Make Process Improvement Stick by Re-Thinking “Change Management”

Culture Process Improvement - featured

There is a distinct difference between change management and change leadership.

We often hear stories from organizations who have embraced process improvement (and we certainly have our own), and many of the stories follow the same plot line: upper management sees how identifying and eliminating waste will benefit their people, their customers, and their bottom line.

They teach their staff the 8 Deadly Wastes and explain how process improvement will make people’s lives easier. Employees are willing to give this “lean” approach a try, and small efforts start to produce wins in some areas. Everyone pats each other on the back, and 4 months later those wins have evaporated and it’s back to square one.

Implementing actual change in any organization – whether it’s your business, your family, your community – takes prolonged effort and commitment from the people who have influence.  In other words, change takes leadership, and we often make the mistake that managing change and leading change are the same thing. They aren’t, and here’s how they’re different:

Change Management vs Change Leadership chart


Here’s the takeaway: implementing process improvement or lean management techniques needs to be a systemic change if it’s going to stick, and that means that change leadership, not change management, will be what’s required.

business handshake

Here are 4 key questions you need to (clearly and articulately) answer to start establishing yourself as a process improvement leader:

1)  What will process improvement do for my organization?
2)  What 3 things will I need to do differently in order to get better in my role as a change leader?
3)  In 3 areas of my organization, how will process improvement actually look once it’s implemented?
4)  What difference will improving processes make in the lives of employees and customers?


“For companies to change, we need to stop thinking like mechanics and to start acting like gardeners.”

Alan M. Webber