Holy Change, Batman! The Six Essential Tools Every Change Agent Needs

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Jeff Cole

Instead of fighting crime, some of us fight broken processes, waste, inefficiencies, and morale issues. Here Jeff Cole details the tools every change agent should have at their disposal.

A highlight of my misspent youth was the first time I saw the television show Batman. Those images burned their way into my skull and will remain forever emblazoned in my cerebral cortex. Twice a week, on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 EST on ABC (network broadcasting was a bit different back then) my little friends and I were transported into a different world, helping Batman and Robin save Gotham City from a cavalcade of colourful guest-villains. The next day we would meet in the backyard with paper masks and towels for capes to re-enact what we had seen.

The holy grail to any young boy at the time was to get their mitts on an official Batman Utility Belt. Sadly, those were not available in our town (or so my parents claimed), so we cleverly fashioned makeshift Utility Belts out of Army surplus web gear and small individual cereal boxes. Fully stocked with vital crime-fighting tools such as marbles, candy, and the occasional insect, we set forth on our youthful adventures.

Alas, we all must grow up. Instead of fighting crime, some of us ended up fighting broken processes, waste, inefficiencies, and morale issues. I would posit that while the "enemy" has changed, the Utility Belt has not gone away. Instead, it’s gone virtual. The individual old-school pockets of the belt have simply been replaced by icons on your laptop. The question becomes, what should be in your Change Management Utility Belt? Batman had his bat-a-rang, smoke bombs, climbing rope and Bat-Shield in his belt. What do you have in yours?

Here are several tools that every change agent should have waiting just a click away:

  • Communications Plan- Every change project, large or small requires communications. Having a communications plan template standing by will always speed things up.
  • Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)– Rolling out a large change has much in common with any project – you ultimately need to list all the tasks and figure out who will do what by when and in what sequence. A WBS will always be helpful.
  • Process Maps – Businesses are made up of a series of processes and it’s often useful to have a picture of how that process works. Process mapping software such as Visio or iGrafx would be helpful.
  • Sponsor Assessment – Every process has a Sponsor who, if they’re not willing and/or able to do their job, can cause your change project to crash and burn. Check out our prior column on Sponsor assessments at: Street Smart Six Sigma Sponsorship for Process Change
  • Risk Assessments– Change projects can fail due to resistance, cultural mismatches, lack of change agent skills, etc. Having assessment instruments in place to gauge how great these risks are will allow you to proactively launch countermeasures or adjust your strategy to ensure success.
  • Change Readiness Assessment– Organizations (a code word for people…) can only absorb so much change at one time and still be productive. This assessment lets you know if the organization is ready to take on your change. See our earlier column for more information at: Prepare for Change: Don't Inhale Underwater!

Those are a few must-haves for any change adventurer. Plenty of room left to add your favorites as well. Stock your Utility Belt now and have it ready. The next time a change jumps out at you – "Pow!" "Blam!" – you’ll be ready.