Six Steps to Improve Your Business Transformation Projects
We have a great new process. Now how do we make staff follow it?
Business and IT leaders change or implement processes to support complex IT initiatives, such as cloud computing, mobile adoption and other business transformations. Staff often adopts a wait-and-see approach before taking the new process to heart, resulting in failures. This brief explores the six steps to gaining staff commitment to new or changed processes.
When introducing a new or changed process, failing to follow a proven “one-two” approach to manage staff engagement can create staff resistance. Many IT and business leaders forget that every process requires evaluation before, during and after it transitions to operation. Evaluation must also include performance of staff and management. Often forgotten are the human resource efforts required to support the process — job description revisions, training, performance reviews, coaching, compensation changes, etc.
Avoid the “usual” process introduction approach of giving staff a copy of the process at a short meeting and then expecting success. Engaging staff requires a top-down and bottom-up approach. Our research identifies six basic requirements for successful process introduction spanning these two broad areas. The top-down activities include involving your staff in the development, deployment, and improvement of the new process. Bottom-up tasks include supervisory and incentive systems to enforce compliance. Engaging your staff—as you show firm commitment to the process — is one proven way to set the stage for business agility, innovation and revenue growth.
What You Need to Know:
Process aims to standardize how people work. The benefits of a well-formed and managed process includes improved productivity, lower costs, higher quality, less turnover and better morale. Absent or poorly managed processes increases variability, lowers quality, raises costs and weakens morale and job satisfaction. Process leads to quality by defining efficient and effective workflow. Success arises from consistently applying the process and actively improving it over time so that it remains relevant. Involving staff in the development and deployment of process speeds its adoption and improves its success and adherence.
If you fail to engage your staff in the development of process, the result can be a process that staff feels is impractical or unworkable. In the worst case, your staff may see the new process as a step backwards, and they may be correct. Failing to use effective communications that both inform and solicit input coupled with proper supervisory control systems sets the stage for catastrophe. Lack of staff acceptance of process and deficient management are top sources of transformation failures.
Engaging your staff should be part of any transformation strategy. Communication must be personal, business related, continual and evolving. Sponsoring conversations and taking action based on those discussions leads to staff buy-in. Using an important or new service as the contextual “big picture” for the change makes the process understandable and meaningful. Integrating your engagement strategy into your daily management activities makes your strategy sustainable and part of everyday decision making.
What You Need to Do:
Analyze your current process planning. Does it work for your current transformation project? Does staff follow your processes or routinely avoid them? Do you have in place defined job roles that reference process adherence? Does your supervisory staff measure and manage based on the defined requirements? If you are like most, the answers to these questions are “not usually.”
Assume that currently, process designers implement process without communication to, or conversations with, affected staff. Further assume that current process definitions do not include supervisory or job-task measurements. Finally, take for granted that managers do not include process adherence in regular employee performance reviews.
Investigate how your teams and managers operate to ensure a new or changed process will deliver its intended value. Assess the presence of the following six basic requirements for process success. Skipping these requirements accounts for most process failures. They are not in linear order, and they are cyclical in nature:
1. Develop and articulate a vision: Use an important or new service as the context for a process change and what it will look like when complete. Failure often arises because the intended process user does not understand the big picture.
2. Plan and provide resources: Ensure that you and your management staff provide the groundwork and assets required for successful process introduction.
3. Invest in training and development: Avoid the common process introduction approach of a) giving staff a copy of the process, b) providing an hour or two of orientation, and c) assuming the new process will achieve its design goals. Train staff and managers in the tasks required of each.
4. Assess or monitor progress: Design uptake and adherence goals for staff and management and include them in the process design. Monitor performance relative to these goals.
5. Provide continuous assistance: Based on your assessment in Step 4, intervene with coaching, guidance and support as needed. Success is much higher and better received by staff when assessment includes constructive assistance.
6. Create a context conducive to change: Connecting the process to business values sets the stage for shared understanding and a culture of shared accomplishment.
Start now by committing to these six steps for all business transformation projects, process designs, or large-scale changes. Begin with quick-win solutions that address major elements from the above list. Encourage a culture that is accountable, supports originality, and rewards involvement. Use tools to promote communication and learning, including informational seminars for staff and include customers, providers, business and IT at all appropriate levels (and staff as appropriate). Show your commitment with assistance as well as linking staff and management performance evaluations to process success metrics.