In all cases, however, people are at the center of ‘change management.’ There are various theories surrounding what exactly constitutes ‘change management.’ The senior managers do not consider what machines or computers “think” about changes when they decide to make them. Instead, they consider what employees, customers, and business partners think. Managing directors worry that customers may not like the new services offered or that employees may resist the changes management deems necessary. Change management is the process of getting people to accept change.

According to my reading of the literature on Change Management, there are four general approaches, although most theories combine them :

1.     Make sure everyone is informed.

2.      Overcome resistance by working with individuals.

3.      Make sure everyone agrees that the new tasks are part of their job.

4.      Get people on board with the change.

Keep Everyone Informed

Companies and process groups often ignore this rule, even though it may seem obvious. A change effort is likely to fail if the organization or process team expects an unpleasant outcome. Often, if we know that a change will likely result in the termination of a number of employees, we tend to keep that information from them until the last minute, just before they are terminated. There may be times when that works, but more often people become upset long before layoffs occur, and the change effort suffers because everyone resents it. As anyone who was involved in BPR back in the 90s knows, many believed that it was a method that would result in mass layoffs, and this perception made it very difficult for BPR professionals to achieve their true goals – which was to radically improve processes.

When outsiders look at their work, employees become nervous regardless of layoffs. In general, it is far better to begin the project by meeting with those involved in the As-Is process, explaining the purpose, and then arranging to keep people informed throughout the process. Keeping people informed about changes that may affect them is the right thing to do, as a generalization.

You need to keep up with more than just your employees. It is not good to be surprised in business. It is also important to keep your customers and business partners informed. Furthermore, the other processes, as well as their managers and employees, should be kept informed about changes in your process that may affect them.

As part of the BPTrends Methodology, when a term plans a project, they incorporate numerous meetings that are designed primarily to keep everyone informed about the project’s goals and the progress of those changes. Stakeholders are urged to share their thoughts and voice opposition so that everyone knows about potential problems well in advance of any actual process changes being implemented.

Work with Individuals to Overcome Resistance

The second focus of change management is to overcome resistance. Based on an early meeting, it appears some of the supervisors involved in the As-Is process are opposed to the types of changes being discussed. Change management techniques are designed to help process teams overcome such resistance. It starts with analyzing the reasons for the individuals’ resistance. There are some people, for example, who are quite adept at using existing equipment and get high praise for doing so. They are concerned that technological advances will lead to the obsolescence of their skills and result in their devaluation. By identifying this problem, the process team can include training in the transition program to ensure that those individuals acquire skills in using the new equipment, etc.

According to the general theory, people try to gain their own advantage or at least avoid unpleasant situations. Team members must show individuals how changes will be beneficial to them, or at the very least show it won’t be as unpleasant as they expect. In some cases, this may not be possible, but it is usually possible, and it’s mainly a matter of communicating with individuals and understanding their concerns.

Make sure that all employees realize they have new responsibilities

Despite being obvious, this point is often overlooked. While it is a very serious problem in unionized workplaces, even in non-union workplaces most people have clear expectations and will resist changes to their jobs if they are not negotiated. In many companies, there is a “job description” or similar document. Such documents describe the responsibilities of employees. No matter how long has passed since they were hired or the job description was written, employees are able to discern what constitutes a reasonable change and what constitutes an unreasonable change in the real world. If you want to change someone’s job, you have to negotiate and agree on it first. It is often necessary to use a formal strategy for communicating about changes, but this is merely part of the basic approach.

If a process redesign requires changing employee job descriptions, the process team should inform any affected people – supervisors, HR staff – and draft new job descriptions. Employees affected must then review these new job descriptions. New equipment and software applications often require training. In most cases, some previously performed tasks will be discontinued when new tasks are added. If the changes require much more from the employee, the changes will have to be negotiated and agreed upon. When a position is deskilled, the transition can be particularly difficult.

Encourage Individuals to Support the Change

Many theories of motivation exist, but informal forms of behaviorism work best in business contexts. When reinforced for doing something, people are more likely to do it, and when not, they are less likely to do it. When punished for doing something, people tend not to do it.

Reinforcement is the keyword here. There are many forms of it. Just as ignoring someone can be punished, so can a pleasant word or smile reinforce. A formal acknowledgment may reinforce in some circumstances. Posting that the night shift completed 200 units can be a challenge for the day shift, and the achievement of 201 units by the day shift can then serve as reinforcement. As with bonuses, added vacation time and salary increases can be motivating.

There was a time in a call center when a new program was introduced to encourage the sale of additional items that took quite a bit of time to sell. The new item failed to sell after a couple of months. The workplace revealed that supervisors tracked the length of time each operator spent on calls and complained (punished) those who took longer than average. As a result, no one was selling the new item, because anyone trying to sell it was going to be punished. There is often a mixture of rewards and punishments in real work environments, so it is important to understand what is actually going on in order to figure out why a task is being completed or not.

Management often postures about not wanting to offer bonuses to employees, although no one fools around with senior management bonuses or with the bonuses of salespeople. If you want something done, you need to be sure that the behavior is reinforced. When CEO Jack Welch launched the Six Sigma program at GE in the Eighties, he made 20% of each senior manager’s bonus dependent on achieving Six Sigma goals. GE’s Six Sigma became a major success!

Once the process team has designed a new To-Be process, you need to consider what will happen when that process is rolled out. What will happen to supervisors who support the new process? What will happen to employees who work hard to try to make the new process a success? If you really want the new process to succeed your team had better be sure that the supervisors and employees responsible for the new process get reinforced for making the new process succeed.

Too many process efforts are launched with a bit of fanfare, and then gradually fail. In most cases, they fail for one major reason. Everyone knows and understands how to do the process the old way. People are confused about the new process, and worse, are being pressured by managers to solve problems that come up. The easiest way to solve many of the problems management is concerned with is to revert to the old way of doing things. This environment, too frequently typical of rollouts, doesn’t provide any rewards for those who make the new process work. In fact, since people take longer to use techniques with which they are unfamiliar, and feel awkward and under pressure to perform well, they find it easier (and more rewarding) to simply fall back on what they understand better.

At this point, it should be obvious that Change Management has two venues. You use it while your redesign project is underway to do what you can to smooth out the eventual acceptance of changes, and you use it, indirectly, once the new process is rolled out, to assure that the new process is implemented effectively. Normally the process team is gone by the time the process is rolled out, so they need to build in support for the process changes in the redesigned package they deliver. If you want supervisors to reinforce, or management to pay bonuses for great implementation efforts, you need to arrange that while the redesign project is still underway. In some cases you will need to arrange for supervisor training, to assure that supervisors support employees as you desire.

Change Management is one of the keys to a successful business process change initiative. Learning the basics involved and incorporating them into your process methodology will increase your chances of success.


Himanshu Saxena

Consultant at DataInfa

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