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Embedding New Practices: Best practice suggestions from the BA Manager Forum

By . December 20, 2018
A recent meeting of the BA Manager Forum considered how to embed new working practices in an organisation. This is often a thorny issue because, no matter how much better working practices may be, people have to be persuaded to use them fully, effectively and wholeheartedly; and this brings BAs up against long-established customs and prejudices, different perspectives and interests, inertia and even the well-established ‘not invented here’ syndrome.
The Forum came up with a range of suggestions regarding how this issue might be handled. This article provides a short summary of the findings. The Forum discussion was structured around a perhaps familiar framework that is illustrated below.  

  The five critical success factors when embedding changes were identified as:
  • Planning: Whether it is undertaking the change programme itself, deciding how stakeholders are to be managed, conducting the transition from ‘as is’ to ‘to be’ or embedding the changed processes, careful and thorough planning is vital. Without this, success is likely to be, at best, hit or miss and total failure is a real possibility. Apart from the usual elements of project planning – where, who, when – planning for any changes to working practices needs to embrace the other CSFs discussed here.
  • Stakeholder engagement: Similarly, the stakeholders – defined as anyone with an interest in the change programme – are the key to success and it is necessary to engage them, enthuse them, recognise and react to their concerns and, if they are hostile to the change, find ways of taking them along. Common mistakes here are: assuming that all stakeholders think alike, which of course they do not; overlooking a key individual stakeholder or group of stakeholders; avoiding stakeholders who are felt to be hostile to the change initiative; not tailoring communication to each stakeholder or group (see next section); and treating stakeholder engagement as something to be done once at the start of the initiative, instead of continuously throughout.
  • Communications: Communication should be continuous, honest, clear and tailored to the specific needs of each stakeholder or stakeholder group. Communication must also be two-way – back to the change team so that they can recognise any adjustments that need to be made. Tailoring is, of course, dependent on thoughtful stakeholder analysis in the first place and gaining a correct understanding of what specifically interests and concerns each stakeholder or group of stakeholders. Frequency of communication must also be judged carefully: too frequent and people will ‘switch off’ and lose interest; too infrequent and momentum about the change initiative is easily lost.
  • Measurement: Progress must be measured during the change programme, and success (for example, in terms of benefits realisation) measured afterwards. Although this sounds obvious, too often so much effort goes into the change work itself that insufficient time is allowed for useful measurement. There can also be a tendency to go for ‘hard’ measures like reduced headcount, precisely because they are easy to assess, when softer measures – customer experience, staff morale and so on – may provide a better indication of how permanent the changes will prove. In terms of benefits realisation, the main difficulty is choosing the point at which reliable measurements may be made as, often, there is an initial dip in productivity or satisfaction before the long-term benefits become evident.
  • Flexibility: The change team must be prepared to consider where things are not going according to plan and to make adjustments to the programme in order to deal with these problems. Rigidity is not helpful in this type of initiative. Of course, some resistance to change is always likely to be encountered and those promoting the change must not give in at the first sight of trouble. However, equally, sometimes people resist because aspects of the change are not right and will lead to problems later on. Accommodating reasonable requests for change is actually of considerable benefit when engaging with stakeholders as, if people can appreciate that they are being listened to, they will be more open to giving favourable consideration to other aspects of the change initiative. In considering these five CSFs, it will be evident that they are all interconnected and interdependent. For example, planning a communications strategy depends on a good understanding of the stakeholders and should allow for the measurement processes which will indicate if the change initiative is on track to deliver successful results. An effective approach to embedding new working practices offers an excellent example of the intrinsically holistic nature of business analysis work.

- Iton

For more information on the Business Analysis market, contact Iton Moyston

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