Keys to Successful Change Implementation

In our last post, we introduced the University of Alaska at Fairbanks and their long term, highly successful change management program using PGS’ Process Advantage® (PA).  In that post, we highlighted their keys for preparing an organization to undertake change management successfully.  In this post, we move forward into the change process itself.  Once you have set the stage for change in your organization, how do you choose the best process to focus your first improvement efforts on, and how do you assure successful implementation?

DTS_Grand_Design_Daniel_Farò_4162-200x300.jpgWe’ll start with selecting the process for your change initiative.  You may have already chosen your focus for change if a problem process was what motivated process improvement in the first place. But if not, there are some criteria that can help make the selection easier. Because UAF has an embedded team in their organization to lead change efforts, they have been able to focus on multiple processes over the years. They utilize several basic principles for selecting their processes to target in their PA program.

Use these to stimulate your own thinking, looking for:

  • Processes that involve multiple departments within the organization. This is not to say that process improvement is not effective on the smaller processes self-contained within a department. But, for full-blown PA initiatives, processes that move through several departments are a great fit as the tools help you map out and understand complex processes more easily, and they can even help to break down silos and melt away long-standing turf wars.
  • Processes that cause frustrations to the staff trying to work in them and get results: When staff can’t produce the needed product assigned to them because they are hampered by the system, you have found a system ready for PA. Added bonus? When staff are frustrated by the systems they work in, they are far more ready and willing to adopt change.
  • Processes that have significant strategic impact: The focus here is on the purpose, vision, strategies, etc. of the organization. Is an internal process flawed in such a way that it is hampering your growth, preventing you from moving toward your vision or accomplishing a key strategy for the organization?  If yes, then that is a process ripe for PA.
  • Processes that were developed by multiple departments and/or individuals over a span of time: In complex organizations, individuals, departments or teams will, over time, add to the systems that flow through their responsibility. However, they don’t often examine or understand how their steps or changes impact others both upstream and downstream. In systems that were created and then added to over time, there are often repetitious steps or requirements that are no longer relevant or useful, and checkpoints or actions that could be entirely eliminated.
  • Processes that focus on customer satisfaction but aren’t actually delivering it: Employees who hold strongly opposing views on how the process should be done are typically far more successful at slogging through and eliminating entrenched attitudes and territorialism when there is a higher purpose to be served, i.e., strong, clear benefits to a frustrated, discouraged customer of the process.

Once you have selected your process, what can you put in place to help assure your change initiative will be successful? We have a great series of posts on the 14 keys to successful change. For this post, though, we highlight a handful of key steps that UAF found essential and that all organizations can benefit from.

  • Ensure there is communication throughout the change initiative. From the initial stages until well after improvements are put in place and the new system is fully operational, assuring good communication on the change effort, the decisions being made, who is supporting the change and how, etc. is essential. Make sure to use a variety of channels – meetings, email, newsletters, social media. Wherever your staff is looking and listening, you need to be communicating.
  • Create a strong project team. Your team members’ combined knowledge and experience should cover your system from start to finish. Team members should also have an understanding of the organization that will assist them in making intelligent and successful changes in the process they are working on.
  • Provide strong support throughout the PA process. This is key to moving the change initiative from simply a good idea to an integrated, implemented, improved process. Support comes in two key ways. First is the individual or group who has mastered the tools for successful change, whether that be an outside consultant or an in-house trained team like UAF used. Second is a Steering Committee made up of organization leadership who both encourages the change effort and gives financial and political support and guidance for the change. Both types of support are key to holding the project team accountable while ensuring they have the tools, knowledge and resources needed.
  • Utilize an implementation plan or tool to roll out your changes: For UAF and our other PA clients, we create a Dynamic Plan that outlines the different tracks of activity and individual tasks that need to happen for a project to be successfully implemented. Responsibility and due dates are assigned to each track as well as each individual task. The project team then meets regularly to review progress and problem solve challenges with any of the tasks.

A successful process improvement initiative can bring a host of benefits to an organization, as UAF has documented in their PA projects throughout the years.  As you consider whether or not your organization is ready to take on change, we encourage you to contact us.  We can help you examine if the initial conditions for success are in place and assess what you need to do to make change happen in your organization