Making change stick
Four practices to encourage successful change
In our last post, we discussed the importance of elevating the people side of change management to the top of your list. In this article, we look at four things you can do to achieve this.
1. Put it on the agenda
When you write the agenda for your project kick-off meeting, make sure that cultural and organizational change is on the list.
This might sound like stating the obvious, but it is depressingly common to find that this is omitted from planning meetings in the early stage of any initiative, only to be hurriedly added towards the end of the project.
Alongside discussing requirements gathering, infrastructure needs, security considerations, software options and the like, getting the people side of the change to the forefront of people’s minds from the outset is critical.
By this I don’t mean that you simply have your communication plan on the agenda – you need to look much wider than basic communications.
One of the key outcomes of this initial meeting has to be to make cultural and organizational change someone’s responsibility and require reporting at every subsequent meeting.
2. Identify and involve your champions
One of the best ways to get people on your side when making changes to the way they work is to find the people who already think it is a good idea and use them to spread the message.
During the requirements gathering stage of any project you will be getting out and talking to the people who will be impacted by your change – at least I hope that you will be! During this discovery phase take note of the most enthusiastic supporters of the change and get these people involved in your project team. Keep your champions aware of the progress of the change and ask their advice on any functionality issues that may come up.
Using champions introduces an organic process that greatly increases the chances of a successful implementation. Water cooler discussions and other casual opportunities to discuss the benefits of the new or changed application spread through the organization, developing an air of enthusiasm and expectation around the impending change.
3. Remember your ‘why’
Simon Sinek told us to ‘Start with the Why’ in his seminal Ted Talk. Remembering why IT exists will help with the acceptance of change.
IT is not here to introduce technology, to write code, to build servers or to analyze data. IT exists purely to enable the business and to provide the tools needed to deliver services and products to their marketplace. They are not here purely for the sake of technology.
Remembering this at every stage of the change process ensures that you focus on what is important and do not get distracted by technology. Business users are not interested in the server specifications, the software versions, what your backup strategies are or what security protocols you are employing.
What they are interested in is how easy the application is to use. More importantly, what really matters to them is how the introduction of this change enhances the bottom line for the business. They expect that you will keep their information safe, that you have sufficient capacity to store any data that is needed and that you have the skills needed to keep things up and running so the business can keep doing what it needs to do.
4. Communicate appropriately
Part of the change management process is marketing. You need to sell the change to your target audience, even if it appears that they have no choice but to use the new or changed application. You still need them to embrace and accept the change.
It may look, on the surface, like they have no choice, but this is seldom really the case. In this age of SaaS offerings, the business always has options and a poorly communicated change, no matter how technically successful it has been, may very well push business units to look for alternatives.
To communicate effectively you need to understand the people you are talking to, understand what matters to them and make sure your communications address their key wants and needs.
A well-executed requirements gathering phase will give you the information you need to successfully execute this part of the change process.
Focus on the business outcomes that the change you are building will enable. Concentrate on getting this message across when talking to the business. This is the only reason IT exists!
When the organization sees that IT is there to enable them to improve their bottom line, not just to play with the technology, then you will be able to win over the hearts and minds of the people who really matter, the ones who will be using the technology solutions you are building to maintain and improve the business that you are a part of.
Next: Understand what the business actually wants (coming soon).