The one process change tool you can’t live without
Ever been stuck in the situation where you’re lacking that one specific tool you need? I have too many stories of trying to McGyver my way out of a repair by using butter knives as screwdrivers or trying to overcome the lack of a metric wrench. Why, I once broke out of a Turkish prison using only some shoelaces and a match stick. (Just kidding - it was an entirely different country …).
When it comes to managing process change, we have many tools at our disposal. A good carpenter doesn’t use every tool in their toolbox for every job. Some are specialty tools and others the good old reliable standards we go to on most every job. I started thinking about – what is the one must-have tool every process change project might use? It had to be scalable as some projects are enormous multi month monsters and others are smaller inter-office type changes. It also had to span across all types of process changes in different industries and in different cultures – public or private, small or large, service or manufacturing. A tool that may take only 10 minutes to use or take weeks of grueling thought by multiple people depending on the scenario. Something that impacts a dozen or a 100,000 people. The winner? The Communication Plan.
Think about it. Unless you are steam-rolling over an organization with a “my way or the highway” type of brute-force change in which you don’t give a hoot about buy-in or engagement, you have some communicating to do! Communication makes or breaks a change. Processes don’t execute themselves (yet). You rely on other human beings to stop doing things the old way and start doing them the new way. The quality of that outcome is a function of the quality of your communications. Each person has to be “sold” on the change and flip their mental “on switch”. Having the right messages from the right people at the right time and in the right way is vital to making any process change “stick”.
Sure, you can go all cowboy on us and just wing it as you go. Maybe that’s even worked for you in the past. However, many will argue that it’s not really a sustainable tactic in the long run. Rather, whatever your change is, consider a communication plan and consider starting in on it very early in the act of fixing the process – not just at the end. Know who this change will impact, your goal for what you want them to know or do, their anticipated questions or reactions, what messages they should hear, when, who should give them, by what means, and also what feedback mechanisms there will be for people to voice resistance or ask questions. Unless your change involves just you – there’s a good chance the communications plan will be one of your more helpful go-to tools – either done quickly and informally or very formally and with great thought.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, my wife has reached the point in her communication plan where she is providing vital instructions to me on exactly how to avoid the doghouse tonight…