The APQC Blog

Overcome Resistance to Process Change

In 2005, Antony Savvas wrote a blog post called Resistance to Business Process Management: Gaining Buy-In. He discussed in his ComputerWeekly.com article that human nature plays a critical part in successfully implementing business process management (BPM). He noted that organizations believe they can implement process with "nothing more than a comprehensive set of tools and a good return on investment story". Yet not much has changed: Organizations still face strong resistance when implementing new process strategies.

In this discussion, Savvas explained that, "Cultural resistance tends to be a ‘bottom-up’ phenomenon that occurs when people working in individual work groups sabotage improvement efforts due to resistance to change driven by fear of potential job losses." Without attending to the issues associated with human nature, BPM projects will often fail.

Recently, APQC has performed research on how best practice organizations address and resistance to change. We found that the principles Savvas discusses are still accurate, people wil and do resist change when it comes to process management. Yet we have uncovered several best practices for working through that resistance.

One tactic is to take the biggest opponent and turn him or her into a proponent of the change. That can be done in several ways, but it is key to get that support. Another way to deal with resisters is to have a culture that rewards those who buy into change. This can be a great tool for having informal leaders influence people towards new initiatives. Finally, having a structure to change can be useful. Some organizations have a formal structure for changing process management, which helps people understand what to expect.

If you have ideas or suggestions for how to deal with resistance, leave a comment. We would love to hear your innovative ideas.