The J.R. Simplot Company is a global, family-owned, privately held, mine-to-plate agriculture company headquartered in lovely Boise, Idaho. Our stakeholder base is diverse, with 14,000 employees spanning disciplines of farming, ranching and cattle production, food processing, food brands, phosphate mining, fertilizer manufacturing, and other enterprises related to agriculture across our major operations in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Australia, Argentina, and China. As farmers at heart for more than 90 years, we have a long history of adapting to change to remain relevant and competitive in the marketplace and meet our purpose: ‘Contribute to Feeding Our World.’
As practitioners of the people side of change, the Enterprise Organizational Change Management (OCM) team embodies Simplot’s ‘passion for people’s core values by placing stakeholders at the center as we support individuals through the change journey. Our primary focus is on change management associated with strategic global projects or technology projects that include significant change and/or risk associated with them. These are large, enterprise-wide projects, and our challenge is providing support to such a broad stakeholder base while maintaining reasonable staffing levels. Here are a few pragmatic tactics that we use to overcome this challenge that you might find helpful for your organization.
1. Work as an ensemble
We always assign change leads to a change initiative. However, to adapt to the typical ebbs and flows of work volume and avoid single points of failure that can bring progress to a halt when someone is on vacation (or worse, prevent someone from going on vacation), we also employ an ensemble approach. The key enablers for this approach are standard operating procedures and transparency. Our model, based on Prosci and adapted to Simplot, provides a consistent framework that is flexible enough to adapt to the change initiative while enabling the team to divide and conquer and/or back each other up when needed. Transparency comes from Microsoft Teams, where OCM plans and artifacts are housed and linked together for quick access by others. Suddenly out for the day? No problem! Anyone from the team can review the plan to see the “current status” and “to-do’s “and carry the work forward. The sudden uptick in volume? No problem! The entire team can easily jump in and help.
“Change initiatives are more successful when individuals receive the support they need, this is not only true for the stakeholders throughout the company, but for change leads and OCM teams as well.”
2. Leverage the collective knowledge of the team
Stakeholder expertise is the most valuable information from an OCM perspective. However, with such a large and diverse stakeholder base, it is impossible for one person to understand every aspect of a project or all audiences impacted by the change. We get closer by leveraging the collective knowledge of the team through a weekly change plan review. Our change leads draft change plans for their project and brings them to the team for feedback and collaboration prior to sharing them with the Project team and/or Business. Seven sets of eyes with seven unique experiences are better than one. This collaboration provides mentoring and cross-training, avoids re-learning lessons, and enables a deeper analysis of the objectives. This approach does not take much time, elevates the quality of our work, and grows expertise on the team.
3. Grow change capability
The Enterprise OCM team extends our reach by growing change capability across the company. This is our largest opportunity for maturity, and we believe in the promise of the possibility that a leveraged approach brings. The tactics below are showing promise at this stage:
- We use excel-based tools and templates to walk anyone through the creation and execution of change plans. We house these tools in SharePoint to enable self-service to individuals Companywide. Our most popular tool is a Quick Start Template which walks the user through the development and execution of change plans.
- Semi-monthly Community of Practice provides ongoing professional development to the company through a deep dive into OCM concepts. When appropriate, we send invitations to key change agents, such as project managers and continuous improvement teams, but anyone is welcome. Each event includes time on the agenda for best practice sharing that highlights great ideas from across the company and creates a community of change practitioners that support each other.
Change initiatives are more successful when individuals receive the support they need, this is true not only for the stakeholders throughout the company but for change leads and OCM teams as well. We are seeing some success with these tactics and have big ideas for the future. Perhaps some of the tactics used by the J.R. Simplot Company Enterprise OCM team are a good fit for your company, as well.