Changing the Way We Work, Part 2: Preparing to Move Forward

With approval to proceed with his project and approach, Process Pat prepares for the upcoming changes

When we got funding for our business process automation and workflow project, a certain level of anxiety crept into my daily routine. After all, this approach was being seen as an overhaul —not just in technology but also in how we run our business. Now that executives have started to take notice, you might think that my stress level is off the charts. Actually, the opposite is true; now that we know our direction, I’m helping my team get focused, create checklists, and develop an actionable plan. When I see how this is unfolding, it moves the needle from “freaked out” to ‘measured excitement.’

This project won’t happen overnight, nor will it be onerous. Our plan is to build requirements over the next month, develop new processes after that, then roll out the workflows for an initial application. We’ll assess, review requirements, and then tackle the next application. Overall, we have a goal of modifying the way we work through automating and streamlining our processes and workflows over an 18 month period. When all is said and done, my company will enable internal employees and external stakeholders (partners, customers, and suppliers) to collaborate and coordinate to make better decisions, move forward faster, and, with luck, leapfrog the competition. Our remote workers will be as productive on the road as those at headquarters— and they will feel more connected as well.

While I’m feeling confident about where this is headed, I know that this is only going to be successful with buy- in across the company. We know that the processes, and their associated workflows, have the greatest opportunity for success when matched with a willing and engaged organizational culture. Our company is nimble and able to quickly adapt, but change sometimes brings frustration— and frustration in a corporate environment means lost productivity. The LAST thing this should do is limit our ability to get things done. The whole purpose is to enable the company to grow as a result of better process, more transparency, and involving more of the right people.

Thankfully I have executive support. That’s a great start, but the execs aren’t the ones being asked to get comfortable with something new. It will be the project managers, analysts, business managers — in fact almost anyone who has a stake in an outcome will be part of this new process and workflow implementation. I’m realizing that we are in good shape in terms of morale, but I’m keeping my eye on a few things that will help me guide us towards a successful roll-out:

Are we ready to change?: This is not just the first question to ask, but it’s also the most important thing to assess and re-assess throughout our entire project.  Committing to change is easier before the change actually happens. So my job is to know how comfortable we are and how well we maintain progress towards our goals. I’m asking myself these questions:

    • Is our team adept at prioritizing projects and processes?
    • Can we operate with a flexible mindset that allows us to adapt to changing business needs?
    • Do our executives REALLY understand how processes will be streamlined and workflow applied across the organization?
    • Do we have the skill set to know when the time is right to add additional apps?

Is disruption going to help us improve— or will it be a distraction?: The fact is, some organizations just cannot make the shift to a new way of conducting business. That’s not a criticism, and in fact, in some cases, those businesses are better off not changing. I know that we are fully prepared to begin this project, but can we sustain a longer term change in our culture and how we do business? My sense is that, with a well-prepared roll out and the right planning, we can. Part of my job is to be an evangelist.  I’ve been going to different groups within the company to make them aware of what we’re doing and the impact on them. So far, the reception has been good, but I’ve been grilled a few times. I have no problem with that. I’m actually glad because that means that our employees have a stake in what we’re doing! That will make acceptance and focus easier.

Are we flexible when we need to be?: There is an erroneous mantra that gets thrown around. It says “Everyone needs to be flexible.” I agree with that, but only to a point. Ultimately, if everyone is simply flexible all the time then we don’t adhere to guidelines or stick with consistent processes. So part of this planning process is to get to know those places in our organization, and in our processes, where we need to reward and operate according to consistent business practices— and those places where we can continue to change by being flexible. I recognize that this is one of the benefits of implementing workflow; we eventually get to understand how to be more flexible where it will provide an advantage, but then not worry about it in places where it makes no demonstrable change.

Automating our processes and streamlining our workflows will undoubtedly change the way our organization is going to work. And that is exciting. Our Execs are always looking at our bottom-line.  They expect that we will eliminate inefficiency. The anticipated advantages are going to be huge— but only with oversight and a lot of preparation. The next step is…well, the next step is to get moving and kick things off!