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Driving Performance Results at American Express

Summary: Nearly 70% of total quality initiatives and 80% of reengineering efforts have been unsuccessful because those who promote them fail to address the human side of the process. The principle obstacles to success include leadership, culture, communication, structure, and integration. Often relegated to the soft side, the human variable is the hard reality of influencing and motivating employees to drive change within the organization. The change management approach is a structured process that can favorably influence the outcome of major organizational change. The American Express Change Process was developed and applied in the initial launch of Six Sigma. The process delineates major phases of change and key issues that need to be addressed in each phase. The first phase clarifies the scope of change and how it fits into overall business priorities. The second phase creates a vision clarifying direction and prepares for change by explaining the reasons for setting new goals. The drive commitment phase of the change management process defines what is needed to make change work and develops plans to assign sponsorship throughout the organization. The phase of accelerating the transition demonstrates how the effort can be managed on an ongoing basis and may include a transition team specific to the business unit to ensure risks are dealt with effectively. The final phase, sustaining momentum, takes lessons learned from the change process and starts the entire process over again, keeping energy and enthusiasm alive through a reward system to reinforce change. In addition to significant improvement in project completion rates and average per project savings, American Express realized an improvement in customers' satisfaction with the company's products and services.

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