Good Methodologies, Poor Methodologies

Posted by David Miller

By David Miller, CEO, Changefirst

What is it that makes a good change management methodology? What is it about a methodology that helps an organization become more agile and more successful? What characterizes poor methodologies that hinder an organization’s performance and introduce bureaucracy and administration to an otherwise successful, nimble organization?

These are the questions that Changefirst has been grappling with for over 25 years now. We know that a robust change management methodology helps an organization become more agile and successful. PMI Organizational Agility - showed us the data on this. The report showed that 88% of the most agile organizations in the survey had established formal change management processes and 75% always used these processes in major projects. And this is only one report that I've seen over many years substantiating the view that having strong processes in an organization increases performance.

Over the last 30 years I have built methodologies, audited them, adopted them and sold them. They could be project, process and people methodologies. My main area of interest though is change management. In all this time I have discerned some very clear observations about what works and what doesn't work. As an entrepreneur I was helped a few years ago by a short Stanford University paper written by the entrepreneur Ben Horowitz called “Good product manager, Bad product manager”. My apologies to Mr Horowitz for unashamedly stealing his concept.

Here are my top 5 ‘goods and bads’ for methodologies (there are many more than five but I thought I would spare you the ‘long list’!):

1. Good methodologies allow different employee groups to use parts of it to meet their own requirements.

For example an executive should know how to sponsor change and how to track key issues and a front-line employee should have information on how to adapt to change more successfully. The same methodology should be able to help both groups and be aligned.

Bad methodologies require a hard-core group of experts who interpret it for other people or they require everybody to learn everything.

2. Good methodologies have a step-by-step approach that can be easily applied in a range of situations.

It should have some flexibility but in essence there should be a beginning and an end point.

Bad methodologies are complex and require experts to interpret them to different situations. Be wary when you hear words like ‘this is more complex than you think’. That was wearing thin in 1984 and certainly doesn't work in the 2014 business culture.

Incidentally bad methodologies are very shallow. They should at a minimum give you both description (what is the problem or opportunity) and prescription (what are some of the options for taking action or what is the process I could use to decide).

3. Good methodologies will fit with organizational processes that you would have and people will see the connection readily.

So your change management methodology should fit easily with any project methodology and with processes like Six Sigma. It should be very clear how, with little work.

Bad methodologies don’t fit with other processes and require extensive customization to do so. “We need 6 months and $500,000 to make this work” are not words you ideally want to hear.

4. Good methodologies in 2014 are available online and offline.

People require convenience, speed and quality to be available in one package. We like everything in one place with options about how to learn and apply.

Bad methodologies are often cumbersome to learn and apply. They don’t fit with your timetable, geographies or culture.

5. Good methodologies have a set of standards for how they are learned, certified and how you teach users.

Bad methodologies tend not to set standards that people can recognize and that may be hard to achieve. Standard setting is critical. To the last point there can be flexibility in learning and application processes but you need a way to work out “has someone reached a set standard?”. So, for example, if you use internal trainers how to ensure they are all delivering to the same high standard?

These are my first 5. Do you have any additional good and bads?

Tags: Change Management Training

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