Process Improvement Tip #3: Make sure everyone understands the need for change

There are no mindreaders in the enterprise - make sure you communicate why you need to change.

In the lead up to PEX Masters next month, we’re running a series of process improvement tips to help you jump start your initiatives for 2013. This is the third of twelve.

In the first part of the twentieth century a Danish psychologist by the name of Edgar Rubin created an optical illusion that’s become known as the Rubin’s vase (see image below). You can interpret the picture in one of two ways – as a vase or the faces of two people. Most people will easily flick between both of these interpretations but can only "see" one interpretation at a time.

Do you see a vase or the faces of two people?

While Rubin used the images to test how our brain perceives objects the concept holds an important lesson to remember whenever you’re involved with making changes to the way that your company works.

Here it is: Reality is ambiguous. We can look at the exact same thing and interpret it more than one way.

This is not groundbreaking stuff – but how often do we assume that the others around us understand a problem the same way we do? And how often do we assume others know what we’re thinking?

If you can’t understand where the miscommunication comes in – it could be down to each of you having a different interpretation of the situation. So when you’re responsible for making process improvement happen make sure that before you even begin that you’ve clearly communicated to others about the need for change: what is the situation we’re facing? why is it serious or important? what do we believe we need to do to start addressing the situation?

And if you’re looking for inspiration, check out Nokia’s CEO Stephen Elop’s "burning platform" memo to his staff last year.

Finally, don’t forget to listen to others' interpretations – they may be able to see something that you can’t.

In the meantime, do you see an old lady or a young woman?

Optical Illusion: Old Lady and Young Lady


View other tips:

Process Improvement Tip #1: Ensure your approach is suited to the problem you face

Process Improvement Tip #2: Speak the same language as your audience