How to win support when introducing process change

Improvement projects and initiatives create change by introducing one or more solutions that change the way individuals work. Whether in the form of new processes, systems or tools, reporting structures, jobs, roles, or ways of operating, there is a lot of emphasis on designing the “right” solution to the change, in order to realize the improved or new result.

Jim Nelson portrait
Jim Nelson

These new solutions require individuals to change the way they work and are only successful when they follow the new process. Change does not result from the solution, but rather from the people doing the new behaviors, adhering to the new process, utilizing the new system, or applying the new tools that were chosen. The individual is the ultimate unit of change.

Ignoring the impact of people’s behavior on change can result in costly inefficiencies and fading success. Getting early buy-in from stakeholders addresses the issues and decisions related to usability, adoption, and functionality for the end user. 

What makes people resist change? There could be a lack of understanding about the need for the change. Poor communication may cause uncertainty and a sense of discomfort about moving forward. There may be feelings of inadequacy to carry out the change. Some may not trust the leadership of the project, while others may not feel like they were appropriately involved in the decision process.

"What makes people resist change?"
"What makes people willing to adopt change?"

What makes people willing to adopt change? Loyalty, trust, and anticipation of a more efficient process or better product are just some of the reasons.

Here are some tips to gain buy-in right from the start.

  • Initiate conversations based on trust and respect.
  • Build awareness of the change by explaining the background and reason for the change, its anticipated benefits, and the risks of not changing.
  • Involve all the appropriate stakeholders up front and learn their perspectives. This helps formulate strategies for change management at the individual level.
  • Plan to provide coaching, training, or mentoring where needed.
  • Answer the question: What’s in it for me? People need to understand how it will make their job better or easier.
  • Ask the question: Can I count on your support?

We’ll practice how to get buy-in, along with other techniques and tools to successfully introduce and carry out process change, in the Implementing Process Change course. Hope to see you there!



This article was written by Jim Nelson, MBA, CMQ/OE, who teaches Process Innovation and Implementing Process Change for the University of Minnesota Business Process Improvement Certificate.

Jim is a business leader with 20 years of experience specializing in strategy, management, engineering, and quality. He has led project teams in a variety of areas including design, manufacturing, Six Sigma, Lean, and Performance Excellence, and he holds two US patents.