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Editor’s Note: In this two-part interview, ebizQ’s Peter Schooff speaks with Forrester Research’s Connie Moore about the key role that change management plays in business process improvement. Here, in Part I, Moore offers insights and advice on how to minimize the impact of change in BPM projects. In Part II, she informally discusses change management case histories. Moore, a Forrester vice president and principal analyst, is among the speakers at Forrester's upcoming Embracing Digital Disruption Forum for BPM and business-architecture professionals. This Q & A, excerpted from a longer podcast, has been edited for length, clarity and editorial style.

ebizQ: Change is probably the hardest thing a company can engage in. How does change management help this process?

Change management can be, and should be, done for any major initiatives that an organization is doing because, at some level, they involve individuals being willing to do something different. It could be merger or acquisition. It could be a change in business strategy. It could be the deployment of new technology. And in the case we're talking about today, it could be doing business processes a very different way than you have in the past, and so it changes to how people work.

Now, whatever change is being introduced into an organization--even a positive change from executive's point of view, always has some level of resistance that creates a performance dip. It impacts productivity; it impacts the performance of the organization. What change management can do is minimize that performance dip, make it more shallow, and it can reduce the amount of time that this performance dip occurs.

So we're talking about something that sometimes executives think is too “touchy-feely,” but we're [also] talking about something that can absolutely impact business outcomes and make them more positive. That’s why it's so important to do change management whenever something disruptive is happening to the workforce.

ebizQ: In terms of BPM, would you say that change management is a separate issue, or should it be part of the BPM initiative right away?

I think both. Change management is a discipline. There are people who are certified in it. There are practitioners who are experts at change management and they can support any type of initiative. So in that way, it’s separate from BPM.

But in other ways, it is very much part and parcel of BPM because BPM projects always introduce change. You're changing your processes, sometimes from very siloed functional ways of doing work to very cross-functional ways of doing work. That means, often, middle management is extremely resistant because they perceive a loss of power, they perceive a loss of control—or it could actually be a loss of power and a loss of control.

So in BPm, it’s very important to put change management into BPM initiatives. Here’s how: You should focus on BPM right up front as you're looking at any other aspect of the project. You should designate change agents within the business. As you move through your BPM project and you put in BPM centers of excellence or specific centers of excellence for processes, you want a change management practitioner in that center of excellence. You want to bake it into the BPM initiative from start to finish.

ebizQ: What are some of biggest obstacles to change in an organization and exactly how does change management help with those?

I think that obstacles can radiate out from the individual outward. So whenever you make a change, the individual is personally concerned. And also, different groups within the organization--going from teams to the entire organization--have concerns as well. You want to address those concerns at all the different levels. If you just talk at the organizational level and you don't get down to the individual level, you will still have resistance and, actually, incorrect information or incorrect perceptions if you don't get down to the individual level.

An individual would be resisting the change [with concerns such as:] “How does it impact my job? What do I do now? What’s my compensation going to be? How is it going to change? Isit going to change? What’s my career path? How’s my status affected?”

Then it goes out to the team: “How does it affect my team? How does it impact what we do, how we work together, our status within the organization?” And then overall: “How does it impact the organization? How does it impact our bonuses? How is it going to impact our performance in the marketplace, our performance on Wall Street?”

So you can see that a lot of these concerns are related to an individual’s sense of what they do, their status of what they do, their career path of what they do, and their wallet. [They wonder] how it’s going to impact every single person in the organization and the organization at large.

Those are the biggest obstacles. If you don't have a way of communicating directly and succinctly about those, you'll continue to have pockets of resistance and a lack of buy-in to whatever change is being proposed.

ebizQ: What are some of the biggest mistakes to avoid when engaging in change management?

One of the very biggest mistakes is insufficient stakeholder support. Now, sometimes these changes come from the top and they flow downwards, so you don't have to have to worry about stakeholder support in those instances.

But let's be specific about BPM. Sometimes these initiatives are being done without the CEO's knowledge or support, without the COO's knowledge or tacit support. In those cases, you have to have that support. You have to get those stakeholders on board [so they know] what you're doing, why you're doing it, what value it delivers to the organization. If you don't have that buy-in, you're going to have problems with the project and you're going to have problems with change.

Another big obstacle or mistake is losing momentum. What we see over and over again is organizations that frontload the change management in the project. They start out with all-hands meetings, “town-hall” meetings, all kind of webinars, podcasts, blog posts, etc., and they lose momentum after two, three, five, six months. But the project is still going on for the next two years and the change management peters out and that's when it's needed most.

I just cannot overstate how important it is to keep the communication going much longer than you really think it's needed--because it will be needed longer than you can imagine.

Another one is if the initiative you’re undertaking has too much scope, and you’re trying to do too many things, then it's going to be hard to get those changes to stick because it doesn't have enough focus, it doesn't have enough energy behind [just] a few things.

When I talk to organizations that have done change management and are in the thick of the fray, they go back to communication. One of the general managers of a large energy company was speaking at our conference last year on change management and his takeaway was: “Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. You can’t communicate too much.”

I also have a quote from a financial services firm [executive, who said:] “Don’t underestimate the power of communication. Even if you don't have the answer, communicate, communicate, keep talking, keep talking, keep talking. It may take saying something 100 times before people get it, especially for process-transformation projects. So start early and do it often.”

I could go on. I could give you quote after quote after quote from BPM practitioners who talk about communication. I'll punctuate it by saying one business process executive would get on a plane and fly across the United States to be in a meeting to talk about his BPM project for 15 to 30 minutes because communication was so important.

In Part II of this Q & A, Moore discusses real-world examples of companies that have successfully implemented change management programs.

READER FEEDBACK: How does your organization manage change in its BPM initiatives? ebizQ editors would like to hear about your experience. Contact Site Editor Anne Stuart at editor@ebizq.net.

About the Author

Peter Schooff is a former contributing editor for ebizQ, where he also managed the ebizQ Forum for several years. Previously, Peter managed the database operations for a major cigar company, served as writer/editor of an early Internet entertainment site and developed a computer accounting system for several retail stores. Peter can be reached at pschooff@techtarget.com.

More by Peter Schooff

About ebizQ

ebizQ is the insider’s guide to next-generation business process management. We offer a growing collection of independent editorial articles on BPM trends, issues, challenges and solutions, all targeted to business and IT BPM professionals.

We cover BPM standards, governance, technology and continuous process improvement, as well as process discovery, modeling, simulation and optimization, among many other areas. We follow case management, decision management, business rules management, operational intelligence, complex event processing and other related topics. We closely track important trends such as the rise of social BPM, mobile BPM and BPM in the cloud. We also explore BPM’s use in functional areas, such as supply chain and customer management, and in key verticals, such as financial services, health care, insurance and government.

ebizQ's other BPM-oriented content includes podcasts, webcasts, webinars, white papers, a variety of expert blogs, a lively online forum and much more.



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