How to Improve on Process Part 5: Process Rollout

Once you’ve identified potential pain points with the team that have then been validated through data, you have an opportunity to drive change through process updates. Although developing a new process idea may feel like the final step at evolving the way your teams work, it is often just the beginning. Team members may be resistant to process change due to a fear of the unknown. Sure, they’re aware that the current process is inefficient and/or has risks, but they’re familiar with it. Driving change requires you to overcome this fear of the unfamiliar.

If team members understand why a process needs to evolve, rather than just how to do it, they will be more likely to sustain the new approach long-term. In the early phase of process adoption, introduce the idea to key stakeholders or crafts individually. Be mindful of factors that resonate with distinct stakeholders. Explain how process change will make their lives easier without adversely impacting their success metrics. Each craft or stakeholder will be uniquely affected by change and therefore you likely want to address process change distinctly with each craft. 

What are teams responsible and accountable for? Who do they communicate with when consulting and informing other stakeholders? How are differing project phases affected by process change? How are distinct project types affected? Be prepared to preliminarily discuss how a RACI may be affected by process change. Pragmatically present the realities of the process change so that teams precisely understand how their actions in day-to-day work will be affected. Once you’ve had a chance to walk through changes to stakeholder responsibilities, accountabilities, and communication, open up the meeting to listen to concerns.

Based on the complexity of the organisation, you may first want to engage craft leaders to align on high-level elements related to the process change. If you can’t get leadership buy-in, change won’t be happening. Be mindful that differing stakeholder tiers often have different factors that will resonate with them. Leaders are more likely to align with organisational business needs, while day-to-day team members may be more concerned with pain point changes for work activities. Be ready to discuss how business needs or project activities will be directly impacted by change based on the audience.

Process change may mitigate old risks or drive efficiency, but it will also create the opportunity for new risks. Bring all the key day-to-day stakeholders together to score risks based on severity of outcome and likelihood of risk actualization. Likely and severe risks that crafts uniformly agree on will require an adaptation of the process to mitigate future issues. Although project managers often wear many hats, you may need to rely on subject matter expert team members to adapt the technicalities of their process to the overall approach. Encourage stakeholders to think how they can mitigate their identified risks within their craft. It is essential to think through the nitty gritty element of change so that you don’t discover new risks in the middle of an active project. Reactive risk mitigation will never be as effective as a proactive approach. 

Process change involves balancing the realities of risk with the benefits of new ideas. If your core process change creates too many new and severe risks, you may need to re-visit the overall approach. Compare the risks and benefits associated with the new process versus those observed with the old process. Is it still worth it to move ahead with change? Don’t be afraid to pause the implementation of change or scrap a new process altogether. Over-committing to a bad process may create more problems than it solves. However, if a process change provides an overall benefit, let’s move ahead with execution.

For complex process change, you may want to create a pilot program plan to identify the unknown unknown risks associated with change so that the new approach is implemented only on a small or low risk project. Ensure that issue logs and risk registrars are routinely updated and monitored during periods of change so that any issues are quickly recognized and addressed. Process may not be perfect on the first attempt, but if mindful of the process deficiencies, it can be driven towards a more ideal state.  Create touch points with the team at each milestone to specifically discuss the benefits, risks, or realised problems associated with the updated process. Be prepared and willing to adapt accordingly. A lack of touch points may lead to teams abandoning the process change without your knowledge. Alternatively, failing to touch base with the team to listen to concerns may lead to lingering risks or problems. Teams will naturally gravitate back towards old processes that are more familiar, continued process touchpoints are needed to ensure that change is adopted and sustained in the long-term.