5 Steps to Overcoming Process Paralysis

Many organizations and their leaders actively promote a culture of innovation but suffer from what I call “process paralysis”, meaning the ideas are generated but the process breaks down during implementation.   Consider the number of times you presented a great idea but failed to implement it within your organization because you couldn’t garner enough support, or you just didn’t have enough time to see it through.   Let’s be honest, organizational leaders are pulled in many different directions and struggle to improve capacity within themselves and their teams.

Lean Six Sigma methodologies were developed to address these problems and designed to help organizational leaders implement change and improve processes in a proven and systematic way.  How can you take the Lean approach to overcome process paralysis and begin making meaningful change within your company?

1. Build in the capacity to be more strategic and forward thinking by learning to effectively delegate

We can all relate to the overwhelming feeling that comes with an impending deadline, wearing too many hats, and not having enough time to get critical work completed in a timely manner.  However, effective delegation can save you time and will allow you to focus on the tasks you should be performing.  Read more about delegation in a previous article.

2. Effective Project Management

The implementation of every new service line, department, or product requires a “champion” who is fully engaged and committed to seeing the plan carried out effectively and efficiently.   Take ownership of your project and start by creating a realistic project scope.  Many projects break-down when management has unrealistic expectations and creates deadlines that are unobtainable.  To avoid these pitfalls, start by utilizing your project scope to create reasonable time frames for completion of project parts.  Then, clearly define action items with expected dates of completion, and be prepared to hold yourself and your team accountable.

Developing effective strategies for time management will help you balance the conflicting demands of time for your projects and day-to-day work.   By using your project scope as your framework, you can enter your actionable items and deadlines into your Outlook calendar.  Then, set reminders for yourself in Outlook and block off enough time on your calendar to work towards meeting these goals.

3. Stay in touch with the people who inspired you to proactively implement change

Stay in touch with the individual who influenced you.  This could be a mentor, a friend, or an individual that you met at a conference or presentation.  Remember, real change begins with an individual who is inspired to make meaningful reform.  That individual is you, and sometimes you need encouragement and guidance to continue down that path.

4. Communicate with other decision makers to obtain their support

Commitment starts with understanding.  You must educate your key decision makers before you can secure their buy-in.  First, make sure that you’ve done your research and homework so that you can support your claims and combat negativity.  Second, create a solid ‘sales pitch’ to present to the key decision makers.  Third, determine who your key decision makers are and get their support one at a time, or one group at a time.  Last, be the champion for your project and declare this commitment loud and clear.

5. Get others involved who can help make your idea a reality

You can’t institute meaningful change in isolation.  You absolutely must take a team approach if you are going to be successful.  Seek input from a cross functional team and give them tools for communicating your vision and for training and coaching others.

As you get more people involved with your project, you will ultimately come full circle back to #1-delegation, by allowing you to delegate some of your “champion” role to your team and thereby giving you the time to pursue another project.

Overcome your process paralysis by first becoming a Lean enterprise.  These organizations and their leaders are in a constant cycle of improvement.  They have applied these principles to overcome the silo management approach, to understand the value of teamwork, to act and react more efficiently, and to develop systems for delegation.  You will find that implementing new ideas is not such a daunting process once you have the correct framework in place.

About the Authors

Mike Sibley and Katie Davis are passionate about creating thorough and sustainable systems to help organizations become Lean Enterprises. In addition to writing and speaking on Lean Six Sigma, Mike and Katie work directly with an organization’s members to evaluate an existing process and identify solutions that eliminate waste, as well as build efficiency and quality into the process. Mike and Katie have applied these approaches for manufacturing, construction, professional services, and governmental entities.