Implementing Process Change

As process consultants working in organization development, we sometimes find ourselves in a bit of a conundrum when an implementation falters. There is no enduring benefit to retaining us without implementation, yet the action to get things going is often outside our scope by the client’s choice.

To see what can be done about this, we can start by using a process rule: when there is trouble at a particular process step, the root cause will often be found in a prior step. So…

  1. We start an engagement with a client via a process consultation wherein we explore
    1. The problem statement,
    2. A scope of work and how it will address the problem,
    3. The structure and configuration of a proposed engagement, i.e. how much of the scope will be assigned to us,
    4. How we will interact with the client’s people, and
    5. Any other collateral issues that may impact the engagement.

This consultation generally takes place through one or more conversations with the owner of the problem and may include his or her lead delegate(s), including the process owner, i.e. the person who is accountable for ensuring that the process giving rise to the problem actually is working correctly.

  1. Once agreement is reached, we begin work. Our deliverables generally include…
    1. An issue analysis aimed at reducing the situation surrounding the problem to a manageable level followed by a problem analysis leading to a focussed solution, both arrived at by working with the client’s key people in one or more facilitated groups;
    2. Further work with the client`s key people to flesh out the selected path forward to the necessary level of detail;
    3. A new or revised process, documented to the point of implementation;
    4. Training of those people who will be involved with the new process.
    5. Implementation of the solution by the organization’s people.

There may also be what we call Process Pathologies that cause a problem to emerge. Let’s look at each and add a brief discussion of what might have been done to avoid the trouble.

Wrong Project Charter

We started with the wrong project charter. In this instance, the onus belongs to the process consultant to ensure that the process consultation is done accurately. This could require:

  1. More in-depth conversations with more people to ensure that our understanding of the situation is accurate and using W-5 till we get no more information.
  2. A “Friendly Audit” of the current state of the organization as a first step in the engagement leading to a final agreed scope,
  3. A frank discussion with the problem owners on the feasibility of finding a rational solution (please refer to our blog on “Wicked Problems”. . .

Insufficient Process Detail

Our documentation of the new process lacked the detail necessary to allow a client to structure an implementation. In this case, the onus rests both with the client and the process consultant to ensure that the requirements to implement are identified and understood. This could require:

  1. Drilling further into the organization to understand exactly how work was being done before and what would be necessary to effect the change;
  2. Identifying and surfacing the informal processes and relationships impacted by the change and including them;
  3. Identifying what tasks will stop and what will replace them, including the impact on the people who are used to doing things in a certain way;
  4. Identifying individual workloads and how they would be affected by the change in order to make necessary adjustments.

Bumping into this issue need not result in implementation failure. Both the process consultant and client have every advantage to undertake the work of clarification and clear the path to the benefits sought.

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