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Coaching Through Process Improvements

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Being involved in process improvements can feel similar to being audited -- not pleasant. So how do you make the period of process improvements more manageable for your team members, especially when they are project managers themselves?
 
When creating process improvement initiatives, look at it as an opportunity to motivate your team members. Morale is likely low and improvements should be made. Hand-hold your team members during the process. Instead of sitting in front of them like an interviewer would, sit next to them -- be a peer. This will help them see that you're making things better, not making their lives messier.
 
For example, I'm currently spearheading a process improvement initiative where the objective is to improve the current project management techniques for project implementation. Before I even started this project, I was told that I'd face some adversity. But I have a plan.
 
I want to make the initiative as painless as possible, so I plan to turn the investigative process into a learning process -- both for my team members and myself. I will take on a student's point of view, rather than as the instructor, because I'm learning, too.

I'll also try to be more open. I want my team to share their plights and success stories with me. I'd like to construct a scenario in which my team members learn new things from their experiences, seeing the areas that can be improved or approached differently for themselves.
 
It is a common saying:  Things will get worse before they get better. Managing team members during process improvement period is like that. They will dislike you before they like you. Adversity is to be expected, but as the saying goes, impossible odds make achievements more satisfying.

What do you think a project manager should do to garner cooperation from team members during a process improvement initiative? How do you turn process improvement initiatives into a learning process? How do you manage team member resistance to change or idea makeovers?

 

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4 Comments

Process improvements will be easier to swallow if you have included "practiced" functional leaders as part of your team.

Process improvement should be a collaborative effort with your team. The team brings expertise in the reality of what is really happening, what processes are obstacles to their work, and what processes might be needed.

You bring expertise in understanding the big picture and in process.

Approach process improvement as a collaborative effort and actively seek your teams' input and ideas. Share your knowledge.

Hajar,

In the process improvement opportunities I have been involved with I have found that involving members of the affected community in the process improvement activity (from reviewing some of the background as to why this is being undertaken through available options and recommended solution) works well to get buy-in and support.

One of the dangers I have faced is that some will be upset that they were not invited to participate in the process. Keeping lines of communication open and providing opportunities in the future for others to participate can help.

Also, it is important to ensure that they have a mechanism for putting forth their ideas or suggestions while at the same time knowing that while all suggestions will be reviewed they may not necessarily be implemented.

Coming up with a solution that will satisfy everyone is unlikely. However, I have found that giving people the opportunity to express their ideas and have them considered helps.

One of the (many) other constraints is that of simple availability. Those who would like to participate may not be available to actively contribute due to other project commitments/assignments.

I am not suggesting that process improvement should be done via committee with everyone having an equal vote. I am in support of soliciting feedback/input from key players (both at a senior and those at a more junior level) with the expectation as well that they understand that they are representing their community and are encouraged to be open and listen to the comments of others.

Now you may be saying to yourself, "Whoa...this is going to take forever to roll out this change!". Not necessarily. This is where expectations and time lines need to be clear as to how much time can and will be spent on collecting information and defining the change to be rolled out.

Everyone must know the role they will be expected to play and what their involvement entails. Some changes will have limited scope and impact across the organization. Others may be further reaching and require either a longer delivery timeline or some form or phased rollout. Remember, if it is truly worth doing it is worth doing right. Just don't fall into the analysis/paralysis trap.

Finally, one last thing. With any process improvement effort there needs to be some method of measuring the effectiveness of the changes rolled out as well as a timeline and communication plan as to how this information will be communicated back to stakeholders and management not to mention feed back into the process improvement cycle.

This needs to be defined up front as it may impact the paths you take or the solution you come up with. A great process that can't be measured (or worse, has a manually intensive and costly data collection and reporting process) won't work.

Food for thought!

Cheers,

Ron Goris.

Great advice. I definitely agree that raising morale and motivating your team members is key when creating process improvements.

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