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Two Process Change Tools to Always Have Handy

Contributor: Jeff Cole
Posted: 02/13/2017

communication

Back when I was a child, pretty much every kid in my neighborhood was armed. That may sound a bit extreme – accurate by today’s standards – but extreme nonetheless. In our pockets, rustling around between the baseball cards, candy, and loose change, everybody had a pocket knife. The lucky kids had ones with whiz-bang stuff like bottle openers and cork screws.     Mine had 2 blades and a flat head screwdriver thing. Those blades came in handy for whittling, cutting kite string, and carving my initials into the side of the garage. Can’t remember once ever using the screwdriver though.

Process change tools are kind of the same way. Our electronic toolboxes are full of templates, checklists, outlines, slides, surveys, and much else. However, there are a couple tools you keep going back to. What are your favorites?  

We could get cute with something like the two most important tools are your ears or eyes or your mind and heart – something like that, but let’s stick to those well-worn favorites we rely on time and again.Here are two I see out in the corporate trenches every week:

Tool #1: Communications Plan: Hard to argue about the importance of communications in any change process.   It’s important on so many levels.  It also helps separate the amateurs from the pros. Amateurs wing it. Pros use a Communications Plan that helps get them to the desired results faster. Formats vary greatly, but a typical solid plan outlines a few things:   The purpose of a communication, the message itself, who communicates it, when, where, to whom, via what means,  what the feedback mechanism from the audience will be, frequency, etc.Here’s a bonus tip: Pros don’t wait until the end of a process improvement project to do a comms plan. They start on this right up front and use it all the way through.

Tool #2: Risk Assessment:  Real life has a very annoying habit of screwing up people’s plans. Things like a Work Breakdown Structure, Gantt Charts, Comms Plan, Meeting Agendas, et. al. look great on paper but something can always bound in from left field to hose up the execution.  Ever had that happen?  If not, stick around – it will. You are then forced into a reactive mode to adjust on the fly.  However, the pros tend to be impacted less because they use risk assessments.  Things like Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEAs), and any of the general or specific change-related risk assessments out there (resistance hot spot scans, culture assessments, sponsor evaluations, etc.) When that monkey-wrench hits your project, you will be impacted. However, if you have done a risk assessment in advance, you likely will have anticipated it and have a Plan B, C, or D in place so you bounce back faster with less impact overall to your project.

Good luck with your next change.  If you need any of these templates, send me an email – the address is in the author information.   Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think that tree outside my window would look much better with my initials carved in it…

Contributor: Jeff Cole