key operational change and supporting tools in process improvement

Part 2: How to Identify Countermeasures: The Key Operational Change And Supporting Tools

In the previous blog, I discussed what countermeasures are and why they are important. This week, we’ll dive into the first two components of countermeasures: key operational change and supporting tools.

The First Component of a Countermeasure: “Key Operational Change”

A key operational change is a change in the Goods and Information Flow to either who, what, when, or how. That is how we frame the actual countermeasure. 

For example, your problem is that your managers react to sales performance monthly when it’s too late and struggle to manage before month-end. The key operational change is to develop a report that auto-generates weekly plan versus actual sales performance.

A key operational change is always a verb. For example, develop a report, create a draft, draft a template, or write a script.

We use the term “key operational change” instead of “countermeasure” because it highlights the significant change within the operation. It answers the question, “What is the key change in the operation?” We don’t say “solution”. We don’t say “answer”. When we talk about concrete change in operations, we say “key operational change” to best communicate our intentions and goals. 

The language we use in discussing process improvement is important. The more specific you are when you’re talking about process, the better. Moreover, using the term “key operational change” helps avoid confusion with the other two components of a countermeasure, which will be discussed later. 

The Second Component of a Countermeasure: Supporting Tools

If the key operational change is always a verb, the supporting tool needed is always a noun. For example, if I’m going to develop a report to autogenerate weekly, the supporting tool needed is Salesforce.

When we say supporting tools, it does not have to be tech. Many people use the word tool synonymously with tech. But a tool can be anything. It can be a script, a deck, an automation, a system, or an agenda. This is where people often get confused. They often confused the tool with the change in the operation. They say, “Oh, we have this problem, and the countermeasure is this tool.” But what I need to know is what’s changing in the process with the support of the tool. The tool does not come first. 

For example, if you tell me managers are not proactively forecasting sales, the countermeasure is not Salesforce. What I need to know is when, how, or what exactly is changing. I don’t even care what tool you are using at that point. What matters more is what’s changing the operation.

New Tools and Improved Tools

When I was working with a highly successful promotional products company preparing for scale and growth, our main focus for an entire go-live of about six months was capturing the knowledge and expertise of their top salespeople and documenting it to create standardized processes. 

Our goal was to move away from verbal training and create trainable materials that could be codified as valuable company assets. We were developing various tools such as a sales playbook, proof approval process, customer service issue ticketing process, training plan, and onboarding plan. 

Some go-lives involve improving existing tools; others introduce new ones; and in some cases, it could be a combination of both. What I find in the journey of doing process releases in bulk, as we do with a PDCA process, is that initially, we’re mostly improving tools and driving consistency. Then, as we stabilize the operation and improve consistency, we can introduce new things. 

Slowly but surely, it becomes hybrid, and then we create new tools that lead from driving consistency to driving differentiation. This is what we always experience in process improvement, we have to fix consistency issues before we can talk about differentiation.


The key operational change should be identified first when determining countermeasures. The supporting tools only come into play once a concrete change in the process is established. 

This takes us to the last piece of the three countermeasure components, which I’ll share with you in next week’s blog, so stay tuned.


In your service,

Hilary Corna 

Hilary Corna

Bestselling Author, Keynote Speaker, Podcast Host, Founder of the Human Way ™...

Hilary’s favorite title is HUMAN.


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