Few people like change, and improving business processes mean making changes. As a result of business process improvement and your employees’ inherent aversion to change, you’ll likely encounter your fair share of skepticism, resistance, grumbling, and even fear. Implementing any change can trigger these responses. In order to improve business processes without stirring emotions, it is critical to use change management techniques.
What is Change Management?
According to an article about change management published on MindTools, change management is a “structured approach for ensuring that changes are thoroughly and smoothly implemented, and that the lasting benefits of change are achieved.”
Change management is a broad discipline that encompasses tangible, personal, and wide impacts of change. Change management can be used on virtually any type of change ranging from changes to a project, process, policy, or application to a change of leadership or ownership. Whether a change has to do with a business process or a new technology, it will always have an impact on people. Thus, change management focuses on people.
How Change Management Can be Used to Improve Business Processes
How can you use change management to ensure that your business process improvement will go through smoothly with lasting results? A white paper by Dolphin Corporation, Change Leadership Key to Success of AP Projects serves as a fantastic example.
According to the paper, before changing a workflow, you must make sure that the building blocks of change are in place. These building blocks are:
- Having a senior sponsor — Change starts at the top. For example, if your CFO is championing a change in your AP process, employees are likely to listen more closely than they would if it were a junior accountant or new hire.
- Having a clear vision in alignment with the organization’s goals — Change has to make sense strategically. For example, if the organization values efficiency, how will the change make the department more efficient?
- Early engagement — Your team needs time to get used to the idea, get the questions answered, and learn about the benefits and what’s going to be involved. Springing a change on your team at the last minute will cause turmoil while engaging with them early can be both reassuring and empowering. Early engagement can also build buy-in by ensuring that employees have the opportunity to provide feedback and become actively involved in the change.
- Confidence and communication — You need to be confident and instill confidence. Frequent communication is a must. Ere on the side of over-communicating. Employees want to know why a process needs improvement, what the business rationale for the change is, how the business rationale aligns with organizational goals, what resources may be required, what their roles are in the change, and how the business process improvement will affect them.
- Training and support — It is also essential to provide adequate training and support. People tend to be fearful of the unknown. They may worry that a new business process will be too difficult, too technical, or beyond their abilities. Providing training and support before, during, and after the change can counter these fears.
Using these building blocks of change management as part of your business process improvement will ease employees’ fears and help ensure a smooth and lasting transition.