Did That Process Change Work? Four Steps to Better Processes

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

In the last three posts, we defined the problem of process change and worked through several steps necessary to make modifications and ensure the change sticks. So far, we have listed:

  1. Define your process goals
  2. Identify informative metrics
  3. Establish a baseline

The final step is to build continuous measurement into your change plan.

4. Keep on measuring

As you begin the process change, you will want to continue to measure the same things that you did to establish your baseline. Trend information will be a much better indicator of the current and future effect of the change than comparing your baseline with an isolated point in the future.

Consider the case of a change that is supposed to increase people’s productivity. Because every process change takes time for people to assimilate, we would expect an immediate productivity decline followed by a recovery after people become proficient with the new process. Suppose our baseline productivity is 145 Primlads per Quarbrel (P/Q), and it is 145 P/Q one month after the change. Can I conclude that the change had no effect on productivity? I really can’t know for sure.

If I had continued measuring productivity as the change was implemented, I might have seen this:

  • Baseline = 145 P/Q
  • Week 1 = 75 P/Q
  • Week 2 = 80 P/Q
  • Week 3 = 105 P/Q
  • Week 4 = 145 P/Q

The trend in the data is one of acceleration! Productivity increased:

  • 15 P/Q between weeks 1 & 2
  • 25 P/Q between weeks 2 & 3
  • 35 P/Q between weeks 3 & 4

With this trend, I see that I must continue measuring, because productivity levels have not yet stabilized. I can guess that the change will be successful in achieving better productivity, but I must measure to bear that out and to quantify how much of a difference it made.

What if you are not concerned with productivity? Trend data will still be important to you. The ups and downs in the metric that you are interested in may not be as predictable as productivity. If you aren’t watching trends, then you will simply be guessing about them!

When can you stop measuring? If your goal is something that is important to your organization’s health, then you may want to continue to check that metric, at least periodically, just to be sure that things are still going well.

Conclusion

In conclusion, your organization must adjust their processes from time to time. Sometimes these changes do not achieve the results that you expect. These four simple steps:

  1. Define your process goals
  2. Identify informative metrics
  3. Establish the process baseline
  4. Continue watching the numbers

can be the difference between making random process changes with uncertain returns and taking well-defined steps in the right direction.

What steps can you take to formalize your change processes?

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