Wednesday, 11 August 2010 00:00

Velocity Part 4 – What needs to be Elevated in the “Capacity and Will to Change” Constraint

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In my last blog entry, I discussed the process of constraint management at the heart of Goldratt’s Theory of Constraints (TOC). I presented briefly the steps to follow to manage the «capacity and will to change», which I believe to be the main constraint in projects involving an organisational, cultural or transformational change of some sort. I wrote that we had to see the positive side of this constraint instead of seeing only its consequence if not managed (increased “resistance to change”). In Goldratt’s view, a capacity or flow constraint is often something beneficial that needs, not to be eliminated (which is most of the time impossible), but rather, to be elevated to increase its throughput. What he says is that such a bottleneck is useful because it permits you to control flow or throughput. After all, this is the reason (and a very good idea) why bottles have bottlenecks!

The positive aspect of the capacity and will to change bottleneck is that, if you get and permit people to express themselves on how they feel about the change they are going to contribute to and/or be affected by, the multiple perspectives thus presented will permit you to:

  • see risks that you might have not anticipated by yourself,
  • see other alternatives and even seize some opportunities that are presented to you to accelerate and/or increase the benefits anticipated both for the organisation and for the project stakeholders, ... and/or
  • discover and create new benefits from this project, at the end of it or as it evolves.

While introducing these new propositions that enhance the value of your project, you will develop, with everybody involved, a clearer vision of the objective, the why of this project [i] ; this common, shared vision is a necessary prerequisite [ii] to be able to elevate the capacity and will to change constraint.

Once the why of the project is well understood, we can look at what has to be done to elevate the constraint and... at how to do it, in the best way possible, to achieve and accelerate project success. When looking at the two elements of the constraint, capacity and will, we can look at these as two types of maturity, the same as the ones discussed in the Hersey-Blanchard Situational Leadership model:

  • the capacity available, which can be associated to a technical maturity level (I can or I cannot ). I associate this with the part of Vroom’s Expectancy Theory of Motivation I discussed previously and that I called the Capability Principle [iii]
  • the amount of «will» displayed, which can be associated to a «psychological maturity» level («I want or I want not»). Still referring to Vroom’s theory, I call this the «Desirability Principle».

The Elements of Technical Maturity

I believe that technical maturity depends on at least these three different types of knowledge:

  • the know what:
    • information on the object and purpose of the project,
    • information on its evolution, as well as
    • information on individual and group/team perceptions and expectations as they also evolve from the beginning to the end of the project.
  • the know what to do:
    • information on the specific actions or deliverables to execute, individually and as a team to achieve success
  • the know how to do:
    • a project structure organised around clear roles and responsibilities,
    • the use of specific strategies, processes or sequences of actions to achieve success individually and as a team, as well as
    • the availability of the skills (competency) required individually or as a group to achieve the results anticipated.

However technical maturity is not only a question of knowledge, but also depends on the availability of proper physical resources when required, including among others:

  • availability of economic (budgets, money and proper cash flows) resources in the quantity and at the time required;
  • availability of material resources (materiel, space, equipment, informational/TI resources, tools, etc.) of the proper nature, and in the quantity and at the time required;
  • availability of the qualified performing/affected humans:
    • in the quantity and at the time required, as well as
    • at the necessary level of readiness when required (a very important parameter of the «capacity maturity» equation, the «elevation» of which will be discussed in a later blog entry).....
  • ....and, finally availability of enough time to realise what is necessary in the timeframe that is desired and/or has been set for the anticipated change to be implemented and for its benefits to materialise. 

The Elements of Psychological Maturity

It seems obvious that the wilI to change cannot be treated independently of the capacity to change. The change contemplated cannot be achieved if one has the will but does not have the capacity required to succeed that change. Will without proper means is just wishful thinking and really not sufficient to succeed. Those means must be found and made available. In fact, many studies on the phenomenon of resistance to change have concluded that the main reason people resist change is not a question of desire, but a question of perceived capacity: they just do not believe they CAN make that change or CAN survive, uninjured, this change. More often than not, resistance to change comes from insecurity with respect to one’s ability (a capacity issue) to evolve towards or to succeed in the newly changed environment.

The reverse proposition is also true. Even if you have the «capacity» to change, if you do not have the desire to change, things will just not happen by themselves. So, besides the «capacity issue», what other elements have to be taken into account to elevate «psychological maturity»?

I believe that psychological maturity depends on at least:

  • two parameters, those identified by Vroom’s in his Expectancy Theory of Motivation and that influence desirability, namely:
    • the nature of the element(s) of the change project answering to both the current and evolving needs/expectations of the performing/affected stakeholders, the WIIFM (what’s in it for me), and
    • the perceived value of this WIIFM, when compared to the effort required to obtain it (is it worth it ?...also called by Vroom the “valence” of the need/expectation that will be met)
  • .... as well as on the existence of proper collaborative behaviours, those that will change a group into a team of highly motivated and performing interdependent individuals.

I think the table is set now to discuss in more details, in my next blog entries,  the methods and approaches that can be used to elevate both the technical and the psychological maturity levels of a change project stakeholders and, in so doing, the capacity and will to change constraint. More coming on this subject !

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Claude Emond

Claude Emond is one of the founders and president of Qualiscope Enterprises, a project management consulting, coaching and training firm based in Montreal, Canada. He has degrees in chemical engineering from Canada's Royal Military College (BEng) and Montreal McGill University (MEng), a MBA from Ottawa University, workshop leadership training from Le Centre Quebecois de la PNL, and is a certified PMP. He has over 25 years experience managing major public and private projects. He teaches project risk management in the Schulich School of Business Master certificate in project management and the PMP certification revision class for PMI, Montreal He is one of the authors of the current PMI Standards for Portfolio Management. Claude can be reached at claude.emond@qualiscope.ca"

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