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Podcast Season 3 Episode 4 – Business Process Management, Improvement, and Automation – The Change

April 14, 2020 | BY: Neosystems
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After detailing the ABCs of business process improvement and the tools explored for automation, we’ve come to discussing how businesses should think about managing change. Join Change Management expert, Christi Fath with NeoSystems as she relates some of the challenges and benefits of managing change well.

Transcript

Erin Keating:
Welcome guys to Neo Cast podcast. Today is episode four in our third season. We are here back again with our resident expert, Marty Herbert, who is the practiced lead for business process improvement and change management at Neo Systems. And we’re so excited to also now have Christi Fath joining us for today. Christi, would you mind telling us a little bit about yourself and your title there at Neo Systems and help us better prepare for the conversation we’re about to have?

Christi Fath:
Absolutely. Thank you so much for having me on the call. My name is Christi Fath, and I work on Marty’s team supporting the change management efforts that we do here at Neo Systems. We offer change management and training and I’ve been working in the field for over 20 years, supporting our customers as they begin and as they implement changes in new systems, new processes, and as they adopt new tools to help their business perform better.

Erin Keating:
Awesome. Wonderful. Well we’re so glad to have you and welcome back Marty.

Marty Herbert:
Thanks.

Erin Keating:
Absolutely. Okay, well let’s kick it off because we’ve done three episodes to get everyone acclimated with the topic and to better understand business process improvement, but as we left off on our last episode, my head was spinning for sure a little bit on how much this might truly affect any organization. So can you tell us a little bit about what change management is? The field in general and then the practice specifically at Neo Systems.

Christi Fath:
Absolutely. When I think of change management, I often relate it to the business that we’re in. We work with clients to help them improve their business processes, their business practices, and even adopt new software. And oftentimes those technical changes fail without implementing change management strategies on the front end and on the back end of the process implementation. I found change management to be a key to success. Oftentimes projects will focus on the processes and systems and then they think about the people at the very end, “Oh, we’re going to train them on how to use the software. We’re going to train them on the new processes.” And then what happens is the people don’t know it’s coming or they might hear a rumor that it’s coming and they’re a little nervous about the change. And what we found is by implementing some standard change management practices, people are prepared for the change. They know it’s coming, they received the training and the messaging and they’re much more ready and sometimes even excited to adopt it before the system has implemented.

Erin Keating:
Yes, we’ve talked a lot of the times in the episodes here about the human element. So it’s one thing to change your processes in your workflows and to automate certain things, but if you’re also then not preparing the organization a whole and then individuals who are involved with it for the change, it can be really overwhelming for the organization and likely actually have the project fail, I assume.

Christi Fath:
I always like to approach the projects by looking at the ultimate goal and what are we striving to achieve to be able to help people to be successful. And one of the ways that we do that is by asking people, “Why are we doing this? What is the value of the technology implementation? What are the business drivers?” And that’s the thing that people often will talk about and they’ll provide compelling reasons that provide the foundation. But the reasons are often related to technology and processes and I always like to consider the people, how can we prepare them for the change? And for business process automation examples, people might’ve been struggling with sending emails and following up on emails and tracking things and then you have this business process automation that’s going to prevent them from having to send that third reminder email to get an approval. Oftentimes people will find that the business process automation is really going to be a pleasure for them and it’s going to make their lives a little bit easier.

Marty Herbert:
Now Erin, if you think about everything we’ve been talking about with all the business process management and improvement and everything, all of the structural changes that we make really begin and end with change management. If it’s not there and if nobody’s there to remind the people that, “Hey, something else is happening that’s different and new and better.” then they just never get there. It doesn’t matter how much business process improvement you spend time designing. If you don’t manage the change, you don’t get the change that you’re hoping for.

Erin Keating:
Well I think we can all agree that we’re seeing that right now with just our everyday processes that are changing and how hard it is for people to adapt. I mean, my gosh, we’re doing this particular podcast we’ve had to all adopt to Zoom for instance. Just think about all the people on the very basic level aren’t understanding how the process has changed and what they needed to do differently to manage the expectations of those that are even just in conference calls with them. So forget going to grocery stores and having to wait outside by tens and all of these kinds of things. So I totally understand. My brain started swimming in all the ways in which this could apply to everything that we’re going through right now. But from the perspective of what Neo Systems does with its clients, how do you help people adopt and embrace any new process?

