Change can be more than challenging in the business world. Process change projects have gone awry more than once, leaving behind a wake of nervous professionals. Janne Ohtonen of Process Excellence Network has laid out 3 Essential Tips for Driving a Process Change Project:
- Lead the process change projects with people in mind
- Communicate, communicate, communicate
- Focus on outcomes – not outputs and issues
Ohtonen acknowledges that process change projects are often met with failure, but avoiding common pitfalls may be easier than one would think. It is crucial, as Ohtonen notes, to lead the process change projects with people in mind:
Since the project manager is usually in the direct leading role for process change projects, let’s think what kind of person the project manager should be. That person should prefer influence to power. People are more likely to approach the project manager with their problems if that person is able to persuade others to move forward in a positive way. Meanwhile, using power to force something through may result in resistance. The project manager should also be quick to understand what is important and what is not. There is so much information that it is easy to get derailed. The project manager is the person who should be at all times on the right track, taking everyone else in the same direction. And to stay right on track the project manager needs to observe and re-evaluate the situation continuously and vigorously. They also have to be likable person so that they can be well networked with all related stakeholders.
Communication is equally as crucial. Change, by its nature, deals with uncertainty and confusion. Communicating with the people around you and making sure everyone remains on the same page will make any surprise, big or small, seem more manageable. To make communication work for your project team as much as possible, try to schedule regular and agreed upon meetings to go over whatever information you have. Information is clearly an important component in process change management. However, Ohtonen reminds us that information should not be used “as a weapon or means of control.” Change is hard enough to deal with as it is without adding personal politics into the mix. As difficult as it may seem, issues should not be at the forefront of your conversations. It is difficult for an individual, let alone a group, to not focus attention on problems that may crop up.
However, focusing on outputs and issues is much less effective than focusing on outcomes. Outcomes are what it is all about. If you focus on your outcomes, it may become apparent that what you initially perceive to be large problems really don’t influence the end result as much you thought it would. Also, if you do focus too much on issues you run the risk of spending money where you don’t need to. Change is indeed scary, but like anything that challenges a business' comfort zone, it becomes less terrifying when understood and executed intelligently. Following Ohtonen’s three tips is a simple and effective way to manage the fear and dangers of change. In the end, you will most likely see that you have nothing to be afraid of.