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Change Management: 5 Interview Tips for Process Improvement Consultants

February 18, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 245

As a process change management consultant, I spend a large portion of my time interviewing personnel at all levels of an organization to understand the current state of a process and the organization's appetite for change. During every interaction I am constantly watching body language, identifying power dynamics, building trust and gauging the level of resistance or openness to change. Effective interviewing techniques are critical to the success of every process change management project. The following are my top 5 tips for consultants (or anyone) charged with improving and therefore changing, a business process.

1. One Size Does Not Fit All - Don't Fixate On One Solution

I believe the number one mistake consultants make when managing change projects is fixating on one solution that they believe will solve the problem. There are many factors within an organization that may prevent a new process from working as expected. During interviews, keep your solution to yourself and instead, focus on asking probing questions to determine if your solution is achievable for the organization. For example, if your solution is to implement a new automated system, you need to gauge the IT competency of the employees that will be using it or whether the new system meets the organization's corporate IT standards etc. Just because your solution has worked for another company, does not mean it will work again. If you present a solution to a client that they are unable to implement or sustain, you have failed to conduct effective interviews during phase 1 of the project.

2. Leave No Stone Left Unturned - Engage Every Stakeholder

Process improvement projects generally affect one major group of employees and cause small ripple effects in other departments or on specific employees outside the main group. It's easy to overlook or underestimate the impact on peripheral stakeholders due to pressures to meet deadlines and create change urgency. However, in order to successfully complete the project, every person affected should be engaged and interviewed to ensure the changes do not cause such adverse problems that the project is considered a failure and your reputation is tarnished.

3. Don't Be Afraid To Actively Manage Conflicts Or Politics

We all know that most organizations are rife with passive (or sometimes not so passive) employee conflicts and political play. In my experience, this is a leading cause of project failure because people were unable (or unwilling) to work together and align their priorities with those of the organization. It is critical to identify conflicts or politics that may inhibit a project and the primary way to do this is through interviews. Once you've identified the problem you need to decide how to actively manage the situation in order to be successful.

On one client project I scheduled a meeting with the two executives and laid the issues on the table and explained why we the project could not move forward until they reached some sort of understanding and compromise. This was very successful on that particular project with those particular people, however every situation will be different and I highly recommend studying personal coaching in order to round out your people management skills when dealing with employee conflicts and corporate politics on a project.

4. Always Elicit Ideas And Give Credit

During my initial exploratory interviews on a project I always close an interview with the question "What would you do to improve/solve this situation?". As a consultant your role is to consider the complexity of the entire problem and present a solution and implementation plan that will achieve a higher level of operational efficiency. While you've been hired for your process change management experience and expertise, you should never underestimate the ideas and input of the organization's employees (those who are closest to the action and will eventually have to implement and live with the changes long after you are gone). If the solution you present to management includes the ideas of an employee, be sure to give them full credit. This will continue to build trust and motivate the employee to champion change.

5. Location, Location, Location

When scheduling interviews, make sure the location is appropriate for the conversation and seniority of the person. When in doubt, ask a personal assistant or administrative assistant which meeting room would be appropriate. However, whenever possible, I try to conduct one-on-one interviews at the person's desk. Often this gives me a "better feel" for the corporate culture and I generally receive more information from the interviewee as they can provide data immediately. The major draw back however, is that you often need to be very skillful at keeping the person focused and on topic to cover all of your questions within the allotted time.

Find out how you can take your business to a new level of operational efficiency by contacting me for a free consultation at or call 1 (888) 664 0008 to take action today.

Source: EzineArticles
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