Christi Fath:
Well, in many of our business process automation efforts, the people have been doing much of the work manually. So in talking with people, we find out how their processes have been working and as we all know, the only constant in life is change. So some people really are ready to welcome it and other people are frightened of the change. Some of them get scared about job security, some of them get worried about their value to the company. And then others also see it as, “This might be a great opportunity for me to grow my skills.” Or, “Oh my gosh, I’m going to be able to learn a new technology.” Or even better, “I’m not going to have to send the third email to a leader to try to get them to approve an invoice.” Or something like that. So what we’d like to try and do is it’s important to keep the dialogue open with the team to help understand how do they see the change?

Christi Fath:
I’ve worked with some people in the past who have had reservations and when I was early in my practice, I would get a little nervous about the people who would resist change. I’m like, “Hmm. How am I going to tackle this?” And what I found, what’s most interesting is sometimes the people who are the biggest resistors of change actually end up being the biggest advocates in the long run. So if you happen to find somebody who is resisting the change or might be worried about it or concerned about it, oftentimes the best thing to do is to talk to them. And whether it’s the project team, whether it’s their manager sitting down and trying to really understand what the concern is, because many times there’s nuggets of wisdom in there that can be used to make the project better, to improve the process automation, to change the way that things are run, because not everybody can see all the details.

Christi Fath:
Maybe the person used in the field closest to it knows one of the biggest glitches and when they can hear their concern is heard and addressed and while sometimes you can’t always do everything the way that everyone wants, hearing their concern and gathering that valuable feedback actually ends up making the process better. And in my experience with this one person in particular who was a very influential person in the company, she was very resistant to the change. And I sat down and talked to her and I heard her concerns and she had a really valid concern and some good suggestions. And we met, we incorporated it into the process. And what was so amazing was this person who is extremely influential and was really negative and against the project, actually after having her voice heard and having some shifts made and the project, ended up being my biggest advocate for the project, ended up being a really big supporter.

Christi Fath:
So while sometimes we often put people at the end or behind the tactical getting the work done and redesigning the process or redesigning the technology, oftentimes getting the people on board will help drive things forward to the future and really increases adoption. And then once that person, in my example, once the person found that she was supportive of it, she was able to turn the whole group around. She was my one leader, my one stakeholder leader who was able to influence the rest of the team. And I have found often key stakeholders like that are really critical to project success.

Marty Herbert:
It’s interesting too. One of the things, kind of the corollary to that too actually came up today for me as we were talking about change agents and really who the champions were for different projects and processes and things like that. We actually had a situation today where somebody raised their hand and had been a naysayer, but they raised their hand and they’re like, “Wait a second, I want to know what that person who only does this process once or twice a year has to say.” Because now you’re starting to talk about how do I change those people who don’t and aren’t involved the most, you’re changing their world. They may not know about it for six or nine months from now. So they’re really getting stakeholders across the board and having somebody who can, “Hey, don’t forget about.” Tends to end up making that change management a lot easier. And really the implementation of the process changes.

Christi Fath:
Absolutely Marty. I completely agree with you and it’s, it’s always important to think about the different stakeholders and the people who are the daily users, the people who are the infrequent once or twice a year users and as a part of that change management plan, putting something in place so the person who only goes to the system once or twice a year has a quick easy reference that’s right there at their fingertips so they don’t have to remember the message that came out or the training. They can go and they have a quick and easy resource. And that’s also part of our change management program is providing resources for users after implementation. Oftentimes people think of implementation and change management as being training before we go live. But what we have found to be the greatest success is providing post go live support and resources, whether it’s having a coach available, or having job aids available, or having a manager who reinforces people who are following the new process and gives them recognition. It’s a whole structure that’s built around ensuring and supporting this new business model going forward.

