BUCKLE UP! Change rarely goes as planned, but with proper planning and strategies in place, it can be a far smoother ride.
How many times have we approached Change Management white knuckled with fear of the twists and turns that lie ahead? Think about the last time you were in a theme park - Did you ride the biggest roller coaster in the park? If you did, at what point did you wonder about the safety belt? Change Management is much like that safety belt.
You would never ride a roller coaster that wasn’t designed with the proper restraints to ensure your safety. Too often organizations take on large-scale projects without a plan to prepare impacted users, and yet still expect high adoption rates and business continuity. Businesses dive into software implementations full of energy and enthusiasm for the time or money savings the new technology promises to deliver, but never consider how people will react to the change.
Project teams become laser focused on making this dream of modernization a reality. Rapid technical design and build take priority, sending vision and sustainable implementation to the back seat. Leadership continues on until the first “dip in the track” where the promises of the technology seem to fall short, or the “hill” of process improvement and culture change builds in size. In this moment, as the organization frantically reaches for any mechanism to prevent business operations from coming to a halt, it becomes apparent whether the proper Change Management planning and strategies were put in place upfront.
Who will drive? Understand Project Leadership.
Implementation isn’t just a system; it is people, process, technology all working together to improve the business. Cultural shift must begin at the top. We need guides to tell us where the track goes; Program Sponsors lay out the vision and mission for the project and executive sponsorship to pull the lever and put the whole ride in motion.
It is nearly impossible to achieve true transformation without buy-in from executive stakeholders.
Leadership provides context for how the project business case was built and what is key to ensure positive ROI. The Change Management function helps safeguard ROI by driving end-user adoption.
It is critical to understand what is important to executive sponsors to ensure appropriate expectations are cascaded to each level of the organization. Each level requires a targeted communication strategy and a variety of communication channels to relate how the new technology supports long-term business strategy and vision.
Who will ride? Know your customer!
Equally as important as understanding leadership, we must understand the needs of our customers. End-users know the systems most intimately and will be the most impacted by the future state. How do they feel about the current state? What are the key pain points they need resolved? What benefits most excite them? Addressing these key interests as soon as possible will help drive a smooth transition into the new system.
With large end-user populations, especially those spanning multiple countries or regions, the task of accounting for the perspective of each end-user may seem daunting. In these cases, strategic segmentation, or the concept of leveraging key dynamics of the stakeholder population to influence broad change, is recommended to achieve success.
Change Management teams can start by collecting broad population demographics such as department/function, position level, role, and office location, all of which may easily be obtained through an employee database or multiple-choice survey. Alternatively, you may segment by the role end users will play in the new system.
Building this high-level view of user composition serves as a foundation for the more challenging task of strategic segmentation.
What seat will they choose? Influencing Customer Decision.
Think back to the line you waited in to ride a popular roller coaster. As you progressed through the seemingly never-ending zigzag path, you may have observed the majority of the people waiting alongside you were unfazed inching along towards the front. What about the rest? Were they bursting with excitement reciting the coaster's speed and height statistics? Or were they pale-faced, terrified and contemplating turning back? Was there a fellow rider that convinced them to stay and ride? Or did they leave the line, consequently taking their fellow rider out with them?
One could assert the 20/60/20 rule of leadership here, which states 20% of a given population will want change no matter what, 20% will fight you no matter what and 60% will take the “wait and see” approach.
In the world of change management and stakeholder segmentation, we must first identify which of these 3 groups end-users fall in to. This is not something that can be exported from a database or directly asked on a survey question; it requires an understanding of an individual's background and experiences through close observation, just like in the roller coaster queue. Unfortunately, most Change Management teams simply do not have the bandwidth required to make these close observations. Consequently, we must leverage the knowledge of key partners to help determine appropriate segmentation.
Once segmented, we can strategically leverage the positive population (20%) to influence the indifferent (60%) towards acceptance of change, while preventing the negative population (20%) from influencing this group towards rejection of change.
An important consideration is to compare the make-up of the positive population, also known as “Change Agents”, to the full population demographics profile recorded upfront.
- Is each functional area/business group represented?
- Are all geographies accounted for?
- Is the ratio of Change Agents to “indifferent” users reasonable in terms of scope and size?
Asking and addressing these questions will ensure users questioning whether or not to adopt change are guided by positive forces directing them towards adoption as opposed to denying change and reverting to original state.
Enjoy the ride!
Change, much like our favorite coaster, is sure to take us through a variety of twists, turns, and climbs. We all need a friend who will keep us from leaving the line when the wait becomes too long or our nerves begin to get the best of us. These agents of change become the “boots on the ground” for the grassroots effort of influencing change. While the vision is set from the top, rumors begin at the bottom. Engaging your Change Agent network (top 20%) early on will allow you to spread the right kind of rumors and increase ridership.
More riders = more money in your pocket; greater ROI. Just like a roller coaster, the ride always ends. And, when we look back, we realize it wasn’t so scary after all!
|Change Management Consultant|