Have you ever implemented a new process in an organisation? If not, chances are you’ve been around when one has been implemented, and if you’re lucky then it all went swimmingly.
We implement new processes all the time! From big changes such as switching our project management software, to smaller things such as office cleaning routines. As we’re a small team of around 10 our new process implementations normally occur in a less formal approach, a quick meeting or slack message will usually suffice. This quick turnaround for change works well for us and goes hand in hand with the agile processes we follow. Given that some of the implementations don’t always go smoothly and don’t always have the desired outcome, this made me wonder how other people do it and what problems can be avoided if we follow some processes for implementing these changes. The following are all of the core principles and ideas that I’ve found which could help you implement a new process or understand the reasoning why a new process is being implemented for you.
Have a why
If there’s no reason for change than for the sake of it people will resist. Create an objective statement that defines, you guessed it – the objective. This should include the process that needs to be updated and how that relates to the ‘why’. Your ‘why’ could be a number of reasons including a business objective, a lack of process, a flawed process, or even sub-par training. Whatever the justification is it needs to be solid and something everyone can understand. This brings me to…
Get buy in
No one likes being left out or at the very least not being represented. Get everyone’s input and acknowledgment into what you’re looking to change and how it’s going to affect everyone. Our team doesn’t struggle with change very much, most of the time everyone is receptive to the idea but this just isn’t true for all businesses. Some people are scared of change, even if it’s for the best (See “Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson” for more info on this). Including them in the process from the get-go will help ensure everyone adopts the new process with enthusiasm.
Make it easy
Document, document, document. Yes, I know documentation is boring and takes time but people need to know what they’re doing and why they’re doing. Documenting clear and concise steps on how people can enact the new process and reasoning behind what they’re doing will enable a smooth and consistent rollout. Don’t assume anything and document every single step no matter how small you think it is, including images wherever possible. An update statement is also good to include to let users know how the new process compares to the old in complexity, steps, goals and outcomes. Documenting the process isn’t just for the current team but for anyone to come in the future.
The beast of implementation
Don’t just throw people your now well-crafted documentation and expect it to stick. You’ll also need to document how the process will be implemented throughout your organisation. This includes the setup of physical changes such as hardware, software changes such as new programs and accounts and timelines of the rollout. In terms of how process changes can be rolled out, there are many different ways and it’s going to depend on how big the changes are, the risk involved and the urgency of the changes.
Typical – A typical rollout would look to implement the new process with a small group of people or on a single project. This is so the new process can be validated before rolling out on everything/everyone.
Fast – A quick rollout implementing the new process across the board within a short duration. Useful for small changes with low risk and impact.
Careful – Similar to typical but takes even more time to validate the processes by implementing it on a couple of projects sequentially or with a few small groups of users introducing new parts of the process as time goes on.
Distributed – People are given the rules and processes but can use them how they wish. Good for feedback and working out the best approaches. Also great if many people are affected by the changes, or if there are high risks involved in implementing changes over some part of an organisation or with working projects.
It’s also important to run through the process thoroughly using a mock scenario of a current live project to check that the expectations align with the actual results of the process.
You can’t see the future
Things change, that’s a fact. This applies to your new process as well. During implementation, things are bound to change or work differently than expected. Dancing with these changes and working out a way to react to them will be key in making sure the process will stick around for the long run. Having goals and review points of the new process will let you make changes where needed to ensure you get the most out of your new process. Also, be wary that changes for the sake of changes without a good reason will make people question why the changes are occurring and consequently lose buy-in from everyone involved, so be cautious not to make changes and updates too often.
There will be teething
As mentioned, change is hard for some and nothing comes without a learning phase. While people get used to the new process, work out the best methods of dealing with it and handling any issues that arise, you’ll need to continue supporting them. During this time, productivity may decrease or other side effects may occur. It’s best to monitor these changes to make sure they aren’t lasting effects.
Timing is key
It may be obvious, but try not to implement a new process in the middle of a project that’s going to require a lot of re-work if it can be helped. Implementing changes during crunch time or a busy part of the year is also asking for trouble. If the objective is efficiency, productivity or quality of life focused, then it may be possible or desirable to perform implementation as soon as possible. Have a think about what’s going on and what the new process will affect before launching straight into implementation. Chances are you can probably wait for the right time to roll-out the new process rather than trying to force it at inopportune times.
Double handling and overlap
Overlap isn’t a bad thing if you’re able to ease people into a new process while keeping all of their old processes intact. This lets users settle comfortably into the new process while still continuing to do everything else they were doing previously. It’s easier to remember a new process if you’re not being forced to forget a current process at the same time.
Talk to everyone
As with most things – communication is key. Helping people understand everything about the changes taking place and why they’re taking place will not only allow them to provide valuable feedback but also help in the long run with training and mentoring people through the new process. Define expectations of everyone involved from the get-go so no one is lost when the implementation comes around.
Someone needs to be responsible for the new process and everything that comes with it. Without this, the change will be left by the wayside while people forget about it, implement it incorrectly or even resent it. The new process needs to be treated as a project with the person responsible at the helm. Resources, milestones, buy-in, risk management, process creation, refinement, implementation and reviews all need to be thought about and managed like any other project by the person responsible.
Lastly, celebrate the success, improvements, goals and willingness of everyone involved in the new process whenever you can. This will go a long way when other new processes are implemented as it will make everyone more receptive to the idea of change and may even bring forth new ideas of things that can be changed.