People power: Sustaining a culture of positive change

by External19 Oct 2015
As organisations become increasingly more complicated, one aspect that perhaps deserves more focus is the role people play in creating the right conditions for a collaborative culture of change across your organisation. Ivan Sesel provides his tips.

Many organisations and leaders are aware of a growing problem - their operations seem to be getting more complex. Large teams spread across many offices, working in different cities, different standards and time zones make it harder for teams to collaborate, share, and learn from each other.
In response to this, organisations are looking to simplify, using business processes as the language to describe their operations. A lot of time and effort is now being invested investigating process management technology, improvement methodologies like Six Sigma and LEAN, and process notation standards like BPMN.

An aspect that perhaps deserves more focus is the role people play in creating the right conditions for a collaborative culture of change across your organisation. It is no longer good enough to run improvement initiatives, to capture process knowledge at great expense, and to ‘hope’ that changes will be operationalised and sustained. An environment and some structure is needed so that people are motivated to participate, and are personally invested in sustaining ongoing change and improvement.

Seven roles to influence a positive change culture
Identifying and implementing the right roles and responsibilities is fundamental to supporting continuous improvement and a positive, collaborative culture.                                                                                                                      

These seven roles each play a part in creating a healthy change and improvement culture:
  1. Process Participant
These are the people who are involved in the process and the ones who need to get it right. Often they’re delivering the customer experience - that real life work means they’re in a position to contribute valuable insights and ideas.
  1. Process Expert
This is the person managing a process on behalf of its owner day to day. They have a detailed understanding of the process and respond to improvement suggestions, making sure the information stays current. They co-ordinate with the stakeholders on any problems.
  1. Process Owner
These people have overall responsibility for a process. They’re accountable for the process operating efficiently and continuously improving, but they’re not necessarily using it day to day and are not the expert. It is worth noting that this role can often be a barrier to change.
  1. Process Champion
Process Champions drive process improvement – they’re the core of change culture. They give guidance and advice to the experts and owners, and set the standards and expectations within the organisation. They promote the process vision set by the Chief Process Officer (CPO) through regular communication, and create and mentor the delivery of work plans. They review processes with the experts and monitor improvement suggestions.
  1. Chief Process Officer
The overall process vision comes from the CPO. Ideally at executive level, they need to be seen supporting improvement efforts and empowering the Process Champions. It is generally a low activity role, but vital in creating a collaborative change and improvement culture
  1. Improvement Specialist
These people specialise in the tools and technologies. They apply advanced process techniques and methodologies to help teams extract and coordinate improvement initiatives.
  1. Key Stakeholders and Domain Specialists
These are all of the people affected by and dependent on the processes. For any one process there might be a risk manager relying on certain controls within the process; compliance managers ensuring external requirements are met; enterprise architects supporting the process with technology and information; human capital specialists ensuring teams have the right skills and experience. All of these key stakeholders need to collaborate on process changes.

Using the RACI framework for dynamic stakeholder management
Understanding the importance of people and roles in sustaining collaborative change and improvement within an organisation is the first step. But figuring out the role of each of these stakeholders requires a process by process understanding. RACI is a structured framework that can help you do this very effectively.

R – Who is responsible?

A – Who is accountable?
Owners and experts

C – Who need to be consulted?
Determined from key stakeholders - those that are so affected they need to be consulted before each change.

I – Who needs to be informed?
Stakeholders like risk managers, systems owners, linked process owners, experts. Anyone dependent on the process.

Collaboration and communication
The RACI framework helps determine the level of involvement and communication appropriate for each stakeholder for process changes. In this sense - it is not good enough to just track RACI tables for each process, but to ensure that communications are managed through this table. Tools are needed that enable real-time updates and changes, so that stakeholders can see at a glance the changes that are happening, how they are affected, and how or if they need to be involved in the change.

Impact of Executive Team Behaviours
The perceived behaviour of your executive team plays a huge role in promoting co-operation. If staff see the exec team collaborating, this filters down through the organisation – so make sure the CPO is visible and people know their name. 

No measures - no importance
Not knowing which processes they are involved in or even where to look for that information gives people the excuse not to engage. Just like KPI’s, the perception is that if you’re not measuring it, it must not be important. People will place it low on their list of priorities.

Similarly, an effective feedback tool is important. If you don’t give your staff a voice, you could end up with an undercurrent of complaints and disengagement.

People power checklist
Now that you know about the seven critical roles, see how your organisation stacks up when it comes to the building blocks of an improvement culture.  The brief checklist at the end of this document can help you evaluate your company culture.

If you have most of the foundations in place, you’re well on your way to a culture of positive change.

Sustainable process improvement isn’t something you can just turn on - it takes a team effort. Invest in a structured approach, with process champions empowered by an active Chief Process Officer, and they’ll drive improvement and ensure it is continuous.

Visit the Checklist here.

About the author

Ivan Seselj is the CEO, Promapp Solutions