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Changing Your Processes? Don’t Forget to Change Your Culture As Well.

You’ve been there before – a major roll out of new processes at your company. Leadership gets excited and says that this time will be different because this time the processes will stick, everyone will follow along and the work flow will reach a level of seamless perfection nirvana. Everyone will be happy; work will be more efficient and profits will skyrocket.

Then implementation day hits and your staff starts to think that all of the training and effort put into creating these new processes was a complete waste of time. Hardly anyone is following them. Everything is a mess. They get frustrated and long for the “old way” which just last week seemed like the worst way possible but is now suddenly the best way ever. So the staff resists the new processes and goes back to what they knew and “loved.” This resistance undermines the positives of the new methodology and contributes to poor morale and schism between management and staff.

I recently completed the implementation phase of a process re-engineering project for a call center. In addition to identifying processes and correcting inefficiencies, there was also a customer service-training component. During follow-up, I discovered that the processes were not being followed and neither was the training. Basic customer service details such as a consistent greeting were ignored as early as the next day. So what has to change? Mindset. Simply put, process changes are futile without a cultural shift as well.

It Starts From the Top Down

Upper-level management must initiate process changes. As senior level managers, they are privy to the current goals of the company and have the full picture of the state of the business. They are also the group that staff members will look to for answers and information regarding the changes.

Get Everyone To Buy In

While senior management needs to be the driving force behind the process changes, they cannot move forward before meeting with staff members who will be directly impacted and ultimately responsible for following the process changes. Understanding the point of view of someone who handles the day-to-day work and getting their input can mean the difference between success and failure.

Clearly Communicate the Reasons for Change

Don’t assume that staff members know about all of the company’s initiatives. When you clearly explain why the process changes are happening and how they will impact the company, your staff will understand where they fit in the puzzle and why it is important that they adopt these new processes. Sometimes, staff members are so busy trying to accomplish their work that they may perceive anything not directly related to their day-to-day routine as irrelevant to them. It’s your job as a manager to overcome the tendency for a busy staff to view things myopically. You want to communicate the reasons undergirding the need for change and also, why it’s important for them, and how it will help them. The ability to effectively deliver this message will go along way towards generating buy-in among all stake holders and will help you better manage change in the workplace.

Create Ownership and Relevance

Your staff should feel as though they are involved in creating the new processes. Keep them engaged, let them know you value their input and encourage them to participate and be a force for change. When they own the process they are far more likely to follow it and encourage others to do the same.

Reward People for Sticking With It

Discuss how their adoption to the new processes has positively impacted the company. Encourage staff to speak up. What works, what doesn’t and why? The ability to roll with change and get others on board is a valuable asset to the company and should be treated that way. Consider making early adopters department ambassadors by delegating authority and empower them to make decisions.

Keep An Eye On Those Who Don’t

Those who fail to adopt the new processes are hindering the change initiatives, and it is important to identify why they aren’t succeeding. Staff members who are dissatisfied with their work will eschew even the most minor changes. They may feel that their contribution is meaningless or pointless – or they may just not care. Recognizing why a staff member is disregarding the new processes will help you to determine whether they are worth fighting for or need to move on.

Have you recently undergone a change in processes? Tell us about it in the comments.