(During year-end tidying-up I found an article I wrote for a conference almost ten years ago, but the conference proceedings were never published. My conclusions and my deathless prose are hardly earth-shaking, yet I think the summary is still relevant after all this time.)

Corporations continue to confront new and unexpected business situations. Flexibility in the face of global growth and technological change is a central need of the “learning organization”. It’s human nature to resist change, but in the ever-evolving global business environment, flexibility keeps business processes relevant and useful.

Applying that to terminology management, common-sense rules for terminology process change management can be summarized as follows.

  • Understand the processes. New processes cannot be defined and established without a thorough comprehension of why the old processes were less effective. The interplay between terminology processes and actual needs of terminology work cannot be ignored. Gap analysis of existing processes is essential.
  • Communicate constantly. Processes cannot be rolled out by stealth. Make process definition and development as open as the rollout. A variety of channels – e-mails and memos to teams and individuals; presentations to larger groups and departments; project updates to the team and to management; social media for stakeholders and interested parties – can be employed to keep everyone informed about and involved in deciding changes to familiar processes and procedures. The big picture of all the processes must be available to those who may otherwise see only a small part of the whole.
  • Secure managerial support. Without the active involvement of management no process can be implemented successfully. Additional personnel and other project resources cannot be gathered on the sly. The acceptance of the need to change tends to grow when management sponsors the project and signs off on the rollout. The answer to the question, “Who said you could decide this?” is answered upfront.

Beyond these three rules, the terminology management team should realize that the only constant will be change. Effective change management never ends because a well-designed terminology process includes the mechanisms for identifying the need for further changes in the future and for implementing them in a timely, efficient manner.

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