Change Management: Process and Relationships

06 November 2018

Most problems arising within an organization usually stem from a mix of process and relationship deficiencies.

author picture Article written by Philippe Bourgeois

In an age of fast-paced changes, reactivity and flexibility are survival skills. As competition intensifies on international markets, organizations are urged to improve their working processes to keep clients satisfied and stay in the game. Parallel to that, automation and artificial intelligence are quickly transforming the labor market, which makes soft skills (empathy, self-confidence, EQ, creativity, communication, leadership, …) even more essential[1]. It is therefore not surprising to hear a lot of talk about process management and relationships. But because it creates a disconnect between these two otherwise interrelated issues, the discussion is inherently flawed. We argue that most problems arising within an organization usually stem from a mix of process and relationship deficiencies.


Process or relationships?

Thriving in a hypercompetitive environment depends on both reducing costs and providing excellent service that can make you shine with your customers. Any organization can be understood as a complex set of correlated processes that can be improved in a number of ways, always with the client or end-user in mind[2]. Considering that CM is concerned with the management of people, we should insist on rule setting and roles definition as key components of process optimization[3]. Charting roles and defining clear rules greatly helps frame relationships and remove any ambiguity when it comes to determining the most appropriate course of action or approach. Without such a preexisting framework, there is virtually no collective vision. We have all been there: members of the team are left to their own devices, opening the doors for misunderstandings, conflicts and inertia. When exploring the possible causes of a problem, it is therefore crucial to understand that relationship issues are usually caused by fuzzy processes or the lack of clear rules.

Process and relationships.

For Change Managers operating in large organizations, being aware of the interdependence of these two variables is all the more important. In such complex systems, processes are key but should be adjusted to promote operational agility and improve efficiency. By no means can they be equated with rigidity and it is the role of CM officers to tweak them on an ad hoc basis. Circumstances and people cannot be left out of the equation when structuring processes (or restructuring them, for that matter). Team members are the building blocks of truly effective change and a greater binding force than any preset process. Rethinking processes and relationships as joint dimensions is thus essential in a context of change where familiar standards vanish and where the creation of new ones is more often than not perceived as a threat.


[1] Chabal, E. (2017) Les 15 soft skills à maîtriser en entreprise, in Forbes.

[2] Barouch, G. (2013) Le Guide du Client Satisfait, Chapitre I – Pourquoi s’intéresser au processus.

[3] Dirodollou B. (2007), Manager son équipe au quotidien – Clarifier les règles du jeu et définir les fonctions, Eyrolles.

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