Articles Business and Entrepreneurship

Airtract Ross Maynard Course author and business process improvement consultant

Making Change Happen 31 August, 2020   

I believe that most people want to do the right thing in their work. A wall of rules and procedures really isn’t required. What is needed is a clear understanding of what the organisation is trying to achieve for the customer and the business; and the belief that our processes and procedures are the best way of achieving those outcomes.

After all, anyone that doesn’t want to do the right thing would soon be exposed in such an open and collaborative atmosphere.

Making change happen is about clarity and focus. Management paying attention to the issues that matter will result in action in those areas. Where that attention is focussed on improving the process for the benefit of the customer, then improvement will begin. Where attention is focussed on “making the numbers no matter what”, then staff will focus on keeping their heads down and not getting into trouble: the customer will hardly feature.

So, to start making change happen, leaders need be clear about what matters to the organisation, and then establish that very clearly in the minds of everyone involved through procedures, policies, measures and feedback. Laying out some “customer first vision”, and then just reverting to the old management behaviours about making the numbers will not work!

Management must consider the whole process as it affects the customer – it is across boundaries between teams and departments that problems often arise. Structures, systems, procedures, policies, skills and attitudes will all need to change; and staff must believe that the new focus is genuine and lasting.

People want to do the right thing, and staff will devote themselves to work if they see value in it. Resistance to change is most likely when it is imposed from above – without any specific value or benefit being seen in it.

Staff must believe that the change is the “right way” to go and will be more satisfying for them and for customers.

This leads us to the key principles that need to be in place for change to happen:
• Clarify the purpose of the process in terms of doing what matters to the consumer
• Seek to answer demand at the first contact immediately and without interruption
• Ensure information given by customers/ users is accurate and sufficient for purpose (right first time)
• Keep customers informed at all times
• Minimise hand-offs
• Minimise checks
• Work from a set of principles not inflexible procedures. Review them regularly
• Performance measures should be based on the purpose of the process
• Senior management must visibly support the change and “live” the new behaviours

Since the customer’s experience is governed by the interaction they have with front-line service personnel, the role of such staff needs to be designed to empower them to deliver and continually improve the experience. The rest of the organisation should be structured in such a way as to support them. As authority is pushed down into the organisation then understanding what the organisation is about and what it wants to achieve becomes vital.

Often management worries about moving to such a front-line decision making structure revolve around issues of clarity and competence – management fear that staff won’t understand what the organisation is trying to achieve, or lack the technical competence or experience to get the job right first time at a reasonable cost. Open two-way communication and regular training are the best ways to deal with these issues. Paying (and treating) your front-line staff decently is also important and seems to be the opposite of how many firms currently operate. Perhaps that is why many change initiatives fail – a lack of willingness to treat the people who actually do the work as the most important part of the organisation!

Making change happen is about engagement – working with your people as a team to improve outcomes for everyone.

Listen to your people. Understand the barriers they face. Provide the skills and support they need to improve things.

Then change will start to take root.
“Don’t fight the system; change the rules and the system will change itself.” – Russell Ackoff

Change Business change Business improvement

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