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Six lessons on the art of change

Blog: Process transformation - interventions for meaningful change

Oh, irony, how many times I meet process consultants (including me) that often forget that changing processes is changing humans and their behavior. That think that creating a ‘process design’ document is a major step, forgetting that the influential power of a process diagram is about as strong as sending an LinkedIn invite to someone you don’t know at all….

So, just for me, not to forget, six key lessons on the art of change (and no, I won’t call it change management).

Be part of the change
So doing a number of interviews, and then writing a report is valuable? No. That’s safe distance consulting. Step inside the system, influence and be influenced. Be prepared to not know AND strong enough to dare to take a stand. Get out there, organize workshops, discussions, and other interactions, and try to make them meaningful for the people involved: meaningful interactions and conversations that touch both you and other stakeholders. Out of comfort zone? Yes.

Get out with incomplete analysis and ideas
So you want to lock yourself up to create the perfect analysis, the perfect design, the perfect to-be? No. Think back when you received a 99% complete report, and someone asking you if you agree. Most of us either try to ignore it, or just give up at page 20/143 and say ‘Sure, good ideas, …I guess’ and simply get on with our lives hoping that someone else will pick up the actions in the report. The key is: get out as consultant with your analysis and ideas when they are at 40%, 50%. It opens up a valuable feedback channel, because people get triggered by the openings, the vagueness, the incompleteness of your ideas. It stirs feedback, and most important: if people have the opportunity to add value to ideas, it becomes their ideas: ownership and support included.

Know the value of interventions
As a consultant, there are many ways to analyse and influence people and their behavior. First of all: try to fill your toolbox and experiment/learn what works when. If you only have a hammer and nail, your reflex will be to hammer on. Second: understand the power of an intervention. From interview, to workshop. From online survey to focus group. From newsletter to report. From think tank to management summit. What does it do with who.

Don’t confuse means and goals
Yes, I used to think that a brown paper session was successful if I had enough stickies, with a reasonably clear process, and enough pain points and perhaps even some suggestions. The model was my goal. But to transform processes, to change behavior of people in groups, such workshop results are merely a side effect. The true value lies in bringing people together, having meaningful conversations, build trust and cohesion, influence each other, create awareness, etc.

Ask, listen, observe
I sometime meet great change specialists. Wow. These people see and feel in X dimensions. Are at meetings and read currents, moods, old pain, policies, stakes. And dare to ask, listen, reflect. The better you can be there, be mindful, really see, hear, feel, separate observations and interpretations, and build up intuition and cause-effect knowledge, the better you know what’s going on, and what’s needed.

Every change is a personal change – and goes through phases
A successful process transformation is done, if all process participants have changed behavior – one at a time. So ‘process transformation’ is a confusing word. It’s behavior change of a group of people, of individuals (and often some IT-systems as well). It’s essential to remember that change in time goes through phases. From awareness (is there a problem with my current behavior?) to desire (all right, perhaps it’s good to change) to knowledge (so, what is it that I should do’) to ability (ah, so this is what I should and now can do) to reinforcement (‘and with these interventions I help me and others not to laps back to old behavior patterns when in stress). The secret: each phase requires different interventions. Don’t send someone to training or give a 500 page manual of the To-Be process, if the person is still struggling with desire and motivation.

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