Big Bang is an astronomical theory concerning the creation of the universe.
Big Bang is also in 'management speak' an all-out approach to change a business.
Business Process Re-engineering [BPR] advocated a Big Bang approach to change the way a business ran with slogans such as "Don't automate, obliterate!" In the 1990s many American firms embraced BPR as the way ahead. By the mid 1990s most had failed to achieve any lasting benefit. TQM based excellence models also advocate a Big Bang approach, although a somewhat smaller bang! The EFQM and NIST do not release how many firms start on their excellence framework approach and fail to make sustainable gains. The number of award recipients is known. For example in 2006 there were 4 in Europe out of about 800 participating organizations (a success rate of 0.5%). There is also no information available on why organizations fail to achieve the awards. While both BPR and Quality Awards can bring benefits when successful, they are also a risky strategy in terms of likelihood of success and sustainability. In recent times, Business Process Management [BPM] has taken much of the BPR approach, and listening to their advocates reminds me of the BPR hype of the 1990s. These are among several Big Bang approaches to change management. While the few successful organizations are awarded and touted, there is little written about the failures, hence much loud boasting and little information! Lack of information in a signal is an indicator of the level of noise.
Big Bang approaches create a lot of noise!
The major problem with Big Bang approaches is that they required a high level of commitment, motivation and participation (i.e. mental and physical resources). I challenge anyone to demonstrate this level of commitment over a long period of time. I expect that few of us can display this. I have seen enough organizations where the change of the CEO or MD leads to a collapse in the major programmes of the predecessor (whether TQM, BPR, a new IT architecture, or even R&D programmes). The same occurs at middle and lower management levels, and also at the staff/worker levels, with modified level of impact (generally the impact is higher as the person's level within the organization's hierarchy increases). Big Bang approaches make major assumptions about the culture of the organization and the ability of management to change it. Change management as a discipline also assumes that the culture must change, this is a false assumption (see STARS about the problems created by assumptions).
On the other hand, cultural management can often lead to ways to achieve the desired aims and goals within the existing organizational culture. Cultural management is about having people initiate the required actions. Cultural change is not a simple or rapid effort. It requires clear knowledge, understanding and empathic implementation by the organization's leaders and managers.
STARS avoids Big Bang approaches by starting with the individual, relating it to teams and then to the wider organization. It makes individual behaviour, norms and values both understandable and improvable. It highlights the benefits of teams and how to create organization wide benefits. STARS relates the people aspects to the process and product (technology) aspects to create synergies across all three elements that exceed those of each element.
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