Erin Keating:
Once again, I can’t help but think how relevant all of this would be for, I just want to put this podcast out to everybody today, right? I mean the changes that people are being forced into and you make a really valid point in not always just trying to solve the problem for the daily users, because I think that’s everyone’s instinct. But to be sure that you are enlisting those that either may only touch the process or the activity once or twice a year, or maybe even never, because it is really hard to help them get over that hump of understanding that the change is needed, that the efficiency is needed, the productivity will increase. If they aren’t individually dealing with it, then it may be really hard for them to grasp it. I would use the example of right now for instance, I’m considered high risk so I’ve been staying at home and I’m also limiting all of my news because I don’t want to hear about this crazy stuff anymore.

Erin Keating:
But it means that the very few times I do go out, I’m going, “Oh wait. What do I need to do? What processes do I need to remember that I need to be following right now to keep myself safe?” And all these other things. Which I wouldn’t necessarily know. I’m not staying dialed into it all the time, but it is a huge behavior change and we’re all going through that together. And wouldn’t it be wonderful if one of the outcomes of this whole experience was that people went back to work and remembered all the lessons we learned through this craziness and apply them. Your job would be a snap tomorrow, right? Now you’re going to be so easy talking to people about change cause everyone’s just gone through this massive behavioral change shift. So in speaking about that, why is it just sending a company email to everybody or giving a quick shout out saying, “Hey, by the way, this process has changed.” Why isn’t that enough when you’re really trying to Institute change across an organization?

Christi Fath:
Well. What’s interesting is in advertising they say that you need to hear a message seven times. They have what’s called the rule of seven before a consumer will actually take action on an advertisement or something like that. So if we think about that in the business context, or in our coronavirus context of what do we need to do, we needed to hear it a few times to be able to have it register that, “Oh well when we go outside we might need to be more cautious. We need to socially distance.” We heard that message so many times. The same is true with change. I don’t know if you have an inbox like mine, but we get a lot of emails every day and sometimes an email can be easy to ignore or you could read through it, but you may not necessarily get the meat of it.

Christi Fath:
And what change management best practices are that there are multiple different modes of communication, so it might be an executive leader speaks about it in all hands or an executive leader sense of a memo to the team, but then the manager follows up and discusses it with their team. They talk to the team that’s getting ready to adopt the change in a one-on-one situation or in a team meeting. “Let’s start to plan how are we going to use the new technology?” It’s even in small groups where you can have feedback sessions of, “This is what we’re thinking. Can you give us feedback on what would be the best approach?” So there are multiple layers of the communication from leadership communication to manager communication, to those key change agents that I so strongly recommend having on any project that are the people that can have their ear in the water cooler or on the Zoom meeting that they can be able to have that discussion with people and really catch the pulse of what’s happening and share it back with a project team to be able to make appropriate adjustments. Because really getting that feedback, communication isn’t just one way, it’s got to be a two-way street when you’re implementing change to be able to get the feedback from the people who are impacted. And I found a multilayered approach to be the most effective and the most long lasting.

Erin Keating:
So in speaking to effective communication wants to change has been implemented and I’m thinking, right now we’re dealing with the issue that I’m having to homeschool my children, right? And so I get these long emails from the County that just explain everything about it, legitimately 15 paragraphs. And I am the kind of person who says, “Nope, no thank you.” And admittedly I’m dying on the vine here a little bit with this change management, because I am not a learner by reading. And I’m thinking that is a good example for when you all are designing your communication plans for training staff, are you having to think about, okay, some of our learners are going to be great just reading a one page document. Some of our learners on this are going to be much better if they’re one-on-one in person and being able to talk, some of them are going to be visual learners. How does that affect how you’re effectively communicating with people once change has been implemented?

Christi Fath:
Erin, you are absolutely correct. There are multiple different strategies that have to be honored. We have to think about who’s visual, who is even kinesthetic, who needs to get their hands on the keyboard and really interact with the technology. That’s a part of the training plan and the communications plan that really tries to honor all of those different types of modalities. Some people like to hear it. They would like to sit in a meeting like our Zoom meeting or our podcast and listen to it and hear and understand the changes that way. So often a multi-modality approach is included.

Erin Keating:
So what other things that are critical to a successful change management process?

Christi Fath:
I think that there are really three things that make a change management process successful. The first is you need to have supportive and an involved project sponsor who’s really visible to the team and is setting the stage, because oftentimes messages that that flow down, I mean businesses are a little different these days, but really when the message is from the leadership at the top, that really sets the stage for project success, because it reinforces the key goals.

