3 Must-Do Approaches to “Plugging the Holes” in Your Next Process Change

Jeff Cole
Posted: 10/05/2017

Holes / sinking boat e

Ever launched a process change only to watch in shock as it sinks faster than a sack full of anvils? Or worse – been the “victim” (aka end user) of a poorly designed change that has you escalating up a scale ranging from confused to hopping mad? Often, it’s simple things not anticipated prior to going live that cause some change failures.   Lots of reasons for missing them too - assuming customers all think like you, untested interactions, etc…

Fortunately, there are a few simple things we can do to help “waterproof” our process changes so they sail smoothly through the treacherous waters of actual customer usage.

Must-Do #1: Pilot   It sounds like common sense, but common sense is not always common practice. Try out your change on a limited basis with a small group that represents the different segments of your process users. Attempt to ensure your pilot covers the full range of operating conditions expected in real life. In your pilot post-mortem, carefully study what went well, what didn’t, why, and determine what refinements are needed prior to full scale rollout. Try to include an “assumption buster” on your team – someone with zero experience with the process being changed who will ask questions from a very different perspective. 

Must-Do #2: Moment-to-Moment   Sometimes pilots are easy to run, other times they are not feasible. In either case, you can use the Moment-to-Moment technique to help ensure a good user experience during rollout. Pretty simple conceptually and sometimes uncovers a lot of holes quickly.   

The idea is to mentally (if not physically) walk through the new process – you guessed it – moment by moment. Each step of the way you’ll be asking questions like “Do they have everything they need at this point?”   “Is it clear what to do now or do next?”   “What can go wrong here?”  “Will this work under all expected conditions?”   “Do they have all the information they need?”  “Are the timings of steps realistic?” and so on. It’s easy to design a process for when things go right. It’s when they don’t go right that life gets interesting real quick. This “mental pilot” can really help keep things afloat during rollout.

Must-Do #3: Process FMEA   This is like Moment to Moment on steroids. A Process Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA) template helps you look at every step in a process. For each step, you’ll brainstorm potential ways in which that step might fail and then quantify the level of severity of each failure. You’ll also brainstorm the potential causes of those failures and quantify the chance of occurrence of those causes. You’ll also look at what controls are in place to either prevent or detect failures and quantify the level of detectability of those controls. All that is rolled up into a Risk Priority Number (RPN) and the higher the RPN the more risk of failure you have at that point in the process. Great way to systematically review the risk of a process change prior to a rollout.

That said – you can mix and match and use all three – for a belt and suspenders (and I guess another belt) approach. I wish you the best and if you need a FMEA template, send me an email.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I am about to pilot an exciting new process for raking the leaves in my yard. Happy change!

Jeff Cole
Posted: 10/05/2017


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