I work with clients in various industries and whenever process improvement is mentioned they get defensive. Everyone gets very attached to the way that things are being done and spend time justifying the problems that occur and minimizing the downsides.
I understand this as resistance to change and it is OK. I patiently listen to all the reasons why things are great with the current process and then I ask “What is the purpose of the process?”
When all parties agree on the purpose we then determine “Is the process fit for purpose?” If the answer is No, I ask “How can we make the process fit for purpose?” The answers to this question provide the inroad for process improvement to be introduced.
If the answer is Yes, I encourage stakeholders to take a step back and have an overview of the process. This bird’s eye view allows detachment from the day to day and operational aspects of the process and allows a laser focus on the purpose and outcome of the process. With the focus on the purpose we can determine – “Is the process fittest for the purpose?” This shift in distance creates the space for the process improvements to begin.
For groups that are not convinced by the results of either of the above approaches, I ask the following questions “How long has this process been done the way it is done?”
Then I asked them “Since this date what changes have been made in the world?” We then brainstorm about the technological, socio economic, political and other changes that have been made in the world, including the company, since that time. The group is encouraged to stray as far as possible from the process and company so that the conversation encompasses as many global changes as possible. Brainstorming ensures that the session does not devolve into arguments around sensitive issues, since discussion is discouraged.
Once the list is exhausted I go for the jugular, “In the context of all the changes that have evolved in the world, is our process fit for purpose?” This is usually met with silence as participants begin to link the changes that have been made in the world and the way that the process works.
Now participants begin to understand. The process is connected to the company that serves an external customer who operates in a changing world environment. As the world changes, the customers change and the company as well as the process need to keep pace. When the process lags behind the changes in the world the customer is not being well served.
At the end of these sessions the process improvement is sold and participants are eager to get on board.
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About Maxine Attong
Maxine Attong is passionate about writing, facilitation and coaching. Her personal Vision is to "enhance the lives of the people and organizations that she comes into contact with". This Vision is supported by her personal beliefs that all humans are innately intelligent and creative with a desire to do better. Maxine is a graduate of…