Process Change v. Process Evolution

Effectively Adapt Business Processes

It is almost inevitable that if a business system is in place that sooner or later it will need to change.  The change could be to accommodate a new opportunity, to mitigate a risk, to increase quality, or to mask an organizational deficiency.  Whatever the reason, managing process adaptations can often be a tricky business and without the right approach even skilled leaders can fall victim to an array of pitfalls.  For this reason it is important to consider whether the objectives can truly be reached  by prescribing simple changes, or is it really a more complex evolution that is needed; each require a different process management approach.

Process Change

Process changes should be categorized as small tweaks or adaptations to an existing process, team, or system to affect a precise movement or result.  The incremental small adaptation is tied to specific process observations or metrics in an almost scientific way with an accompanying hypothesis of sorts.  The change can be easily explained and communicated in a way that is widely understood and accepted.  In turn, the effects of the change can also be measured to determine if the deliberate adaptation yielded the desired result.  If the process involves a human element then those individuals, after some explanation, should easily understand the need for the small adaptation and its basis.  Because of the supporting observational evidence and the small incremental nature of the single adaptation, process changes can be prescribed with less fear of backlash or reverberation from others, and less risk of introducing new process flaws.

Process Evolution

Process evolution should be thought of as a continuum of sequential and/or non-sequential adaptations to attempt to meet objectives that are often not clearly understood or defined.  It could involve hundreds of small well defined process changes as well as some creative experimentation by the process team.  And it could involve undoing those same hundred changes in a re-attempt to refine and improve the process.   The evolution of a process cannot be easily explained or understood because there is no finality on the continuum. Certainly there can be goals and objectives that help steer the evolution but these aren’t final destinations as much as they are opportunities to pause and evaluate.  The process is considered to be held in a malleable state, with the goal of each iteration to improve upon the last.  In this case the process manager needs to exercise leadership in building a team, culture, and system that embraces adaptations, to speed the team along the process evolution continuum.  The process manager should first be more concerned with the overall ability of the team and system to adapt rather than immediately prescribing specific changes.  A misdiagnosis of the process management need as simple changes rather than a need for a culture of process evolution can further complicate organizational and technology problems. Building technology and leading an organization, that can propel itself along the process evolution continuum with speed and agility becomes the most important factor in the success of process evolution.

What Is The Difference Between Process Change And Process Evolution?

Process change is tactical and process evolution is strategic.  Without the strategy and culture of process evolution, process changes often fall short of delivering the desired outcomes.  By laying out the right process management evolution strategy first, the tactical process changes become easier to implement.