In order for leaders to better manage their teams for continuous improvement initiatives, it is important for them to implement a change management model. Let us take a look at one of the most commonly applied change models in the industry

William Bridges’ Three Phase Transition Model:

This is another popular change management model that was proposed by William Bridges, a leader in transition and change management and was rated by The Wall Street Journal in 1993 as one of the ten most popular executive development consultants in the United States. The three steps of William Bridges’ transition model are:

Ending, Losing, and Letting Go – In this phase individuals have to let go of the old identity as well as their way of doing work. This is an ending phase and business leaders need to support their people as they deal with the losses..

The Neutral Zone – The neutral zone is the in-between phase when the old is gone but the new state has not yet been fully operationalized. To be successful in driving the change, leadership needs to ensure that this zone is viewed as an opportunity to create something new and exciting. If handled properly, people emerge from this zone more comfortable and confident about the new change.

The New Beginning – As per Bridges the beginning will take place only after the people experiencing the change have come through the wilderness and are ready to make the emotional commitment to do things the new way and see themselves as new people. Leadership needs to communicate the purpose of the new beginning very clearly.

Case Study:

Home Depot had launched it Six Sigma program in 2001, but by 2007 stock prices dropped by around 8 percent when former CEO Robert Nardelli resigned. The company also dropped from the top spot on the American Customer Satisfaction Index rankings among major retailers to the bottom in 2005. The ouster of Robert Nardelli was seen by many as proof that the Six Sigma methodology does not work in improving either the top line or bottom line for a company. However, 60 percent of all Six Sigma initiatives fail because of poor change management, according to a renowned Six Sigma author and consultant who has been involved with Six Sigma since the early 1980s.

An article that appeared in the destination CRM webzine titled “Six Sigma: What went wrong?” very succinctly summed up the reason behind the failure as, “At Six Sigma locations, a sizable gap may exist: While it might be clear what type of change is needed to technically enhance throughput, the success of that effort hinges on whether that behavior is modified permanently. Process improvements may perfectly achieve their objectives, but the workforce may not be prepared to accept them as part of their daily routines.” It is this lack of initial acceptance of the program that probably produced results that were sub-optimal compared to the expectations and led to the former CEOs ouster.

It is very important to mention though that the Six Sigma program at Home Depot did not die with the exit of Bob Nardelli. A quick search of the Home Depot Career link in November 2011, gave thirty-seven posted positions that required some level of Six Sigma knowledge.