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How to implement a new process at work

February 12, 2020
6 minute read

How to implement a new process at work

By Maribel Olvera February 12, 2020

There comes a point in every business when something happens that radically changes how the business operates: Leaders start to implement processes.

For employees who are used to improvising as they go and doing things their own way, this shift can be difficult. “We’ve gotten results without these processes,” they think, “Why should I change the way I’m doing things?”

Thus begins the internal struggle that comes with implementing a new process at work. The company tries to streamline tasks and increase efficiency but employees don’t want to be boxed in by a process.

Why are processes important?

At some early stages, processes can inhibit growth. However, as your company grows, you need to create processes. It’s the only way to scale. With an increasing number of employees and clients, you need to systematize.

Not only does business process increase efficiency, but it also decreases the risk of error. Consider organizations that have spent thousands on ad campaigns—only to launch with a glaring misspelling. A process that ensured a detail-oriented editor would review the copy before it was finalized could’ve prevented that from happening.

Or what about software companies that deploy a new feature that’s buggy, causing customers to complain—or worse, leave in droves?

It’s clear creating and implementing processes is important to drive business growth, so what keeps companies from effective implementation? The same thing that typically gets in the way of change. 

Why is it so hard to implement new processes at work?

We have a saying here at PI: All business problems boil down to people problems.

Process implementation is no different.

What usually gets in the way of implementing process is people. People who:

  • Don’t understand why this process is necessary
  • Don’t like other people telling them what to do or how to do it
  • Are hesitant to change
  • Are overwhelmed with the amount of change already happening in the organization

The key to successful implementation of new processes or process improvement is the same key to any successful business strategy: getting the people part right.

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How to implement a new process at work by getting the people part right

Here’s how you can increase the likelihood of adoption throughout the organization:

Make process creation a strategic initiative.

If it’s not a strategic priority, process will always get the back burner in favor of immediate revenue-generating activities.

Make process creation a focus for your organization.

Rally people behind the effort by making it a key initiative related to your business goals (e.g., in order to increase predictability, you need streamlined processes). Dedicate devoted resources to the initiative, including an executive sponsor from the senior management team and a project manager. These people will help ensure the success of the initiative.

Appoint the right people to the project team.

When seeking to create and improve business processes, you need the right people on the team. At first, you might think that means solely process-minded, detail-oriented people. Those are definitely the types of behavioral attributes you’ll want for members of the project team.

This isn’t to say you shouldn’t consider a diversity of perspectives. You might still collect various perspectives as part of the change management process. However, the homogeneity of team behaviors leads to better team outcomes, so the project team should be comprised of individuals well-suited to the task. 

It’s also critical you create a cross-functional team, so you can better understand how the implementation of this process will impact how other departments operate. Too often, one team creates processes that negatively impact the workflow of others. Loop in key stakeholders from each team to get an idea of how this process will impact their work.

how to implement process

Create a rollout plan that addresses changes to your people strategy.

When people think “implementation plans,” they often think of tactical action items required to implement a new system or process. What often goes unconsidered is how the workforce will be required to change as the result of this process. Here are a few areas to address:

Organizational culture:

How will this change impact your company culture? Will your organizational values need to change to accommodate this new process?

For example, if your company has rewarded action over process, you might have to change that core value so people adhere to the new process.

This aspect of implementing process falls on the executive team. Senior leaders should get together to discuss if the company culture needs to change and, if so, how they’ll roll out this change initiative

Organizational structure: 

In addition to determining if cultural values align with this change, senior leadership should consider if the organizational model supports the creation and implementation of new processes.

For example, a company that’s been more focused on an Exploring strategy of bringing new products to market may have a flat organizational model to enable rapid action. However, as they start to scale and grow, they might add in more layers of management to ensure processes are executed and enforced. 

Tailoring communication: 

Different team members have different needs when it comes to hearing about and getting on board with change. 

Employees with high dominance like to exert influence on people and projects. These employees are motivated by having an opportunity to leave their mark and share their vision in the decision-making process. Even if you don’t execute quite the way they’d like for you to, they’ll still appreciate the opportunity to give their opinion.

Employees with low formality (who tend to have high dominance or extraversion) may not be as inclined to follow process or structure. Consider if there’s flexibility in approach. What control can you give them over how they execute the process? Does it have to be done exactly the way you mapped it out, or can they create their own variation? Are there things that can be done to make the process easier for them, such as through automation or delegation?

On the other hand, your high formality staff may want a clear explanation of how the process works. To support these team members, document the process and distribute. Give them time to think about the process and ask questions to clarify any misunderstandings. You might even draw parallels to existing processes to help them understand how this differs from what’s already in place, or allow them to make suggestions for improvements. 

Employees with high patience like to take time to evaluate a problem and possible solutions. Exercise the value they add by asking them to “poke holes” in your process. You might try saying, “We’re thinking about implementing this process. Here’s the problem we’re trying to solve with this process and why we think this process will solve the problem. What are your concerns? How do you think we should transition?” 

Process involves people.

If you’re not factoring people into how you roll out new processes, you’re missing a critical component to implementing new processes at work. 

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