The title is pretty much a self-evident statement, which can be applied almost universally to anything that involves human beings. Humans, after all, are the center of everything they do. This is neither accusatory nor pejorative. It’s simply an observation, based upon the thousands of years of evidence.
In Business Analysis and especially in Information Technology, it’s natural to think in terms of data and/or systems. In the earlier part of my career, I often made the mistake of looking at a problem, or more accurately, the solution to a problem as being related to information and/or systems. As I evolved into a manager, I learned very quickly, that these things can indeed be the solution, but more often than not, the problem, and the solution, revolve around people.
I started my corporate path upward by devising technological solutions to automate business processes. It was my belief (via my IT experience) that any problem could be overcome with the application of technology. I devised solutions that really only worked around problems, but they were clever and effective enough to catch the attention of Management, who welcomed me into their ranks.
My first critical observation as a Manager was that the people who have systems impressed upon them, typically do not embrace those systems and will, in the absence of fear or oversight, revert to the process, manual or other, with which they are familiar and comfortable. I challenged myself to find the solution that I ultimately discovered was right in front of me the entire time: people.
The first step to success is to understand why there is a manual or seemingly inefficient process in place. Observe, ask, and listen. Just because the person involved answers “That’s the way it’s always been done.” doesn’t mean there isn’t actually a valid reason. A comprehensive investigation of the process will reveal any legitimate purpose. In the end, it can be discovered that the existing procedures are indeed the most effective even if they are less efficient.
If there are people involved, there will probably be some resistance to any change. Change brings fear of uncertainty, It’s critical to the implementation to create and share a comprehensive plan for any change that will have a large or wide impact. If all of the stakeholders (affected people) are aware of the changes, have input into them, and are assured a positive outcome, much of the resistance can be managed. Again; observe, ask, and listen. Be receptive to input from all stakeholders, no matter how small.
Post-implementation is where the biggest risk of failure lies. At this point, the time and money has already been invested in the change and now its success will depend upon the continued adoption of the change. Once again; observe, ask, and listen. It can be frustrating when dealing with unfounded fear and emotion if you don’t understand its nature.
Identify the people who have embraced the change. They are your champions. Invest enough time in them to ensure their success. Empower and direct them to be ambassadors to the people who have not accepted the change.
Invest your time and the time of your ambassadors in the people resistant to the change to understand their fears and help them overcome them. Thoroughly investigate any post-implementation objection to the new process and carefully document and review any reported problems. If any gaps are discovered, acknowledge and correct them immediately. Point out the important role that the people have in identifying problems and refining the process. Make them aware of their value.
In the end, the lack of acceptance could lead to the need to dismiss certain people, but always weigh the consequences. If, at some point, the new solution fails in any way, will the organization be able to revert to the prior process if necessary? Understand the risks involved with removing people from processes and you will see how important they can be.
For any new process implementation, the investment of time in people should always be greater than the investment in technology or processes.