Too many cooks make for great cake

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22 May 2018
Karlyn Carnahan

I was on a panel at the Duck Creek user conference this week and was asked a question about keys to successful core system implementations. After the usual advice of start small, focus on minimal viable product, change your processes to match the system rather than changing the system to match your processes, I brought up an issue that we don’t usually have a lot of good plans for. The cultural impact of change.

Most companies think about organizational change management as they go into these large initiatives. They put together good communication plans, training programs, and transition plans for those whose jobs will change significantly.

But change is hard. We’ve all seen the passive aggressive employee who just doesn’t want to change and subtly resists. The exec who says – I’m retiring soon - let the next guy do it. The person who just never seems to have time to work on that big project... The one who believes day two will never really happen and so won’t sign off on day one.

The thing is that change is really fun when you’re in charge or it, and really hard when it’s happening to you. It’s as if you’re going to make a cake. It’s really fun to mix the butter and sugar and eggs, and add the flour and transform these mundane ingredients into something delicious. But if you’re the egg, all that happened was that you got cracked open and beaten.

The challenge for those going through massive change is to help all the eggs see how vital they are to the end result and to understand that the final product doesn’t happen unless everyone participates. A delicious cake can’t be made without eggs.

How can you help everyone feel like the chef? Be clear about the contribution of everyone. Cultures are made from myths and celebrations. Tell the stories – over and over – even of what may seem like a minimal contribution. Celebrate events like the increasing participation of all the employees. Have a 20% party; a 50% party, an 80% party. Show swim lanes where the contributions over time are clear. Some contributors won’t be involved until later on in the project, but visually showing when their part kicks in shows that they aren’t going to be left out.

Sure, you’ll probably still have some team members who don’t completely buy in. That’s just the nature of change. But too many cooks might make for great cake!


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North America