Making changes to internal processes can be extraordinarily difficult. Most processes—though they’re often linear in design—have branches that connect with other process, that impact other groups, and that may rely on resources far outside the control of the project’s sponsor group. And while executing process changes can present teams with a real challenge, a handful of time-tested tips may help keep these projects moving forward toward success.
1 – Be honest about what you can accomplish. Depending on the process you plan to change and the scope of the changes to be implemented, there may be limitations on what you can reasonably do. It might not be possible to address every concern, particularly if the changes are time sensitive or if a portion of the changes require regulatory review. Rather than establish a scope that encompasses more than can be successfully accomplished, work with users and sponsors to narrow the parameters of the project to something more realistic.
2 – Make communication a priority. Changing long-established processes can be a difficult undertaking. Users often have a lot of questions but very few answers. They may not understand who is requesting changes to the process or how those changes will benefit them. Strong communication channels will be crucial in helping stakeholders participate in the project, both during the planning phase as they provide input on how a particular process can be improved as well as after the process changes have been implemented, when their feedback is needed to confirm that the results meet expectations.
3 – Pursue commitments from sponsors and users. Process changes require robust stakeholder support, from sponsors to end users to business partners. Because broad engagement is crucial to success, PMP®s need to ensure there is buy-in from everyone involved. This includes those who will provide expertise in redesigning the target process plus all who will be impacted by the project’s changes.
4 – Be very clear on scope and objectives. Some types of projects have relatively finite objectives with more easily defined scopes. Most projects that focus on process changes don’t fall into that category. Instead, stakeholders may find it difficult to articulate where opportunities for improvement exist. They might also have trouble nailing down what a successful execution of the project looks like. A skilled PMP® will want to put in the legwork necessary to very clearly define the project’s scope.
5 – Acknowledge the urgency of the change. Occasionally, process changes must be made quickly—because of production schedules, safety concerns. In those instances, the project team and its stakeholders will need to work closely to identify the process improvements with the highest priority. It’s also important that everyone understand which groups and/or individuals will have the biggest impact when it comes to executing the anticipated changes. Delays in their portions of the schedule could throw the entire project into jeopardy.
6 – Be prepared to evaluate follow-up changes with users and stakeholders. Even with thorough planning, it’s possible that the downstream effects of any process change could hold some unexpected results. Users may discover difficulties where multiple processes touch, for example, or where support activities—such as data archival—may need to be tweaked. Conducting timely follow-up evaluations will be key to the project’s long-term success.
7 – Look at how past process changes have been implemented. To help identify potential issues or areas where additional attention should be paid, review previous process changes the team has undertaken. In most organizations, entrenched cultural and structural norms will often trigger similar concerns again and again, possibly providing the project team with a roadmap to proactively address the most likely challenges.