change.  The driving force behind these initiatives is often their collective desire to “lean” processes by eliminating waste and improving efficiency.  One of the simplest, yet most powerful dynamics of lean projects is their “bottom-up” nature that allows engaged & educated individuals to efficiently contribute to the execution of a change plan with little or no direction from leadership.  This mandates leaders state explicit change-related goals up front and as best as possible, simplify the communication of the plan’s status.  The most successful organizations are continuously improving and are good at this “process” of change.

Getting good at change can even make its way into some non-professional endeavors!

I am personally involved with a local non-profit organization called Special Spaces Buffalo that delivers bedroom makeovers for kids with cancer (similar to the home makeover shows on TV) and last month witnessed how something chaotic as a one-day bedroom makeover can be lean!

Some background information on these bedroom makeovers:

  • The child gets to pick their bedroom theme (one child wanted an Elvis Presley & wrestling themed bedroom – and it turned out great!!!!)
  • A lead designer creates the master plan for their new bedroom
  • The makeover “core” team purchases and/or prepares all the items for the makeover
  • The family is kicked out of their house at 8:00
  • A group of roughly 15-20 volunteers begin the bedroom transformation
  • At 5:00, the family returns for the bedroom reveal!
  • For a more in-depth explanation of this process, visit New York – Special Spaces.

The teams for the 100+ bedroom makeovers have typically included some core team members, some skilled laborers, and volunteers with various skill levels, including some folks participating in their first bedroom makeover.  The process is a blast, but the reality is that this group is “on the clock” the minute the family leaves and the timely execution of tasks is critical.

For this most recent makeover, the lead designer created a poster (see image below) that:

  • Identified the main makeover tasks
  • Broke these tasks into time buckets (morning, afternoon, end of day)
  • Identified the required skill level
  • Allowed individuals to sign up for specific tasks
  • Tracked which tasks had been completed
  • In conjunction with this poster, bedroom floor plans & storyboards show what the new bedroom will look like

Every makeover has been a success from the kid’s perspective.  Some of our earliest makeovers were not very “lean”, took longer than expected, included more mistakes, stressed out volunteers, and were physically draining (sound familiar!).  Not only was this last makeover very lean, Mia loved her new Bohemian/chic themed bedroom (see the reveal video – Facebook). 

From a nerdy, lean manufacturing perspective, this poster:

  • Identified the sequenced set of tasks (plan) required to deliver a very complex bedroom design
  • Allowed volunteers to immediately see the plan and easily understand how the plan was to be used
  • Empowered and encouraged volunteers to manage their own time, sign up for tasks that excited them
  • Standardized the process by which work was assigned and tracked
  • Reduced risk by scheduling tasks with the greatest variability/uncertainty earlier in the day
  • Reduced the stress often associated with significant or frequent changes to project plans
  • Unshackled core team members from the continuous burden of assigning work to team members and tracking their progress throughout the project
  • Allowed core team members to spend a higher percentage of their time on:
    • Proactively preventing problems
    • Quickly responding to questions or issues
    • Updating the plan as needed
    • Working on project related tasks they actually enjoy doing!!
  • Enabled this team to complete a makeover earlier than any other I had been involved with!!!!!

The simplification of complex plans is not an easy task, please let Insyte Consulting know if we can help you with the creation or execution of your next change plan.

Thomas Quinn, Insyte Consultant

Tom specializes in information technology, including systems integration, system requirements definition, vendor selection and implementation. He has led multi-million-dollar, organization-wide technology and systems-based projects for over 20 years. Tom is also an experienced practitioner of process improvement and organizational change management. Before Insyte, Tom managed a team of project managers at M&T Bank responsible for delivering client-focused solutions in office environments throughout the bank. He also worked as the technical operations manager for Integron Inc. Tom holds an MBA and BS in Electrical Engineering from the University at Buffalo. Tom is a certified ISO provisional auditor and possesses numerous lean instructor certifications.

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