How Do You Get Users to Follow Your Process?

You’ve just gone through the rigor of documenting a process, applying improvement techniques from Six Sigma or some other methodology. Maybe it’s part of your primary job responsibilities as a process lead, or it’s a secondary assignment in your role as a product or project manager. Regardless, you feel that there’s a big opportunity to improve operational efficiencies with your process, but how will you get users to follow it?

Communicate

There’s an old adage, “communication is key”, which not only applies to personal relationships but business relationships and the relationships between process owners and their user communities. It’s important to have some form of a communication plan in place when introducing a process, as minimal as it may be, to ease any pushback brought upon by change.

Some keys in planning communications are to identify the target audience (process users) and the methods they can be reached. Finding the right audience can be done in various ways, like asking key stakeholders who they think relevant users are, analyzing organizational charts, or mining product/program team rosters.

When you have an audience, you can then work to find out the best medium/channels to reach them. Are there group email accounts that they are members of? Is there a social media community that the users are actively engaged in? Find what’s best for the given scenario and continue to experiment with what leads to the most engagement.

As for content, make sure that messaging within communications explains why and how the process is to be performed. If the content simply describes the process, it’s likely to be overlooked/ignored and potentially offensive if people view it as something they’re being forced to do.

Update Tools

Probably the more obvious, but most costly solution when implementing process changes is to update the relevant tools where the process is performed. Perhaps the process is entirely new and in that case, you would be building a tool, or toolchain from scratch. Of course, this is assuming that you are on the “process first” side of the “process vs tool: which should come first” argument!

I’m not going to drill into the details of updating or developing tools based on a new or changed process (that may warrant its own post). However, the high-level summary would be that the changes need to be coordinated with all stakeholders of the tool. Discuss how it will be done (i.e. complete switchover or phased roll-out), when, and who’s responsible for what will need to occur.

By updating tools per process, you’re essentially forcing users to follow the process. This ties back to point number one, utilize communications (and training) to ensure the changes to the tools brought by a new or updated process go smoothly for the end-users.

Develop a Feedback Loop

One additional way to get users to follow your process – develop a method for users to “check-in” at certain points in the process. For example, if your process requires a step to gather documents, set up a shared location for the documents to be posted. This can effectively let you monitor how and if the process is being followed at certain points in time.

A more active, rather than passive monitoring of the process is to have checkpoints that enable users to say “yes, I did this” or “no, I didn’t do this and here’s why” for each process step. This solution needs to be designed carefully though because it may introduce the administrative overhead of manual report-outs, which can leave users dissatisfied with the process.

In an ideal situation, the status of process step compliance could be passively monitored as an output of the toolchain, but users are empowered to provide feedback along the way. This lets you analyze real data on the process conformance/performance while not frustrating users by having them prepare status update report-outs.

PTA1P1: This is process article #1 (P1) in a series of process, tool, and analytics (PTA) articles. If you liked this article, please follow for more like it!

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