Overview of GE’s Change Acceleration Process (CAP)

In 1989-90, under the direction of Jack Welch, GE launched “Work-Out” – a team based problem-solving and employee empowerment program modeled after the Japanese quality circles model that was in vogue at the time.  Work-Out was a huge success and Welch was frustrated by the rate of adoption through the business.  Welch, the visionary, realized that GE (and everyone else!) was entering an era of constant change, and that those who adapted to change the fastest would be the survivors.  He commissioned a team of consultants (including Steve Kerr, who was to become GE’s first Chief Learning Officer) to scour industry and academia to study the best practices in change management and come back to GE with a tool kit that Welch’s managers could easily implement.  The result was the Change Acceleration Process, commonly referred to within GE simply as “CAP.”[1]

The Change Effectiveness Equation

The team studied hundreds of projects and business initiatives.  One of their insights was that a high-quality technical strategy solution is insufficient to guarantee success.  An astonishingly high percentage of failed projects had excellent technical plans.  As an example of such a project, consider a business adopting Siebel Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system enterprise-wide.  Typically a great deal of effort is put into the technical strategy – to deploy the hardware and software, train the employees, etc.

The team found that it is lack of attention to the cultural factors that derail the project when there is a failure – not the technical strategy.  Failure, for our purposes, is defined as failing to achieve the anticipated benefits of the project (i.e., the benefits that justified the project in the first place).

The team created the Change Effectiveness Equation, QxA=E as a simple way to describe the phenomena.  Translated to English, it reads: the Effectiveness (E) of any initiative is equal to the product of the Quality (Q) of the technical strategy and the Acceptance (A) of that strategy.  In other words, paying attention to the people side of the equation is as important to success as the technical side .  It is interesting to note that they used a multiplicative relationship; if there is a zero for the Acceptance factor, the total effectiveness of the initiative will be zero, regardless of the strength of the technical strategy.  I’m sure we can all cite examples from our own experience when this was observed.

The Change Acceleration Process (CAP) Model

1. Leading Change

First and foremost, authentic, committed leadership throughout the duration of the initiative is essential for success.  From a project management perspective, there is a significant risk of failure if the organization perceives a lack of leadership commitment to the initiative.

2. Creating A Shared Need

The need for change must outweigh the resistance – the inertia in the organization to maintain the status quo.  There must be compelling reasons to change, that resonate not just for the leadership team, but that will appeal to all stakeholders.  To paraphrase Peter Senge in his groundbreaking book, The Fifth Discipline, “Although we are all interested in large scale change, we must change one mind at a time.”

3. Shaping a Vision

Leadership must articulate a clear and legitimate vision of the world after the change initiative.  Every journey must have a destination otherwise you are just wandering.  The vision must be widely understood and shared.  The end-state must be described in behavioral terms – i.e., observable, measurable terms.  Not business results, but individual behavior.  This might be the single most critical factor in a successful change initiative.   For a more detailed explanation of why this is so critical, see: CAP Lessons from Front Page News

4. Mobilizing Commitment

Once you have leadership support, compelling logic for change, and a clear vision of the future, you have the necessary ingredients to rollout your initiative.  You now begin to execute an influence strategy to build momentum.  You leverage the “early adopters,” to pilot the project where you face low resistance and can learn from mistakes with a forgiving partner.

5. Making change last

Steps 2-4 are primarily about accelerating adoption of your changes.  Steps 5-7 are about making the changes permanent.  You leverage early wins, taking the knowledge gained in your pilots and transfer learning’s and best practices to your broader rollout.  You plan for integrating with other existing, potentially competing, initiatives.  You assess what is helping and hindering the initiative.

6. Monitoring process

It is important to plan for measuring the progress of your change initiative.  Is it real?  How will you know?  You need to set benchmarks — realize them – and celebrate! Similarly there must be accountability for lack of progress.

7. Changing Systems and Structures

Every business has underlying systems and structures: hiring & staffing, IT systems, training & development, resource allocation, organizational design, SOPs/workflow, etc..) These systems were designed to support the current state of the business.  If they are not changed to support the desired, future state of the business they will always push you back to the old way.  That’s what they are supposed to do.  In order to make change permanent you must systematically identify how these systems influence the behavior you are trying to change, and modify them appropriately.  Failure to address these systems and structures is why so many initiatives become the proverbial “flavor of the month.”  For further discussion, see the 23 Feb 09 post; “The Results – Activities – Systems and Structures Model.”


[1] Becker, B., Huselid, M., and Ulrich, D. (2001), The HR Scorecard; Linking People, Strategy, and Performance. Harvard Business School Press, Boston, MA.

