BPM-OCM: To Align People, Processes, Culture, and Strategy

Michael Rabbitt, Head of Business Transformation, Argonne National Laboratory
Michael Rabbitt, Head of Business Transformation, Argonne National Laboratory

Michael Rabbitt, Head of Business Transformation, Argonne National Laboratory

In order to become and remain successful and competitive, organizations must continuously change and improve their business processes. The cost of failure is high, and the importance of successfully implementing change is well-documented. But given this, why don’t we consistently see organizational change management (OCM) strategies and techniques employed within Business Process Management (BPM) and related methodologies?

Regardless of the operational excellence methodologies and tools you use – Business Process Management, Lean Six Sigma, Total Quality Management, or Process Reengineering – integration of organizational change management (OCM) is a critical success factor. But all too often, OCM is “bolted on,” seen as an afterthought, or applied only in the late stages of the project as part of implementation or training activities.

BPM and other continuous improvement approaches have proven themselves to be invaluable methodologies for solving problems. But there’s a gap in these methodologies -addressing the “people side” of solution implementations. There is no improvement unless people demonstrate “buy-in” and use the new process on a sustained basis.

Newly designed or automated processes must have the support and engagement of both leadership and the people impacted by the project. People must understand the “why” behind the changes. And teams must put as much planning and thought into OCM as they do in defining, measuring, analyzing and improving processes.  

Much like BPM and project management, organizational change management involves rigor and discipline. It is a structured process and a set of tools for leading the people side of change to achieve project objectives. OCM ensures that changes are successfully implemented and that sustainable benefits are achieved.

 But all too often, OCM is “bolted on,” seen as an afterthought, or applied only in the late stages of the project as part of implementation or training activities  

So, if operational excellence methodologies do not dictate how to manage change, what should teams do? 

For starters, prepare a change strategy and build in time and effort for OCM. This must include active and visible sponsor engagement. In addition, focus on involving impacted groups early, and keep them engaged during subsequent waves of change. OCM is most effective when it is launched at the beginning of a project and applied throughout the life of the project. 

Another foundational element is creating a change plan that includes a comprehensive set of key OCM deliverables (preferably integrated into the overall project plan). The team should also link the organization’s core values to project goals. Define the desired behaviors (i.e., who will need to do what differently and how) up-front and speak about them frequently and regularly. You can’t mandate culture but you can set the expectations that will drive culture.

Apply the same data-based approach to the human elements of the project as Lean Six Sigma does. This can be done by developing key performance indicators (KPIs) for change-related goals and measures of success. Treat culture and change KPIs as you would for a process project – they should be integrated into an overall control plan and/or performance dashboard.

Finally, depending on the nature and scope of the change, consider identifying and assigning "change champions" and other people who need to be involved in supporting change activities and can act as ambassadors within their local departments or teams.

Cultural change requires shifts in behaviors and mindsets. This can be as challenging as reengineering or automating the process. And methods alone will not transform businesses. But when OCM is effectively integrated and executed, you’ll be on the path to success.  

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