Best Practices - Managing Change

What is the difference between chaos and control?

I see, I forget.

I hear,

I remember.

I do,

I understand.

- Chinese Proverbs


What's the difference between a rock concert and a riot? Between a parade and pillaging? Between progress and chaos?

Good management and proper controls.

I recently went to an anime convention with my teenagers and their friends. There were between 1,000 and 1,500 teens and young adults in attendance and a wonderful time was had by all, with one exception.

As I was walking down the hallway looking for someone, I slowly became aware of the fact that the snarling convention volunteer in front of me was snarling AT ME! For no apparent reason!! Until I was able to make out what she was saying.

It seems there was a line for an autograph session and she thought I was trying to cut into the front of the line. And obviously she'd been having this problem with a lot of other people, too. And why was this poor, exhausted woman not having a good time? Because there were no visible controls telling the 1,500 teenagers (and one tired parent) where the end of the line was or even that there was a line. All it would have taken was one of those ropes you see at the bank and Disneyland to block off that end of the hall and a sign pointing people to the end of the line and the convention volunteer would have been able to focus on more important things without all that stress.

Change control is a lot like that rope and sign. Every organization changes. Some faster than others. High tech is on the ADHD end of the spectrum while goverment agencies take a more relaxed view towards change. Why can a company like Atmel build a new chip fabrication plant ($50 million or more) every two years and be profitable, while that restaurant at the end of town seems to change owners faster than it chanes its menu?

Best practices is a key factor.

Companies like Atmel, Intel and Hewlett Packard have a culture that embraces change. People who work for best practices companies know that things change so they aren't surprised by change. They have processes in place to quickly identify when change is needed, get the appropriate level of management approval, and implement the needed changes in a timely fashion.

Poor performing companies, on the other hand, are paralyzed by change.

* When I refer to Hewlett Packard, I'm talking about Dave & Bill's Hewlett Packard, not Carly Fiorina's HP. Only Enron and MCI, in recent memory, have taken such a dramatic change for the worse under a poor leader. Much credit goes to Mark Hurd in bringing HP back from its near-death experience.