Advertisements

33 responses to “Overview of GE’s Change Acceleration Process (CAP)

  1. I really liked this overview of the CAP-model! It explain the complexity in the model in a very easy way!
    Thanks!

  2. Pingback: Project Management: The Lite Touch « Kate Fialkowski: Future Forward 2.0

  3. Some very inciteful thoughts! For me “Every journey must have a destination otherwise you are just wandering.” and “These systems were designed to support the current state of the business. If they are not changed to support the desired, future state of the business they will always push you back to the old way. That’s what they are supposed to do.” really struck a chord.
    Thank you!!!

  4. Pingback: GE’s Change Acceleration Process (CAP) Model Overview « Birdsong Technology Group

  5. Pingback: Emotional Intelligence and Organisational Change | eadinehickey

  6. Pingback: Brainstorm on communication inside the museum « Arts & Culture Marketing

  7. How do I reference this page?

    Do I just use the weblink or is there a way I can reference it Harvard style?

    • Bob Von Der Linn

      Stephanie,
      Use the weblink. It makes it easy for folks to find the page and create links back to it themselves.
      I’m happy to answer questions about CAP anytime, should yoou have any. Thanks for looking!
      Bob

  8. Thanks for this information, Bob. Could you let me know where I would go to find out what it would take for my organization to become certified/use the GE CAP Framework? I couldn’t readily find any information online. Thanks.

    Carolina

  9. Bob Von Der Linn

    Carol,
    I am not aware of any “certification” on GE’s CAP process. There are a few consulting companies that do specialize in CAP training/coaching. There are also a few companies like Prosci and LaMarsh that offer Change Management training that is conceptually close to CAP. I’d be happy to discuss other options with you if you can’t find something that works for you.
    Bob

  10. I am a certified trainer for GE.
    We get certified through Crotonville for all GE courses – including CAP.
    I would recommend contacting Crotonville directly.
    -Sandra

    • Exactly right Sandra – I’m a certified CAP professional, Master Black Belt – in DMADV (Design for Six Sigma) and DMAIC – Crotonville is where I was trained while working at GE. This overview of CAP is spot on – the challenge for most organisations is “how” to get these results. Most of the success stems from leadership commitment, correct voice of the customer understanding, and influential communication to the organisation. CAP works wonders to get changes to last!

      • Dear Leyla,

        What are the main objectives of the Change Acceleration Process?

        Regards,

        Améziane

  11. Maureen Muthaura

    Where can an individual in Kenya access this training?

  12. Great overview – is there a tool that my organization can use to assess their ability to change – an intro tool that will enable self/risk assessment??
    Thanks for your help!
    Susan

    • Bob Von Der Linn

      Susan,
      There are a bunch of “Change Readiness Assessment” tools/surveys available online. My experience with these tools is that they don’t really provide a lot of valuable/actionable insight. I have found that you need to focus on the specific change being initiated, not a generic “readiness.” For example, ask yourself or your stakeholders; Who will be impacted by this change? What are we going to ask them to do differently? How are they likely to react to this? Will they embrace this or do we expect resistance? – If you expect resistance, you probably need CAP!
      Thanks for your question, Bob

  13. Bob
    I found your overview extremely helpful thanks!
    My organisation are keen to use the CAP model to accelerate change process around Account Management. Following a recent restructure- leading in change, the vision is to embed Account Management across every section of the company (not just the sales team) to become more “customer centric”
    Do you have any advice around “creating a shared vision”.
    Thanks, Julie

    • Bob Von Der Linn

      Julie,
      Creating a Shared Vision is critical to success, and it turns out to be very challenging. Most of us are so busy managing our day-to-day tasks that we seldomly take the time to think about where we need/want to be in a year, or two, or five, and what “success” might actually be like. Two suggestions: 1. Obviously, you must create a compelling vision before it can be shared. Widely sharing a lame vision is actually counterproductive. Watch this TED video by Simon Sinek, it is very powerful. I show this to leaders as often as I can. It really challenges their thinking about vision. https://bvonderlinn.wordpress.com/2010/12/06/shaping-a-vision-mobilizing-commitment/
      2. When you are ready to share, start small and build out. Bring in the innovators and early adopters first. Create a “buzz” and curiosity- let the people who “get-it” become your ambassadors. Couple that with smart communications from your leadership. Thinking through a communications plan is time well-spent.
      Thanks for your interest.
      Bob

  14. Change application process , is a very sensitive issue refering to the ethical movement of the change process. In change process the design and need for change and benefit should be effectively conveyed to individual from whom change is effected.
    Individual +Benefit for Change = Result

  15. Good framework for steering the change

  16. Pingback: The Increasing Pace of Change | Abeo Verto

  17. Lorien Menhennett

    Hello Bob,

    My name is Lorien Menhennett, and I am a freelance worker representing Joint Commission Resources (JCR). JCR previously used the Change Acceleration Process Model graphic (from this blog post) in one of its print publications and would like to use the graphic again in an online accreditation resource center called JCAccess, which is being launched this fall. If you would contact me regarding this request, or let me know how to contact you, I would appreciate it very much. Of course, JCR would appropriately credit your blog on JCAccess, as it did in the print publication previously.