Christi Fath:
The leader who is the sponsor can remove roadblocks. They can empower the management team and they really can set that direction to get all of the oars rowing in the same direction. The other thing that they can do is that they can use their leadership power to be able to reward and recognize contributions that help reinforce the positive new behaviors that they want to see in people. And I will also say that that’s the executive sponsor, but they’re are really leaders at all levels in an organization. Again, we had talked about before about having the manager communicate different changes and talk to the team. We also want to be able to have those change agents or influencers within the organization who can help us drive adoption. So there are leaders at every level and they can really help keep the project aligned and make sure that everyone is getting the same message of the forward direction. The second thing that I recommend is the communication, communication, communication. I can’t say it enough or visualize it enough or talk about it enough depending on those different modalities we talked about. Communication in a variety-

Erin Keating:
Good point. You’ve got to be thinking about all of our listeners.

Christi Fath:
Communication in a variety of formats is always helpful. The best way to bring people along is let them know what is happening. Neuroscience has actually found that when people are aware of a change, they are better able to absorb it then having it sprung on them. Kind of like we’re going through with this current state of the world with our shelter in place guidelines. We turn on the news and hear what’s happening. So if we could sometimes take a moment to step out of the fear, like you’ve said, I’ve given myself a news diet. I’m stepping out to be able to help myself think more logically. Well, if we apply that to change management when people are in fear because they don’t know or they make up stories because they don’t know because they’re not communicated with, that can bring fear. And when people are in fear they don’t have as much of their neocortex. What we want to try and do is help people be well aware of what’s coming so they can think logically and really begin to embrace the change. We want to communicate to the team so people are aware of the change, but they can excitedly look forward to it and begin to embrace it.

Marty Herbert:
That’s really part of what we do too, is try to build that excitement, right? If you don’t gain some level of excitement… Because you think about people who are experiencing any kind of change, how excited can you be about, yay, my accounts payable is changing, right? I mean that’s just not an exciting thing. I mean, this is coming from a government compliance nerd, right? So you think about trying to get people excited about the topic that is happening to them, the change that is happening to them really takes to Christi’s point, the leadership and the communication at all levels because whether it’s leadership from the top down or leadership from the bottom up, I mean people that are on the ground doing the process changes, doing the process management on a daily basis are oftentimes the ones that step up in those meetings and those sessions that we talked about trying to get out what the process is. They’re also the ones that say, “Wait a second, I know why it’s done that way and it shouldn’t be.” And the only thing that you can’t change are things you don’t know about. So as you communicate, getting that feedback loop that Christi talked about too really helps to get people involved and buy in, which helps to make some of that excitement too.

Erin Keating:
Marty, on that topic, help me just paint a better picture of, we’ve gone through what the process is on your end when we started talking about business process improvement and how you begin a project and change management, it’s not a separate thing, nor is it an afterthought. At what point in the process do you start out with a client with both your business process improvement team as well as your change management team at the same time? Because that feedback loop does sound like it’s needed, but at what point do they get brought in together on the same project?

Marty Herbert:
Really all the time at every stage of the process. We’ve had a lot of clients honestly who see it as the afterthought. “Well, we know we’re going to make these big process improvements. We know we’re going to have change. We’re going to do all this stuff and once you’re building the solution then we’ll talk about it. Then we’ll figure out how are we going to train people, how are we going to get people involved, how are we going to.” But what we do within the business process improvement team in general is we are talking about, we are laying the foundation of change management all the time. Whether or not Christi in particular is involved at the beginning, the entire team has that underpinning through the entirety of the engagement that we know that’s what we’re doing. We know we’re changing people’s lives. We know we’re changing the way they do things, so we know from the very beginning that if we’re not talking about who’s being impacted and how, that they’re going to be major issues at the tail end of this saying, “Hey, wait a second. I don’t know that I can do that.” And then you end up with a bigger problem of how do you then change the changes you’ve made because now you don’t have buy in at all.

