Process Rules: Top 10 Process Transformation Pitfalls

Over the past 25 years, PRO’s senior leadership has spoken with thousands of senior executives about their process transformation initiatives – the changes that succeeded, those that failed, and the initiatives they didn’t dare to try. Despite the creation of Continuous Improvement teams within most large organizations over the last decade, we still hear the same refrain of success with incremental improvements, but challenges in achieving transformational change. Here’s what we’ve learned about why major process redesigns fail, especially when driven solely from the inside.

Process Redesign: You’re Doing It Wrong

  1. Siloed scope – Focusing on individual business units or processes in isolation obscures the end-to-end context and implications, and fails to incorporate differing organizational and functional perspectives, including variances in customer and market requirements.
  2. Inadequate content and analytical rigor – Internal teams often start process redesigns with a “clean sheet” instead of learning from and incorporating detailed studies of process shortcomings and industry best practices. In-house resources are also typically beholden to internal norms and politics that hinder unpopular but necessary changes.
  3. Lack of executive sponsorship – Transformative change requires the endorsement of leadership across multiple functions to demonstrate the importance of change, overcome organizational inertia and hold management accountable for results.
  4. Limited employee ownership – Programs that impose change on a group of employees without engaging them in the design of that change can create dissatisfaction and disconnection, undermining individual and company performance.
  5. Uncertain project benefits – Initiatives with anecdotal business cases fail to identify, agree upon and embed key financial and effectiveness indicators in the change, making declarations of success dubious at best.
  6. Change fatigue – Improving processes while simultaneously executing them in daily work can stretch internal resources to the breaking point, especially in organizations that embrace seemingly endless rounds of incremental changes.
  7. Last-generation tools and techniques – Manual, bespoke process mapping in Visio or PowerPoint ignores recent advancements in standardized mapping notation (e.g., BPMN2) and cloud-based process development tools and repositories (e.g., Signavio) that support robust live modeling and simulations.
  8. Dying completely healed – Six Sigma Lean teams’ laser focus on reducing waste may come at the expense of critical intangibles such as culture, innovation and employee engagement.
  9. Glacial pace – Achieving in-house transformation can take years, which delays recognition of bottom-line results and incurs opportunity costs.
  10. Backsliding – Many teams revert to old ways once the change spotlight fades, particularly after change campaigns lacking in training, coaching and measurement systems to ensure sustainability.

We hope that awareness of these pitfalls will help organizations to avoid them, whether they are attempting change with internal resources or in partnership with external change experts. – Channing Rollo, Senior Director, PRO

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