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The Matrix of Change

Business process reengineering efforts can run into serious difficulties when they fail to recognize the complex interrelationships among technology, practice, and strategy. Brynjolfsson et al. introduce a framework -- the matrix of change -- that allows managers to coordinate change in processes. After determining which business practices are most important, managers can highlight the interactions among the practices on the matrix to see where they will have the most difficulty in making a transition from one practice to another. The matrix uses stakeholders' opinions about proposed changes to emphasize areas of difficulty. It can also guide the pace, sequence, feasibility, and location of change.

The authors show how a large medical products company, MacroMed, used the matrix successfully. Senior managers first identified decreased costs and increased flexibility as their goals. They established a team to list specific aspects of the existing production techniques. The team identified complementary and competing practices on a matrix. Next the team built another matrix showing the degree of difficulty in moving from existing to target practices. Finally, the team determined how various employees felt about the proposed changes using a five-point Likert scale. By combining all three matrices, the company could answer its questions about the feasibility of proposed changes, when, where, and how quickly changes should occur, and employees' reactions. MacroMed discovered conflicts in machine set-up procedures and reorganized process change-overs. It cut waste, reduced the number of line and staff employees, stopped its decline in market share, and improved flexibility and response time.

The matrix of change offers managers a chance to revisit a process to gauge progress and anticipate unexpected barriers due to current environmental factors. It also helps companies reshape and shift their workers' mental models to develop more coherent systems. Its true value, say the authors, is in optimizing steps not in isolation but as parts of an integrated system.

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