Organizational change management requires dedication, clarity of vision and patience to be effective. While every organization will face a different set of challenges when undertaking a business process management (BPM) initiative, the challenges often fall into one of the five categories below.
1. Lack of Leadership Commitment
When the management team is truly committed to meeting an objective, leaders pull out all the stops. Money, people and other resources flow freely.
When management is not fully committed, leaders leave their people adrift. Priorities change. People and teams are not empowered to accomplish their assigned goals, and there is a lack of clarity around roles and responsibilities. Chaos can ensue as a result of the lack of effective communication.
To engender commitment to change, everyone needs to understand why the organization is taking on a project, and what the upcoming changes will mean to them as individuals. Teams need to comprehend the impact the change will have on the organization and on their day-to-day lives and roles.
It is the executive team’s responsibility to justify a change and explain the impact it will have on employees. Failure to embrace that responsibility is the top reason BPM projects fail.
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2. Unengaged Employees
With any project, employees will fall into three groups in most organizations.
The first group, generally about 20 percent of employees, will be excited and eager to become involved in the project. The employees in the second group, normally made up of about 60 percent of the workforce, will have no objection to the project, but they will need education and guidance, as well as reassurance about their roles, before they can execute effectively. The remaining 20 percent will respond negatively and actively oppose the project.
You should harness the energy of the people in the first group to carry the project to success, in part by encouraging them to work with their colleagues in the second group, who are willing but maybe uncertain how to proceed.
Try to ignore the negativity of the remaining 20 percent of employees. They will always be naysayers. They will say, “We’ve always done it this way” or “We tried that once and it failed.” They will either adapt or leave.
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3. Process Complexity and Variability
In many organizations, especially those with offices in multiple countries or regions, there are variations in processes between sites or business units. In addition, customer segmentation and local practices sometimes lead to variations in services provided. Both of those realities can make process standardization difficult, but they don’t make it impossible.
To effectively control and manage process variations, start by mapping the global standard process and the process variations. This will identify the differences between facilities and business units. Then, when plants or offices argue that their existing processes are better or can’t be changed because of local customs or unique requirements that can’t be grasped by people outside the area, ask them to document the reasons and quantify the costs.
Do not simply accept such statements as incontrovertible facts. Ask the people who make those claims to cite the specific laws or contract clauses that require certain processes or steps, and then ask them to explain why the proposed standard process doesn’t meet the requirements. If they claim that implementing the extra steps or services will cause them to incur costs that other facilities and business units won’t have to pay, insist that they quantify those costs.
In many cases, asking for hard evidence will cause the objections and requests for exemptions to evaporate. If objections linger and representatives of the offices in question produce the evidence you requested, then you have facts to determine whether creating and managing a process variation or exception is warranted.
4. No Process Improvement Framework
Most companies new to BPM don’t have process improvement frameworks in place. And even if they do have one, it is often rudimentary at best. Putting a framework in place should be the first step.
Begin by appointing an individual with ultimate process responsibility. This person will work with management to obtain the necessary resources and prioritize potential changes.
The lead process owner should be responsible for defining a common vocabulary. Any number of terms can mean different things to different people. Not everyone understands the difference between policy and process, for example. Ensuring that the entire organization communicates using shared definitions can eliminate wasted time and effort, and it can help clarify discussions and decisions.
In addition to a shared lexicon, the organization needs a structure in place for maintaining and updating processes. Will there be an approval process, and if so, what is it? Where will process documentation be stored? How will process improvement efforts be prioritized, measured and reported?
Just as building a house without a solid foundation can lead to structural problems later, beginning a process improvement initiative without a solid framework in place may cause chaos. Take the time to develop a solid framework before rushing in to make changes.
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5. Poor Organizational Agility
Organizations that reward ingenuity and experimentation have mastered the art of trying new things, measuring the impact and then quickly rolling them out or rolling them back, depending on the results. This is the very definition of organizational agility.
Improving organizational agility takes time, but there are some ways to make it go more quickly. When bad things happen, leaders must guide the team into identifying the root cause rather than pointing fingers at a scapegoat.
Trying something new should be rewarded, even if the idea fails. Allowing a percentage of an employee’s time to be used for pursuit of new ideas, as Google does, or earmarking a pool of funds to support trial projects are two ways to signal that organizational initiative and agility are valued, not reviled. Over time, this attitude will permeate the organization, giving rise to a more agile and adventurous culture.
Tackling these five challenges will set your organization apart and put you on the path to business process management success.
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