Behavioral Analysis Ideas for Process Reengineering

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In my last article, I talked about the intriguing field known as behavioral analysis (or 'nudge therapy'), and highlighted how organizations such as the UK government have managed to achieve a greater level of success in achieving their policy objectives, by using behavioral analysis techniques. I then suggested possible ways in which these techniques of behavioral analysis could help address some of the challenges faced in implementing and executing IT governance. In this post, I'm going to examine how the techniques of behavioral analysis could help with improving the success of process reengineering initiatives.

First of all, let's recap what behavioral analysis is. The subject is most associated with the book 'Nudge' by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein giving it its more homely title of nudge therapy. Essentially, all humans have certain natural biases and by taking certain actions you can influence people towards the course of action that you want by exploiting these biases. The nudge techniques that I'll be referencing in this article are:

Authority – people are social animals, and will naturally follow a group leader. If a perceived leader in the group is doing something, this legitimizes it. So, by providing examples of companies or departments that are perceived as leaders in the space who perform an activity, the activity becomes legitimized.

Social Proof – for the same reasons, we copy the behaviors of our peers. Telling us that an activity is common amongst our peers makes us more likely to accept the activity as legitimate.

Consistency – humans hate to seem inconsistent, so if you can get them to make a small commitment in a direction, it becomes much easier to get them to move further in that direction. But people are much more likely to make what they see as a small commitment, so in this regard the proverb ‘a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step’ is very true.

Expect Errors – humans make errors when confronted with anything not habitual, so it's important to expect that this will happen.

Now that we've defined the techniques that we'll be using, it's time to examine the main challenges with process reengineering that 'nudge therapy' might be able to help with.

Problem 1: Unavailability of SMEs

The first problem that we'll consider is that process reengineering requires input from Subject Matter Experts... but obviously their time can only be given at the expense of their daily duties. So a recurring problem is that they become unavailable because they're fighting more immediate fires. A solution is to use...

  • Social Proof – the process engineering team could provide regular reports to all departments showing the progress per department, while thanking departments for their support. This provides a subtle way of reminding departments that their peers are participating, providing the social proof.

Problem 2: Emotional investment in existing patterns

The second problem that we'll consider is that there can be resistance to adopting the new processes because people are comfortable with the existing way of doing things. A solution is to use...

  • Consistency – at the start of the project, the process reengineering team should ask departments to identify the problems that they are encountering with existing ways of working. This immediately requires departments to take a step away from the processes that they are currently using, making it that much easier to take further steps away from them.

Problem 3: Skepticism (previous projects)

The third problem that can occur is that staff are skeptical of the idea of process re-engineering, because of failed initiatives that they've seen either at the current organization or at other organizations where they have worked. A solution is to use...

  • Authority – the kickoff materials for the project should take care to list other organizations that have benefitted from process re-engineering and which are likely to command respect within the organization in question. This would go some way to counteract the poor examples that others might be able to point to.

Problem 4: Rollout of new processes

The fourth problem is with staff being unfamiliar with new processes and making errors in following them. We can address this with the technique...

  • Expect Errors – processes need to be available online, and the process portal should provide some way for staff to navigate to  - and ideally 'bookmark' in some way the most commonly used processes for their department.

In our last article in this set, I will be covering how behavioral analysis can be applied for use with enterprise architecture. Why not subscribe to our blog alerts to make sure you don’t miss it? 

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