Process Change Management

By Byron Johnson

I have been involved in many process change initiatives, focused on improving the development lifecycle of high-technology programs. These initiatives have all been led the same way: the big bang approach. All processed are defined and agreed to by the stakeholders, and then are attempted to be implemented all at once, cutting over from the original process map all in one go.

While broad process change can provide significant benefits to organizations, I have found that more often than not, these initiatives fail, usually around the time when it comes to actually implementing the new processes. Here are some of the key reasons why these attempts at “big bang” process change often fail:

  • It is hard to maintain executive support and pressure, especially when it comes to the implementation phase which will have a (temporary) impact on productivity.
  • Managing the implementation of all the new processes (at once) can overload the core team responsible for driving the process change which can lead to a breakdown forcing stakeholders to revert back to existing processes in order to get their jobs done.
  • Proper infrastructure is not in place to support the new process model.

After reviewing the results of these initiatives, I started exploring how using agile methodologies can be a more practical approach to process change management. I have found several key advantages to using this approach:

  • Change is rolled out over time, in smaller increments, making it is easier for the organization to integrate (it) into their day to day operations and with less negative impact to productivity.
  • Managing issues with new processes is easier when in an incremental fashion – as each process is brought online, modifications and tweaks can be made to ensure that they are effective and provide actual value before moving to the next one.
  • It may even be easier to capture metrics and show incremental progress of the implementation of the new processes which can help with maintaining executive support.

Consider the following (simplified) scenario using an agile approach to change management: starting up a PMO where no formal project management processes are documented and officially followed.

A series of new PM processes are defined by the PMO and are ready to roll out. Starting with the first “New Project Initiation – NPI” process, it is rolled out as “draft” and is tested on the first new project. After the project is launched using this process, and it (the process) appears to be working and adds value, the process is set to “In-Trial”: PM’s are notified that the new process is going live, and it starts getting used. While the first process is still getting trialed, a second new “Close Project” process gets activated, moving from a “draft” state and then to “In-Trail”. Meanwhile, if all bugs in the first NPI process have been worked out, and if it is still deemed to be effective then it is set to “Approved” and it’s considered complete (with regards to implementation).

This method of adding new processes, trialing, and approving can continue, building up a collection of new processes and procedures that are now being utilized by the PMO. As the collection grows, it may make sense to add additional meta-data to each process in order to help manage them more effectively. Adding an “Approved Date” with some form of workflow that triggers an alert in 6 months can remind the PMO to re-evaluate the process to ensure that it is still effective and needed.

This simplified scenario can be expanded on, depending on the availability of resources to support the implementation of new processes, the overall number of processes, development groups affected, etc. It is all about balancing the deployment of the new processes against the availability of bandwidth of the organization to properly trail, evaluate and absorb them into day to day activities.

Summing up, using agile methodologies can dramatically help improve the odds of a successful implementation and adoption of a new process system. This approach can be also be used in other scenarios involving business change management, software and hardware development, including if an organization is starting from scratch, trying to formalize existing processes, implementing an incremental change or a complete rework of an existing defined process set.

Stay tuned for my next discussion on how proper infrastructure is critical for managing new and existing change management systems.

Byron Johnson, PMP is a certified Project Management Professional with 15 years of project management experience for high-technology programs in the commercial, utility, government and military spaces. Byron has a proven ability to deliver projects on time, scope, and budget using intelligent, logical, solutions combined with effective team leadership and personal management. Byron is currently a Program Manager Consultant at Knowledgetech.

Article source: http://www.pmhut.com/process-change-management-the-agile-way

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