    Thank you for your assistance.

    Best Regards,
    Lorien Menhennett

  18. Reblogged this on Digital Marketing and commented:
    This is a much needed dimension of recent times. Digital marketing requires stringent change management processes. Enjoy the treat of reading this wonderful article!

    Cheers!

  19. Pingback: The Essence of Life and Leadership | Linked 2 Leadership

  20. Pingback: Timeline Game, herbeleven en heruitvinden - Frans Koemans

  21. James A Hilins
    “The design of a transformation’s initiatives is not a matter of guesswork.”
    Good article by #McKinsey about the importance of investing time and effort up front to design a transformation’s initiatives.

    A new McKinsey Global Survey on the topic suggest that companies that design their initiatives to support desired shifts in mind-sets and behaviors see the most successful transformations and that the following behaviors support success. In the article McKinsey suggests the following actions: role modeling, fostering understanding and conviction, reinforcing changes through formal mechanisms, and developing talent and skills. These actions are critical to shifting mind-sets and behaviors.

    Nearly 25 years ago a similar study investigating successful and failed transformations and found an astonishingly high percentage of failed projects had excellent technical plans yet didn’t gain acceptance and change.

    From this we created change effectiveness equation, QxA=E. Translated to English, it reads: the Effectiveness (E) of any transformation initiative is equal to the product of the Quality (Q) of the technical strategy and the Acceptance (A) of that strategy.

    Below are the key elements learned 25years ago which still hold true today.
    1. Leading Change
    Committed leadership role model
    2. Creating an Shared Need
    Appeal to all stakeholders through value proposition
    3. Shaping a Vision
    Leadership must articulate a clear and legitimate vision
    4. Mobilizing Commitment
    Execute a thought out influence strategy, build momentum, leverage the “early adopters” to learn from mistakes and quickly adapt with a forgiving partner.
    5. Making change last
    Transfer learning’s and best practices develop talent and skills necessary for a broader rollout.
    6. Monitoring process
    It is important to measuring the progress reinforcing changes through formal mechanisms and celebrate! (Positive reinforce) before turning to accountability actions for lack of progress.
    7. Changing Systems and Structures
    Address underlying systems structures: hiring & staffing, IT systems, training & development, resource allocation, organizational design, SOPs/workflow, etc.) These systems were designed to support the current state of the business. If they are not changed to support the desired, future state of the business they will always push you back to the old way. Failure to address these systems and structures is why so many initiatives become the proverbial “flavor of the month”.

    Remember, no one action is the most important, winning organizations take a comprehensive approach to changing mindsets and behaviors by using all elements of success. Transformation initiatives tend to focus on improving an organization’s weaknesses, rather than building on its strengths. Despite this, initiatives designed to focus on weaknesses appear less effective than those focused on strengths the results from a new McKinsey Global Survey on the topic suggest that companies that design their initiatives to support desired shifts when both strengths and weaknesses are addressed.
    http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/organization/the_science_of_organizational_transformations?cid=other-eml-alt-mip-mck-oth-1508

  22. Pingback: The Essence of Life and Leadership | Linked 2 Leadership | The Leadership Collaboratory

  23. Pingback: How we change - Dick's Blog

  24. Pingback: Want An Effective Solution? Work On Its Acceptance! | Kenneth E Fields

  25. Pingback: International Project Management Day 2016 - Leading with Agility and Embracing Change pt 1 - Henk-Jan van der Klis

  26. Hello Bob,
    I am doing some research on CAP for my school assignment and on the google scholar ( Library) I found a thesis published in 2015 . It used the first few lines of your article above but instead of Jack Welch, the credit is given to some one named Morris Gregg of Good Health. Please shed some light on it if you do not mind. I tried to google this person but did not find much information on it. I also do not want to call out the publisher with my little knowledge. Just need some clarification on it. That’s all. Thank you

  27. Pingback: How knowledge management systems can enhance your business

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s