Deloitte’s Lean Change Method

“People don’t resist change; they resist being changed“ – Peter Senge

Authors: Jana von Wulfen, Alina Zimmer

There is an element of fear in any transformation program or change initiative – for both management and staff – not least because they often cause performance to drop and employees to grumble. These effects can often be traced back to a linear and plan-driven transformation approach that fails to involve change recipients (employees who are affected by the change) and lacks flexibility.

In order to exploit all of the expected benefits of a transformation, we need to change how we approach change management – starting with a commitment to transparency. This is why we have implemented the "Lean Change" method for a variety of change programs, initiatives and projects, both in collaboration with our clients and internally. This method makes change management an essential part of the process and applies many of the principles of other agile contexts, such as the Lean Start Up Principles, the Agile Manifesto and the Kanban Method. The result is an approach that bypasses the performance dip by integrating two principles: Negotiated Change and Validated Learning. These principles promote a bottom-up, adaptive change, foster transparency to mitigate the uncertainty around major changes and encourage buy-in.

How does Lean Change lead to success?

All organizational changes should begin with a program of minimal viable changes (MVCs). This implies that every change should be as small as possible, while at the same time adding tangible value for the change recipients impacted by the transformation project. Our Lean Change framework follows the following four steps at least once during the process:

A: Agree on urgency: Identify the most urgent pain points in the area of change

B: Negotiate change: Analyse the context in which the change is happening and develop MVC ideas to address the pain points

C: Validate adoption: Break MVCs down into individual tasks and implement defined change

D: Verify performance: Identify where change has been successful

We “recruit” a dedicated change team from the field of change recipients to execute the four steps and drive change from within. The timeframe for implementing change using the Lean Change process (one loop) will vary considerably depending on the size of the change team as well as the amount and the complexity of the implemented MVCs. In addition to a collaborative mind-set or experimental approach, one of the key advantages of Lean Change is how productive Change Management teams can be within the first three weeks. They execute the first two steps once during this period to ensure transparency; employees need clarity about the actions to be taken in their priority areas and the results they achieve. Progress is a huge motivational driver that enables teams to own the change and see improvements as quickly as possible.
At Deloitte, we see our role within the Lean Change process as a coach who supports the change team as they learn the methodology and organize their team. We also moderate team meetings as well as workshops, but don’t consider ourselves as a project manager in the classic sense. Change is clearly more effective when it is driven from the inside out and when the entire change team has fully committed to the change and the agreed action items.

Deloitte can also support the change team as a member who works with teammates on an equal footing and provides fresh ideas in terms of content.

We have supported change teams of different sizes in various roles and have gained valuable insights, some of which we would like to share with you.

Our recommendations for your transformation using the Lean Change method:

  1. Gain buy-in from leadership as soon as transformation begins – decision-makers need to fully understand the intention of the method and make concrete commitments to promote the process.
  2. Encourage employees to take ownership and play an active role in promoting the transformation, instead of taking a top-down approach that dictates change.
  3. Involve all of the units or departments impacted by the change from the beginning.
  4. Start small and scale later instead of tackling every issue from the outset.  This ensures that you add value early on in steps that are digestible for the organization.
  5. Centralize the "what" and decentralize the "how" (most managers do it the other way around!) to leverage the full potential of your teams and employees.
  6. Use quantitative KPIs to define success criteria and review performance and assumptions.
  7. Apply different communication strategies to demonstrate the successes of the transformation (internal viral marketing, show & tell) and promote negotiated change.

We would love to hear about your experiences and exchange ideas and thoughts on the topic of Lean Change: Where have you thrived or struggled? What has been your most rewarding experience applying this method?