Tackling Change – Obstacles and Challenges in Implementing New Processes


Recently I was with a client for a five-day, global offsite meeting. The meeting leadership had arranged some creative ways to pep up the team over the week, and to integrate to the local community as well. On the third day, when ISG was to lead a workshop on service provider management processes and operating model development, the schedule called for the workshop to begin after “Morning Entertainment.”

This turned out to be a local high school jazz band that came into the meeting room, set up, and played an hour of classic jazz. Watching them from setup to finish, I could not help but notice the many parallels to process development and deployment. After the band departed, the group began to discuss the band’s setup process. Group comments and observations were consistent; they felt the process was:

  • Messy and rushed
  • Busy
  • Showed signs of people who were not sure what to do
  • There was insufficient chairs and other setup material
  • Seemed to lack planning
  • Disordered

Often this is how new initiatives begin within companies. After they got it together, the band played. I asked the team, “Each of the musicians had sheet music in front of them, which they turned as they played. What if there was no sheet music? What would happen?” Aha – they would have no idea what to play, they wouldn’t know when it was another person’s turn – just like a good process, that shows each stakeholder what they need to do and when, and what comes first and what comes after. And without a process, or music, the band could not play the song together; the process is essential. Heads began to nod.

“What did the conductor do for the band? Was he restricting them? Was he intrusive?” No, they could see that the conductor was managing things just right, almost hands-off, so the band was free to do their work – to play the music/perform the process. But at key moments, he did provide the right direction, and that made all the difference.

“Did they have variations in the songs?” I asked the group. Yes, of course, they said, it made them better. They could start to see the logic of the questions; a song (or process) could be done in somewhat different ways and still meet the objective of being acceptable and even good.

“Some of those band members were playing trombones, one a guitar, and one was playing a baritone saxophone. Could they all play the same instrument and get the result we heard?” Well, no; everyone in the process had their own unique role to play, and if they did it well, the whole thing worked beautifully!

More questions followed. “Did you notice that some band members played multiple instruments?” Yes they did – just like in a process one person or team might pick up a piece of a process when necessary.

“Do you think all the people in this band like each other?” Well, probably not. “If they don’t like each other, what do they need?” They need to respect each other – just like in executing a business process.

“What if someone hit a wrong note? What happened?” Nothing bad happened, life went on and the music carried everyone forward, just like in a well-designed process.

“The band leader recognized them individually, didn’t he? Talking about their talent, giving them time for solos?” Yes, that was great, let each team member shine. “If someone made a mistake, did he call it out?” Definitely not.

I finally asked, “Could the songs have been played faster and been OK?” Absolutely not, the group agreed. “So, we learn something about process then – a song is a process – it has a beginning, middle and an end, and if you try to make it shorter than it should be, it’s not very good then.” No, it wouldn’t work.

“Did you like the music?” Oh yes! So much fun! “Was it the best music you ever heard?” Well, of course not. “Did it matter? Did that affect your enjoyment of it?” Well, no, it was great as it was!

It was a shot in the arm to the process workshop, a perfect object lesson:

  • For processes to work, there has to be a document that explains what everyone does and when to do it.
  • Everyone has a specific role and the roles are very different.
  • A leader brings order and allows people to shine, and does not openly criticize people who make a mistake.
  • People can fill in for each other, and nobody has to be best friends; simple respect is enough.
  • Small mistakes don’t harm the process, and the continuity of the work effort keeps the process moving forward.
  • Individuals can make a major contribution in the context of the process.
  • Rushing the process breaks it – each process has a proper duration.
  • And it doesn’t have to be perfect to be a fine process that works well and is satisfying to all the stakeholders, and does the job very well.

What more could a workshop leader ask for? We had a great session.


About the author

Cynthia Batty

Cynthia Batty

Cynthia Batty is the ISG’s Chief Knowledge Officer. In this role she is the ISG service methodology architect and global integrator of the company’s products and services, and is the leader for developing, growing and leveraging ISG’s accumulated intellectual property resources. Prior to this role, Cynthia was a lead in ISG’s Governance and Transformation practices, and maintains a continuing role in the Organizational Change Management practice. She brings 25 years of practical experience to advise clients on their sourcing governance and service management design, as well as organizational change management and maturity development. She is a recognized expert in sourcing governance, vendor and contract management. She has helped more than 50 governance organizations with business management and service management processes in both single-provider and multi-provider environments.