Section 3: Planning the change
Process approaches to change
Process approaches to change aim to transform the ways that organisations do things. Click here to read an example of this.
IBM recognised that its large corporate customers were increasingly operating on a global basis. To meet customer needs, the company would need to standardise operations worldwide. A common set of processes for order fulfilment and product development was required to replace the diverse processes then in use in different parts of the world and in different product groups. But this major change initiative immediately ran into difficulties internally. Existing management structures concentrated power in the hands of country and product managers, and they were reluctant to change their tried and tested ways of working.
In response, IBM changed its management structure. Each process was assigned to a member of its most senior executive body. All members were required to report back to the corporate executive committee on the status of the design, deployment and implementation of the new processes, including the benefits realised. Each process was then assigned an owner, a 'business process executive', who was given responsibility for designing and deploying the process as well as control over all expenditure for supporting technology.
Each of IBM's business units now follows the same processes. By shifting organisational power away from the units and towards processes, IBM achieved its goal of standardising processes across the world. It claims that the benefits were dramatic: a 75 per cent reduction in average time taken to get new products to market, an upswing in on-time deliveries and customer satisfaction and cost savings in excess of $9 million.
There are a number of tools that can assist with process approaches to change. Select each bullet point for more details:
- total quality management
This involves modifying organisational processes to make quality the main objective and ensuring that the whole of the organisation/department/unit is involved.
- business process re-engineering
This aims to increase efficiency by getting organisations to focus their efforts on key processes that add value for their customers, such as new product development, service delivery and customer retention.
- knowledge management.
This uses new technology to harness organisational knowledge. At its simplest, knowledge management can be as simple as writing down useful telephone numbers, photocopying the list and sending it to everyone that needs it. At its most advanced, it represents attempts to access and disseminate as a corporate resource all the tacit (implicit) knowledge that makes the organisation function effectively.
Activity 9: Application of process approaches
Read the case study of the outpatient clinic appointment and use the text box below to note evidence as to which tools were used in effecting this change.
The outpatients clinic
Traditionally patients attending a hospital out-patients clinic would see a doctor who would request a number of non-invasive tests to assist in diagnosis and treatment decisions. These tests (X-rays, scans, blood tests, etc.) required separate visits to the hospital by the patient for each test, and then a follow-up visit to discuss the results with a doctor again.
Hospital trusts anxious to maximise the use of clinical time, reduce waiting lists and offer more responsive services to patients consulted staff and patients about ways to improve the out-patient services. It emerged that patients would be happy to spend longer periods at the clinic if this reduced the number of visits required. Staff suggested that new technology could be used to provide speedier test results and enable different specialist staff involved to contribute instantly to the diagnosis and treatment plans.
Hospital laboratories and X-ray departments were re-organised to deal with in-patient and out-patient services in parallel. Now patients are informed in the appointment letter that their visit may take up to three hours. Most tests required are scheduled into the visit by using a dedicated team allocated to service out-patient clinics alone during core hours. Upgraded IT systems enable results to be accessed immediately and most patients can see a doctor during the first visit for a diagnosis and discussion of treatment. Patient satisfaction surveys reveal increased ratings for the outpatient services and hospital managers have information suggesting higher throughput of work in laboratories, X-ray departments and other testing facilities.
Feedback: Application of process approaches
In the example there is evidence of several ideas in practice. The change resulted in a perceived improvement in service quality by patients, who are the customers of the service, by utilising new technology (knowledge management) and redesigning processes (business process re-engineering).
It was designed with input from front-line staff, who often recognise how to make process improvements, and integrated all aspects of the patient experience such as clear communication and effective use of time spent at the hospital. This is total quality management. It also contributed efficiency savings and thus met the requirements of an important driver in the change process.