2023 KMWorld Media Kit Available Here 

BPM Technology That Overcomes
Human Aversion to Change

In today’s fast-paced business world, organizations need to not only be able to rapidly adapt ongoing processes in response to internal and external factors, but also to do so in a way that delivers optimum performance, business outcomes and customer service. Gartner defines this as “big change,” and it is what businesses need to survive and stay competitive in an increasingly volatile marketplace.

Many companies have turned to business process management (BPM) solutions to take control of process changes. But while change can present huge benefits for the enterprise, the results will never be realized if the staff that needs to execute and manage them is not amenable to the initiative. The fact is people are averse to change. So how can you overcome human nature and align staff to reinvent processes in the best interest of the organization?

Human aversion to change

In 1979, Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman published his groundbreaking paper, “Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk,” which re-examined the behavioral economics of decision making. Kahneman’s Prospect Theory states that in many cases people are risk adverse and are more likely to select an outcome with absolute certainty, than one where there is unpredictability even if the potential benefit is greater. According to Kahneman, this is because people are more likely to weigh the gains and losses of a decision, rather than the ultimate result.

For example, if given the opportunity to choose between two options: (a) automatically win $9,000 or (b) have a 95 percent chance of winning $10,000 (and a 5 percent chance of winning nothing), most people would select the sure thing—take home the $9,000—despite high chances of winning even more money, because of their aversion to risk.

Kahneman also pointed out that decisions can change according to the reference point. For example, if an employee is given the choice of: (a) getting a $5,000 annual raise or (b) getting 10 more vacation days per year, the employee decides to randomly select the raise. A year passes, and the employee is presented with the same offer, but must forego the raise if he opts for the additional vacation days. Would the employee be willing to return to the original salary in exchange for more time off? Highly unlikely because he has grown accustomed to a higher income. What happened is the reference point changed. People may not like change, but once it’s made, they equally don’t like to change back.

Breaking the psychological barrier

Kahneman’s findings about human nature and behavior clash directly with what modern experts, like Gartner, perceive as the key to business success: the ability to change. Therefore, if businesses want to achieve “big change” and make a positive impact on the enterprise, they need to look to BPM technology that takes human nature into account. These solutions work in line with how the human mind approaches change and risk management, allowing you to break the psychological barrier that comes with your staff’s aversion to change.

For example, business process changes should never be permanent. Companies should look to BPM technology that always provides the option to rollback changes if needed. This eliminates the contemplation of risk inherent in the minds of your staff and the sense of uncertainty that comes with changing a process. Your staff members don’t have to weigh the gains and losses of a new process because it does not feel as permanent or like a gamble.

Small steps, big change

Staff members are often apprehensive of conducting major overhauls of processes, even if they can result in a turnaround for the business. Instead of dramatic, large-scale change, organizations should use BPM technology that guides people with a “small steps, big change” approach, meaning making a series of frequent, small incremental process changes. Staff will feel more confident making minor incremental changes because the risks associated with them are much more modest than sweeping revisions.

Further, each of these small steps should possess a realistic, concrete goal. Every goal achieved and the successes along the way will establish a new reference point in their minds. As with the employee who did not want to forego the raise, your staff has witnessed and grown accustomed to the benefits of the new processes and will continue to make additional steps forward, instead of reverting to old processes. Overtime, these small changes and achievements add up to big business transformations.

Kahneman’s Prospect Theory validates why your staff may have a natural aversion to risk and change. So how can you overcome human nature and align staff to change processes in the best interest of the organization? Turn to BPM technology that can assuage innate resistance through frequent, small incremental changes which can be rolled back, pose modest risks, provide concrete benefits that change their reference point, and lead to big business transformations. Big change is the target for businesses today. BPM technology that keeps human nature in mind is how to get there.



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