Preparing the Organization for Change Management

The University of Alaska at Fairbanks (UAF) has been a long-standing client of our Process Advantage® (PA) toolbox. They have utilized PA since 2011 generating a long list of successful projects. We are proud of the work they have accomplished over the years and know that their insights on the challenges and successes they encountered along the way might help others in the midst of process improvement. To that end, we are sharing a few keys from UAF’s PA work in this blog post and the next. For this post, we focus on preparing your organization so that it can be successful with change management.  In the next, we discuss keys to implementing change management, from selecting your process through to successful implementation.

UAF-prepare-the-org-blog-300x200.jpgChange of any type is difficult and time consuming for organizations, particularly those that are complex, mission-focused companies.  To ensure success of their PA initiatives over the years, UAF has built some boundaries around the process.  As you prepare your organization for process improvement, keeping these ideas in mind will help you build a stronger, more successful program.

The University’s list includes:

  • Respect history and tradition: To do this, acknowledge that the systems you are targeting for a change initiative were initially created with sincere and intelligent goals. Project teams at UAF respected the work and thought behind the systems they were focused on as they worked to improve them, wrestling through how best to honor the old while building systems using new theory and current technology.
  • Assure your process improvement approach has credibility: The academic world can be skeptical of outside consultants.  UAF’s leadership had vetted PGS’ Process Advantage, but knew that faculty might still question its rigor. They circumvented this problem by creating an in-house team (the PIT crew) back in 2011 to facilitate their PA projects. Although staff has changed over the years, the PIT crew remains the holder of change theory and tools.  PGS still brings 3rd party objectivity and mastery in the tools, but they are framed by the familiar and trusted faces of current staff. Whether you look at a “train the trainer” approach or let a consultant team drive the tools and implementation, making sure that you address the credibility of the tools chosen is essential to gaining buy-in from staff and stakeholders, particularly those not involved in the change effort.
  • Set and assess program costs: Government funding and serious cuts in their budget has impacted UAF’s Process Advantage roll-out to varying degrees over the years. Every organization’s budget constraints will be a little different, however, the approach should be the same. Before you begin process improvement, know your budget and assure you have top leadership buy-in on the front end, particularly in terms of supporting the costs of process changes. Also in consideration of project costs, give attention to low hanging fruit and/or processes that are ripe with cost-saving improvements as a way to see return on investment quickly and build both momentum and buy-in over the long haul.
  • Embrace your organizational culture rather than battle against it: This is particularly true if the organization has a culture of departmental silos and territorialism, that culture can quickly fuel strong opposition to change. Sound change management tools can combat a hostile culture by putting the focus on building a cross-departmental team whose goal is objectively fixing a process for all involved. So, you don’t have to fight the culture, but let the tools lead the change. For example, at UAF, the process mapping or flowcharting exercise allows teams to focus on the process and needed changes as an objective series of cross-departmental steps, taking the ownership and politics out of the picture.

As a whole, the change management system you choose should begin with establishing the right environment for change to happen. This will enable your change initiatives to overcome challenges with internal politics, culture battles, budget constraints, etc. A solid change management approach validates the organization and its history while encouraging it to embrace improvements and change for its own strengthening and growth.  If you are interested in learning more about our change management tool, Process Advantage, drop us a quick email.