The Importance of Change Management

CollaborationPicture this……  You run several large Managed Services contracts.  Your Network Operations Center (NOC) is responsible for monitoring and supporting first responder networks all across the country.  Of course, with a first responder network, lives are at stake and these networks cannot be down.  You have been involved from the beginning to ensure that there is redundancy to safeguard against exactly that.  It is now 2:00 a.m. because, of course, it is.  Network alarms seem to only happen overnight.  Your phone is blowing up with text messages, most from network devices and a few from the NOC technicians monitoring these networks.  The alerts and techs are warning of a substantial outage in one of those networks.

All backup devices are up and operating but your focus needs to be the primary devices.  You hop on the phone and start talking to the NOC techs.  They have done all the basic troubleshooting and cannot seem to reach the imperiled devices.  They are asking for approval to escalate internally to the engineering staff, while they contact the on-call customer to get a status and let them know of their issue.  Nobody is answering at the customer location.  You assume it is due to the fact the customer’s primary network is done.  Your engineers are also stumped as they cannot get to any of the devices either.  Even the backdoor interfaces you have installed and configured.

As you are the 3rd level of escalation, it is your responsibility to notify your management counterpart at the customer location.  Just as you are about to make that call, your first level NOC tech calls.  He is in contact with the customer and has just been made aware that they are doing scheduled maintenance.  Starting to feel relieved that there is no catastrophic issue going on there, you think about going back to sleep.  You look up at the clock and realize this whole exercise has taken 2 hours and it is almost time to get up for the day.  You make the coffee and begin to post-mortem.

With proper Change Management Processes

It’s 2:00 p.m. and you are heading into a customer’s Change Management meeting.  You attend this meeting via phone, once a month.  In this meeting, you discuss events that are planned regarding maintenance on the devices within that network.  Your customer announces that network-wide maintenance will occur on the regular 3rd Thursday of the month.  You note it for later reference.  The meeting goes as planned and you begin to prepare a Change Notification for your NOC staff to read and file in preparation for the outage.  The day of the actual work arrives.  Your NOC techs, by design, have switched off the monitoring tool for those specific devices that we know will be affected.  At the allotted time, the primary network is taken out of service.  Your NOC team knows this as they see the secondary devices begin to carry the network traffic.  The customer network team notifies you when they are completed and your team watches as the network nodes all return to green.  Your team then goes in and re-activates all the alarming.  Everything goes as planned and the network is back up and running on its primary devices.

So, what have we learned here?  If you want a good nights sleep and not to be making a pot of coffee at 3 a.m. preparing to tell a customer his primary network is down, create, participate and exchange information prior to any network work.  It is called Effective Change Management and it can make your life a whole lot more bearable.  Not to mention, a better night’s sleep.

How Duplication Will Increase Efficiency and Enhance Innovation

A process is only as good as its ability to duplicate. This is especially true when it comes to the lifecycle of business. For example, if I was in the business of making sandwiches, I would want a process set up that would allow the max number of sandwiches to be made. I would want to run tests and analyze what would be the most efficient way to make the best sandwich possible, then duplicate the same way of making that sandwich to ensure peak performance.

This would mean I would have a predetermined amount of ingredients that would stay consistent for every sandwich. If I reinvented the wheel every time I made or sold a sandwich, my business would fail because I couldn’t make enough or have a consistent product for my customers.

In the world of Project Management, duplication should be the peanut butter and jelly of your business, or the ham and cheese if you prefer. Reinventing the wheel every time a new customer or project comes on board will not only create more work for the PM but also doom the project to fail. This may not be an immediate or painless demise either. It would be a slow and painful disease that spreads throughout the organization. Don’t start to panic yet, this disease is completely preventable! Creating an environment of duplicatable processes is the vaccination.

Your next thought may be, well how do I obtain such a vaccine? Well, this is where it gets a little tricky. You must create your own. I will first say that I’m no expert in the field of change or duplication and I don’t have a magic mix of ingredients. However, I can tell you how I have successfully created an environment of duplication.

The Solution

My first step was to create an environment of innovation and collaboration within the members of my team. Change is more likely to take affect and be carried out if all members of that change have some skin in the game. I spent several weeks speaking with each member of my team one on one as well as creating group sessions. We would discuss things like: What is going well with the current process? What isn’t going well? Why do you think those things aren’t going well? What do you think we could do differently to make things work better?

Change is more likely to take affect and be carried out if all members of that change have some skin in the game.

After taking all that information, I used it to assign tasks to every member of the team. Writing new policy documents, fixing old ones, anything to keep them as involved in the process as possible. Once we were able to get all the ground work laid, I made it their responsibility to ‘keep making more sandwiches’ in a matter of speaking. When someone new comes in, I ask one of the other members to train them. We would then evaluate the process while training new hires and perpetually improve the process through fresh input. The processes are flexible and allow for continuous innovation, which is carried out by the positive attributes of the team along with its new members. Our key to having the best business practices is that we remain open to improving and innovating. Once the team works, the dream works! Just continue to train to repeat the same process that was already established to work, some situations might require minor adjustments but for the most part things should be streamlined.

 

The Results

Let me just end with a small disclaimer, creating an environment of duplication DOES NOT mean to remove growth or innovation. It is possible to duplicate a process while still innovating new ideas. An environment of duplicating processes should make the day to day activities more streamlined to open the opportunity for growth and innovation, not hinder it. Creating a process of duplication has allowed our support team to save over 40 man-hours every time we start supporting a new customer and helped us to expand our project base by approximately 20% in the past year. On that note, I encourage you to look at your processes or ‘the sandwich’ on your plate. Is it a well-executed sandwich that you could pass to your teammate and have them make the same one? If not, maybe it is time to start creating an environment of duplication within your organization.