Did That Process Change Work? Four Steps to Better Processes

by Alan S. Koch, Certified ITIL Expert, PMP, CSM, CTM

So you made some changes to the way you do your projects. Did those changes make a difference?

How can you know?

There is an old saying that goes, “You can’t manage what you don’t measure.” This saying has survived the test of time because it is an essential truth. And it applies to more than just organizational management or even project management. It is just as true for process change.

Coming up with good ideas for process changes is no different from coming up with good ideas for product requirements; it is only the first step. The real work follows that step. And that real work is what must be carefully managed — and carefully measured! In this series of posts I will outline four steps to ensure your ideas for process improvements come to fruition.

1. Why are we changing our process?

The first step in any process-change is to determine precisely what we are trying to accomplish. What are our goals? Why are we making the change?

Often, our goals are to remove some pain from our projects.

  • Perhaps we have experienced communication breakdowns, so we are trying to open better lines of communication.
  • Maybe technical mistakes cost us a fortune, so we are trying to adopt more reliable engineering methods.
  • Maybe we have a customer who is requiring that our processes comply with a given standard.

Identifying our primary goal is an important start. As with a software product, there are many other kinds of requirements that are needed by the various stakeholders. A process must accept inputs from different sources, provide outputs to various stakeholders and allow people to do their jobs effectively. In addition, a process must be efficient, user-friendly, easy to learn, and on and on.

If this is sounding a bit like Requirements Engineering for software then I am making my point. Just as with software requirements, process requirements must be specific, concrete and measurable. They are our key to determining if what we did had the effect that we intended.

This is only the beginning. In the next post, we will look at metrics and the importance of defining them appropriately. In the meantime, share some of your success stories. What have you done to ensure requirements are well-defined prior to initiating the change?

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