With change as the one constant in today’s business landscape, the question for managers is not “should we change?” but “how can we successfully navigate change?”
Businesses looking to develop a culture of process improvement might follow the lead of social media. Two decades ago, no one had heard of social media. Today, it's omnipresent.
Social media has become part of how we learn, how we share and how we communicate. It has completely changed the nature of business-to-consumer and business-to-business interaction.
Imagine if organizations looking to drive change and process improvement could find a way to capture the collective imagination in the way that social media does. Surprisingly, social media campaigns really require only five essential actions to be successful.
1. Establish a Sense of Urgency
Stories explode on social media because they grab attention. There's a sense of immediacy and freshness, of news being shared as it happens.
The best tweets and Facebook posts convey the enthusiasm, excitement or concern of the moment. The overall effect is to draw the reader in.
Unfortunately, when dealing with business process improvement, too many companies assume their customers, staff or business partners automatically recognize the urgency of the situation so they skip this step entirely. What they fail to realize is that as soon as they lose the sense of immediacy, they weaken the impact of their actions.
2. Helpful Information Works
Networks such as Facebook and YouTube are easy, informative, likeable and above all, rewarding. People at all skill levels can find the information they are seeking, which keeps them coming back for more.
Compare this to process improvement projects and the accompanying documentation that organizations typically produce. Formal spreadsheets, charts and procedure manuals written in hard-to-understand language are off-putting. And simply finding these documents can be an almost impossible task in some companies.
Like social media, organizations that want to establish a culture of improvement need to make their processes simple, useful and accessible to all, so that processes can be adopted, applied continuously and improved.
Rather than hiding information away in files that are never referenced, process documentation should be centrally located and presented in an easy-to-view and understand format. Capturing process knowledge with the same simplicity and helpfulness found on social networks will help to engage employees in process conversation, making it far more likely they will volunteer improvement ideas and suggestions.
3. Shareable Content
Shareable content is one of the key reasons social media has such a high participation rate. It's easy to send information to friends, colleagues and partners, and to embed content from other sites and other networks. And if content strikes the right note, it will be shared over and over again.
How can this be applied to process improvement? Because people are unlikely to come running to your processes, you need to take the processes to them.
Present information in rich, engaging formats. Share process know-how from the places that teams already visit. Make your knowledge mobile, accessible and shareable, then monitor where, when and how users access the data to learn what formats teams prefer.
4. Personalize Processes
Another core success factor feeding social media is interaction. Users like to personalize their experience by interacting with sites by hitting "like" or making comments. Doing so makes users feel they’re part of what's going on, encouraging further contributions and engagement. And the more they use the network, the more engaged they become.
By applying these same techniques to conversations with process owners and collaboration among teams, you can tap into this same behavior. Processes can evolve continuously by enabling users to connect, comment, respond, collaborate and even disagree.
5. Don't Forget Process Governance
There's no point in grabbing attention only to disappear. This is as true for process improvement as it is for social media.
A process improvement culture must be maintained, not simply achieved and then forgotten. This means meeting and publicizing milestones and demonstrating success stories coming from change projects. Business process management teams should track and communicate the business value they are delivering on an ongoing basis.
Dealing with Disruption
Driving change within an organization requires overcoming the natural tendency towards inertia, and our reluctance to move from the comfort zone of old methods. By generating a buzz, creating enthusiasm, inspiring and involving people and maintaining momentum, change is not only possible — it can also be very successful.