Making Process Change Sticky

Inevitability of change is obvious, except of course when we think we’ve made a new process decision for our company. Then, we like to believe, the new process will follow the discussed plan and lead to a greater success–a measurable improvement. There are reasons so many process improvements don’t stick. From the psychological like old ways being hard to shake. To the troublesome; non-believers can consciously or unconsciously sabotage. To the void where team members only witness “leadership” in the theoretical and disengage from the dirty little details of process.

Since we invest significant time and resources to continuously improve our processes and results we have to be mindful of two things: First, once a course is set a leader can not assume change will take root and grow in a straight line because that’s how it looked with the new flowcharts and documentation and meetings. Second: understand team success dynamics that make a process “sticky.”

Here are three “C’s” a leader can focus on to make sure positive change becomes part of the routine with minimal deviations or loss of momentum:

Clarity: If there is any vagueness about or around the details of the goals, motivations or actions that need to be taken you can be sure there will be interpretations that differ from the leader’s vision or objective and, likely lead teams to ultimately lose change motivation. All the carrots and sticks will never compensate for cloudy thinking.

Confidence: Beware the meeting head-nodders who are saying what they think the boss wants to hear. A lack of belief in a processes “ability” is a sure bet to undermine the most meticulously planned process improvement. Likewise, when those inevitable bumps occur the leader must check with the team to see if confidence has been shaken, are revisions needed, is something missing? Confidence in change is fragile! Until there is true confidence you will likely see the undermining effects of uncertainty and the Law of Unintended Consequences.

Commitment: Remember there is nothing people more instinctively distrust and dislike than change, generally speaking, even when best-intentioned. Get a specific commitment statement around the table or around the organization and get a description on how they see their commitment playing out and put it in terms of how/why that matters. Confront the potential objections of change and challenge people to describe specifically what they will likely do when, rather than if, one of those bumps come along.

Organizations lock teams in rooms for hours, analyze, document, hire consultants and take any number of actions to affect positive change through Process Improvement. Realize that output is the start, not the solution. Applying the checklist to make sure your team has CLARITY on what, how and why process change is needed and what the new goal is, that there is CONFIDENCE in the methods to deliver a new result (and that you are confident in your team to deliver) and finally that there are stated (even documented) COMMITMENTs from all stakeholders and participants in a process may just give you the road map to substantial and lasting positive change.

The greatest commitment needed is from the leader, not to stimulate change but to monitor, measure and motivate a process change from idea to imbedded culture–until the inevitability of future change lets you do it again.