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Manage change, avoid complexity

Ivan Seselj
October 20, 2015

All organisations go through periods of upheaval and change. These transformations, like a core technology shift or a major customer service change initiative, are often critical to a company’s growth and survival—and so is the way change is managed.

A side effect of the intended positive outcomes can often be more complexity for teams to deal with, particularly if each successive change initiative brings its own approach to process mapping and knowledge management.

The issue is that the success of these projects often depends on guiding your team through substantial process change, and therefore these major projects will deliver training programs and create new process guidance to support the team day to day.

Avoiding confusion with new process methods

Many organisations still lack a clear process knowledge format for teams to expect from change initiatives. So what? Often project teams are given the scope to map out the new processes in the format that they recommend. It’s usually an approach they’ve used on many projects before, one they’re familiar with. Not necessarily one your team is familiar with.

Rather than communicating process change in a language your team is familiar with, the project sets its own style, language or even system. This often results in more of a bolt-on than an evolution or extension of your existing business processes.

Process mapping and your staff

With each project adding a new flavour of process mapping:

  • Processes can look and feel like directions from an external entity.
  • Staff will be less confident about suggesting or making improvements.
  • Process owners feel less ownership over processes, and can feel they don’t have the expertise to change them.
  • For people joining new teams, learning new processes is challenging enough without the added complexity of different documentation and mapping methods.

Companies without a clearly defined approach to business process management will see this recur. Each new project will add process methodologies that build on the complexity and reduce the likelihood that new ways of working are sustained, as staff struggle to follow and manage the processes.

Process governance: effective leadership

Organisations should develop the methods of process mapping and knowledge sharing that suit their team’s needs. Then set the governance structures (a bit of leadership) to require that any new change initiative conforms to these methods.

This subtle shift will return the control of knowledge back to your team. It means it’ll take a leadership position, setting the parameters within which change projects can change business processes. Rather than the team having to work with whatever it’s left with, it means project outcomes will feel seamless—they will feel like they belong—making them far more useful to the organisation immediately and into the future.

So, if you don’t have a firm foundation of processes already mapped, make sure you do before your next big project. It’s the key to driving the real, long-term return on investment that your transformation projects were intended to deliver.

Ivan Seselj
Ivan Seselj is the CEO of Promapp, a process management software company.
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