Process Keepers Hold the Keys to Change

Process Keepers Hold the Keys to Change

GUEST POST from Mike Shipulski

If you want to improve the work, ask the people who do the work. They know the tools and templates. They know the ins and outs of the process. They know when and how to circumvent the process. And they know what will break if you try to change the process. And what breaks is the behavior of the people that use the process.

When a process changes, people’s behavior does not. Once people learn the process, they want to continue to work that way. It’s like their bodies know what to do without even thinking about it. But on the other hand, when a process doesn’t meet the need, people naturally modify their behavior to address the shortcomings of the process. And in this case, people’s behavior doesn’t match the process yet they standardize their behavior on circumventing the process. Both of these realities – people like to do what they did last time and people modify their behavior to address shortcomings of the process – make it difficult for people to change their behavior when the process changes.

When the process doesn’t work but the modified behavior does, change the process to match the modified behavior. When that’s not possible, ask the people why they modified their behavior and ask them to come up with a process that is respectful of their on-the-fly improvements and respectful of the company’s minimum requirements for their processes.

When the process doesn’t work but the people are following it anyway, ask them to come up with ways to improve the process and listen to their ideas. Then, run a pilot of their new process on the smallest scale and see what happens. If it makes things better, adopt the process on a larger scale and standardize on the new way to work. If it makes things worse, stop the pilot and try another improvement suggested by the team, again on a small scale. Repeat this process until the process performs satisfactorily.

When the people responsible for doing the work are given the opportunity to change their processes for the better, there’s a good chance the broader population that uses the process will ultimately align their behavior to the new process. But the change will not be immediate and there may be some backsliding. But, because the keepers of the process feel ownership of the new process and benefit from the change, they will continue to reinforce the new behavior until it becomes new behavior. And if it turns out the new process needs to be modified further, the keepers of the process will make those changes and slowly align the behavior to match the process.

When the new process is better than the old one, people will ultimately follow the new process. And the best way to make the new process better than the old one is to ask the people who do the work.

Image credit: Old Photo Profile

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