With any activity that involves improvement, change is an inevitable part of the process, because ultimately, if nothing changes then nothing changes. This may seem like an obvious statement to make however, the focus during the course of a process improvement endeavour can become diverted and reactive. Managing change must remain a strong focus without distraction. In any process or project undertaken for improvement purposes managing change is a huge part of the process and not in any way separate from it.
It may be useful to consider previous successful and unsuccessful process improvement endeavours and make a list of what worked. Some of your more successful process improvement projects may have included the following change management aspects;
• Strong leadership – A person who provides direction, driving the changes towards the ultimate goal of process improvement. There leadership style should be positive, inclusive and optimistic.
• Clear goals and objectives – Here a leader should promote a clear vision for the future which should motivate, inspire and excite those involved. The vision should envisage better conditions for the future than those that currently exist.
• Requirement for change – The need for change and how it will be achieved should be effectively and regularly communicated. All staff, at every level, should be aware of the value and purpose of their work throughout the project.
• Resistance Management – There will always be resistance to change however it should be regularly managed to ensure doubts, fears and negativity are eliminated in order that progress towards the goal of improvement is not prevented. Resistance, should however, not be ignored. It should be listened to and managed whenever it arises.
• Cultural Changes – Successful process improvement projects involve changing the nature of the organisational culture. The leader should make not only create a change in “how things are done around here” for the duration of the project but also create an environment for future changes which occur as a result of process improvement efforts.
Some process improvement projects which fail often do not include the above aspects; they have unclear goals, the need for change was often not fully comprehended by those it affected and those who resisted change were allowed to win. What is noteworthy is the fact that none of the aspects covered here involve the use of technical tools or specialist knowledge but the soft skills that already exist within your organisation.