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Prioritizing Change

Updated: Oct 2, 2020




A client recently mentioned that although there were known operational issues in his business, he was struggling with which process improvements he should focus on, given other competing priorities for his time. Without a formal change management or program management function, prioritizing change can be challenging. A prioritization framework is a simple way for thinking through what areas matter most to your business/business unit (the categories of your framework) and the degree to which these areas matter (the weight you give to each category).


Standard categories in a prioritization framework include the cost of the change, the time it will take to make the change and the complexity of the change. In this article I highlight a few other considerations to be included in determining how to prioritize and manage your process improvements. These include:

  • Compliance with regulatory and statutory changes

  • Improvements to your core operations

  • Customer service improvements

  • Specific business goals and objectives


Compliance

Operating in accordance with your local laws and regulations should always be of top most priority. If your business is operating in a highly regulated industry or an industry with evolving regulations, it is critical that you dedicate the necessary resources (internal and/or external expertise) to understand these regulations and also implement the necessary changes to your processes. Translating laws and regulations into actual processes requires cross functional collaboration between your legal and compliance experts as well as your operations teams to design and implement these new processes or process changes. These activities should not be taken lightly as repercussions could impact your business financially, in terms of fines for non-compliance and could also impact business reputation, if non-compliance becomes public.


Improvements to core operations

At the risk of sounding cliche, you can’t build on a shaky foundation and the same applies to your core operations. If the systems, organisational structures and processes that deliver your product or service every day are inefficient, there isn’t much else that you should be changing. In the case of my client, he was getting ready to expand his business and wanted to document and improve the existing processes at his first business site before expanding to his second site. This approach would help ensure that new employees are operating at the same standard at the new site, which would result in customers having a consistent experience at both sites. Lastly vendors and suppliers could also seamlessly expand their services to the second site knowing that the same protocols are in place.


Customer Service

Improvements to customer service/customer experience should naturally also be a top priority when prioritizing changes. Dharmesh Shah, CTO of Hubspot put it best “When you’re trying to make an important decision, and you’re sort of divided on the issue, ask yourself: If the customer were here, what would she say?” If there are multiple customer service improvements, engaging with your customers to better understand their biggest pain points is a good way to refine your prioritization. This will also help you to gauge how high you should score various process improvements, which all have a customer service impact. Oftentimes you’ll find that improvements to your core operations ultimately improve the experience of your customers.


Business Goals and Objectives

Regardless of your stage in the business life cycle, your business or business unit will have ongoing goals/objectives that have been set and likely planned for different times of the year. The process improvements needed to achieve these goals and objectives will always need to be balanced with the sometimes unexpected operational issues that arise. When prioritizing these types of changes, consider the degree to which these changes will directly impact your ability to achieve these goals and objectives. A ‘must have’ versus ‘should have’ versus ‘nice to have’ approach, can be incorporated in the score you assign to various process improvements that further business goals and objectives.


Now that you have your categories (don’t forget to include your time, cost and complexity scores as well), the next step is to come up with your weightings and the range for scores. For example you may weigh core operations improvements to be twice as important as meeting an improvement that enables a business goal or objective; after all operational efficiency should always be an objective. The weights you give to each category can be represented as percentages and the sum of all the category weights should be 100%. For the range of scores you want to have a broad enough range to end up with significantly different scores, for example 1-3 is too small a range. Lastly, if applicable, get your team members to also score all the process improvements under consideration. You can then use the average scores to incorporate everyone’s point of view into your final prioritization.


Here’s an example of how this would work using a scoring system of 1-10 with 10 being the highest.


We hope you found this article useful and would love to hear from you on your challenges prioritizing your process improvements.


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