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3 Must-Know Tips for Managing Process Change

Contributor: Jeff Cole
Posted: 03/14/2017
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process mapping

So I’m walking down a dark alley recently in Roanoke, VA when a guy stepped out of the shadows, flashed a knife and demanded my wallet and my top three tips for managing change. Cleverly, I led with explaining the tips. He was so engrossed in writing them down that he failed to notice my hasty retreat. That’s not true (it was actually a different city).  But seriously,  you try coming up with over eighty introductions to columns….Anyway, to save you the effort of writing these down I share them below:

Humans are carbon based life forms. Organizations are process-based life forms.   What is a process?  Simple – it’s a series of repeatable tasks leading to an outcome. Processes are action verbs – think of everything we do that ends with “ing” – designing, building, reporting, installing, invoicing, etc. These are all processes – you are surrounded by them. Processes are the genetic building blocks of any organization. Your organization is composed of processes perfectly designed to give you the exact results you are getting today. 

Want better results?  You need better processes. And here is the secret:  Process improvement is just a code word for process change. You can have the best process in the world but if the humans who need to use that process don’t do so, you’ve wasted your time and money.  At some point you need to get a bunch of people (who may not even report to you) to change their behavior – stop doing things the old way and start doing them the new way. Making this happen involves a body of knowledge that is both broad and deep. However, here are three tips to help get you started:

  1. Involve Your Audience.  In the business of process change there is a world of difference between having something done “to” you versus “with” you. Find ways to get those impacted by the change involved in designing or evaluating those changes.   To the extent they feel pride of ownership, your new process rollout will be much faster and easier.
  2. Path of Least Resistance. Busy people tend to follow the path of least resistance.   While you are determining ways to make it easy for people to follow your new process, simultaneously make it very difficult or impossible to do things the wrong way (or the old way).
  3. Communicate – a Lot.   My mentor used to tell me – if you want to get your message really heard – communicate it 8 times and in 8 ways.  Why? People are met with a tsunami of information washing over them every waking second.  Your carefully worded e-mail announcing a change is just one of 154 emails they’ll see today. You have maybe 3 seconds to catch their attention before they’re off to the next shiny object.    By the way – this content blindness effect is why you can drive by the same billboard every day for a year and not know what it says. (Heck, I’m amazed if anybody makes it this far into the article – if you are reading this, consider yourself to be a smart and disciplined person – and probably good looking too!)

That said, you’ll have to excuse me as I need to go find seven other ways to communicate this column. Happy change!

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Contributor: Jeff Cole