Every major change brings with it a dip in
production before it swings up into an increase. This dip has two
dimensions: productivity and time as you will see below.
In 1999 I led the communications effort for the total
replacement of all systems in the World Bank, a global organization of
15,000 people in over sixty offices around the world.
As part of the overhaul we documented business processes and used the
documentation to replace a spaghetti mess of over one hundred
uncoordinated systems with a single system that would operate in real
time: SAP. It was a Herculean task.
Many of our managers and leaders were not paying due attention to the
importance of our work. To address this Michael Hammer – Mr. Business
Process Reengineering – was brought in to speak to our organization and
explain the critical nature of the effort. In a single day he did
more to get our organization on the same page than any other
communication activity I supervised.
He made his rounds and personally interacted with over 1,000 staff
members. He lectured to two auditoriums that were standing room only
while his presentation was simultaneously streamed to the desktop of
staff members around the world. He met with the software development
team, the change team, and our vice presidents in three independent
In each session he explained that every innovation goes through a dip.
This dip impacts productivity. The dip characterizes how low
productivity drops and how long it stays down before the change brings
its reward and productivity increases. He showed us a graph that looked
something like the one below.
He also told us the graph does not have to look like this. There is a
darker version, one in which the productivity goes all the way down and
stays there forever. This is called flat lining because the
Hammer told me as I was escorting him from one meeting to another that
his intent was, among other things, to put the fear of God in as many
of us as possible so we would pay attention and get involved. He said
to me, “The technology will work. The people may not. The soft stuff is
the hard stuff. Communication, training, and support will determine
your success. You need spend only 3-5% of your budget on these three,
but they are non-negotiable.”
So, navigating the dip is mission critcal – can
even be life or death. And the way through is by helping people to know
what is going on, what they need to do, and helping them to get it