Erin Keating:
We’ve all been there. I can tell you in many instances I’m going, well, it would’ve been nice to be a part of this solution earlier, because then I wouldn’t have felt like such a disruptor at the end of it telling you, “Whoops, you missed a huge step” or something. Honestly, it sounds like Christi, you’re part therapist in this whole situation. I’m thinking about someone saying, “Well, I’m going to lose 10 pounds and so I know exactly what that process improvement should look like. I should exercise more and I should eat more efficiently.” And if you’re not addressing, well what does that mean? What changes are you mentally going to have to go through to change your diet and to exercise three days a week and things like that? Too often in our own private lives we’re realizing all the time that improvement and change go hand in hand and being able to manage that is really important. So I’m assuming at some part of you was always sort of interested in psychotherapy, I guess, to be able to bring in that neuroscience and managing people’s emotions and barriers for them to be able to make the changes in the first place. Does that sound about right, Christi?

Christi Fath:
You are spot on Erin. I really do have a love of understanding what helps people change and what helps them to be successful. And if you look at the biggest change thing, how many people set new year’s resolutions and yet it’s hard to implement them. We know we need to eat right. We know we need to exercise more, but what we need to do is also look at the behaviors and the structures that we put in place to help ourselves be successful at that. So for example, if the structure is, I have a gym in my home, or I get a membership to a gym, or I joined an exercise class, there’s a structure sometimes that needs to go along with change, both in our personal lives and at work. And you’re absolutely right, there is a blend of that, of what motivates people because there’s intrinsic motivation.

Christi Fath:
Within yourself you are motivated to be able to do this because I want to grow my career, I want to learn a new skill, and we always want to touch on people’s internal desires to make the change and to support the change because it will help them or it’ll help their career, it’ll make life easier. We always want to tap on that. And then there’s also the external factors of, oh well there’s a bonus if you do this, or there’s a reward for adopting the change. So we try to link in some of those internal motivators and external motivators within the change and helping the team along because we all need help and support when we’re making changes, just like with our eating and diet plans, we need help with that. Change management does incorporate much of that as well.

Erin Keating:
And I imagine it’s a lot to consider too because it’s the intrinsic motivation for someone who’s actually doing the process every day might be very different than the person who’s only doing it twice a year, which may be very different than the CEO who actually just looking at, does this help my bottom line? So you’ve got quite a big task ahead of you. It sounds like quite exciting and just an interesting way to look at that particular field. So I’m so happy to have gotten this information. Marty, Christi, I think we’ve covered change management, but before we go, please let me know if there’s anything that you would like to leave with our guests as a parting thought on change management and how it fits into business process improvement.

Marty Herbert:
I think it really ties in well to even what we’ve talked about in the past and really going forward, great tie in to what we’re going to talk about next really with talking about control and really helping to, great, we have a process, we’ve improved in and we’ve done all this change management. And change management is really what helps to solidify, solidify the change, make it so that it is well controlled, that it is well taken by the masses. It almost sounds like you’re vaccinating everybody, but, but it really is-

Erin Keating:
It can help.

Marty Herbert:
Yeah, exactly.

Erin Keating:
Wow, this was awesome. And once again, I just love being a part of this podcast because I learn something new every day and it helps me. I just hope that if I’m ever in this situation in a massive corporation again, I’m going to be star pupil number one when a process needs to be improved, now that I know at the making of the sausage looks like on the other end. So thank you Christi and Marty both so much for spending time with us today, especially in the midst of all this craziness. Marty, I look forward to catching up with you next week on our fifth and final episode of the ABCs. And then I know that we’re going to move on to some tools and maybe even encourage some specific partners to join us in these podcasts, but thank you both very much for being here today.

Marty Herbert:
Thanks Erin.

Christi Fath:
Thank you Erin.

Erin Keating:
The Neo Systems difference. We specialize in serving organizations of all sizes. In today’s fiercely competitive market, is your organization constantly searching for ways to gain the advantage of our competitors? Smart organizations are paying more attention to their strategic back office operations. Neo Systems offers scalable back office services and solutions to improve your organization with a team of industry experts, industry leading information technology tools, and an advanced technical infrastructure. From software hosting and security solutions, to managed accounting services, Neo Systems will custom build solutions and services that are tailored to fit your organization’s needs. Check us out on the internet at Neo Systems C-O-R-P .com. That’s neosystemsCorp.com.

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