Abdallah Salloum Breaks Down How to Design and Drive Change in Organizations

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Abdallah Salloum knows the ins and outs of transforming business processes in ways that best impact results, organization-wide. While beginning his career as a line worker at Mazda’s motor manufacturing plant, Mr. Salloum was busy completing his college studies. He has built a rich resume of experiences that require a head for business systems and acumen in project management.

By 2017, Abdallah Salloum was leading GE Healthcare’s flagship MRI supply chain division to $2.5 billion in revenue. Along the way to successes such as these, he has discovered the key components to designing and driving change in large organizations.

“I’ve spent 34 years in industrial manufacturing,” says Mr. Salloum, “and the landscape for onboarding the best talent is changing. Instead of bringing people in and spending time training and orienting and teaching the basic job, we’re finding that the most success comes when we find the talent that comes in and can hit the ground running, to the extent any new job allows.”

There are no happy accidents in Abdallah Salloum’s approach to teaching about change within organizations. In his approach to driving organizational change, Mr. Salloum recognizes five elements of change that affect and inform his efforts.

Why is it important to create a strategic plan for change?

Organizations so often speak of realignment and variation reduction, strategies used to bring standard performance to products, processes and systems. Being able to look at a product, decide we do not like the outcome or the system to get to that outcome, and then zoom in on where the problems lie and identify how to switch or fix a process is the essence of change. Before solving problems, it’s important to understand and design the circumstances and the process of solving a problem.

The change affects so much more than one facet of a manufacturing process or one feature of a product. Small changes create large results, and those results have a deep impact on greater ideals, end goals, and the organization as a whole. To create a strategic plan for change is to understand where you want the vehicle to go and steer it in that direction. Effective change requires a plan that follows sound problem-solving and garners smart solutions. Change doesn’t just create small solutions, it changes the path to get you from A to B.

What are the important elements of change?

Effective change hinges on key elements that drive the best decisions and lead to desired outcomes. A buzzword in any production environment is metrics, and metrics comprise the first element of driving change.

Metrics. When metrics are implemented correctly, they give a clear indication of what’s working and what’s not within an organization. The right metrics diagnose problems and point to deficits, but they’re often mired in too many metrics to be effective.

“Pay attention to the metrics and be smart in what metrics you’re going to select,” says Abdallah Salloum. “Find the metrics you want to account for in order to design the change plans, change, and transformation.”

Infrastructure is an absolutely critical part of designing change, and the processes within infrastructure are critical. Remember that tools found within the infrastructure are just that—tools—unless they support the larger function and process that drives change. A tool alone will not get you where you want to go, even if it’s a fantastic tool. The tool matters, but it’s only important when it’s brought in at the right moment. Introducing the tool does not achieve change. Tools are often a dime a dozen, and though they’re extremely important, out of context with the elements of change and on their own, they cannot drive change.

People make up the third change element, but for people to drive change, they have to collaborate, show up, dial in, and be present. People must be properly trained, and equipped. Organizations that drive change do so proficiently by adopting a farmer mentality. An organization bent on effective change must have people who can really plant seeds, nurse them, nurture them, and pay attention to how they are instilling change in very pragmatic ways. The right people to make any sort of change do not just walk in brashly sword drawn, save the day and walk away – heroes are too often celebrated in organizations while “farmers” are the ones that bring about sustainability, growth, resulting in a great crop.

Communication is vital in any organization particularly ones that are designing and driving change. The quality, frequency, and mode of communication are all vital to moving initiatives forward in the right way. Abdalah Salloum lays out a clear communication plan with the organizations he serves. “In my transformation plan, I always have a robust communication plan—who am I going to talk to, how often, at what frequency using what medium. What’s the message?” It’s important to keep these considerations top of mind when designing change.

Symbolic Action is the last key element in driving change. Today, symbolic actions and recognition are far more important than they’ve ever been. Giving positive feedback when it’s deserved and providing accountability and insight is vital to a working team. People thrive on symbolic interaction, and feedback—when given constructively—is important. Symbolic action should coincide with the needle moving towards empty or full. When you combine symbolic action with driving your metrics and using your infrastructure, you are in control and the organization will benefit from effective change.

What are the biggest challenges to designing and driving change?

When the elements of change are broken down, many organizations find their greatest challenges come in the practices which involve people. While systems can be standardized, the human element can challenge consistency. Integrating all five elements together is vital as well. When you miss an element, you make a change, and you make progress, but you will not be as effective in your change and achieve the optimum outcome. When these key tenets of change are held together, success is more likely to follow, for organizations and individuals alike.

About Abdallah Salloum

Abdallah Salloum is known for his talent to impact organization-wide results by transforming business processes. He began what would become a prolific career as a line worker with Mazda motor manufacturing, where he was lauded for his problem-solving acumen. Mr. Salloum continued to build a resume in industrial manufacturing and took on senior executive and other leadership positions along the way. He speaks multiple languages and received his MBA in Strategic Management from Davenport University.

Salloum sits on the Michigan Industrial Engineering Advisory Board and, since 2017, has led the MRI Supply Chain division at GE Healthcare. The company’s flagship MRI Supply Chain division reached $2.5 billion in revenue under his leadership.

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