If your experience with change management projects is similar to mine, you know that it is a painfully slow process to get everyone engaged in a new processes or systems that are being implemented. While there are some early adopters, most users tend to drag out the change for as long as possible. In the end, something that should have been done in 3 months takes closer to a year.
It is interesting that when surveyed, most CEO’s identify organisational / operational change as their most important role, but see the speed of change as their biggest frustration. It’s almost seen as a “necessary evil” for the entire company.
As a CEO of a few different companies, I can attest to the importance of change to innovate a company and the frustration that comes along with trying to change the behaviours of the staff. Over the last 25 years, I have made it my mission to study and understand the mechanics of change, because I know that it doesn’t have to be such a challenge.
At a leadership level, there are a number of strategies and best practises that a leadership team can do to improve the outcomes. I really like the strategies of John Kotter (Leading Change, published by Harvard Business Press). His “how to” steps are reasonably easy to integrate into a change process.
Some change projects are subject to poor design. This is a problem in itself but one that needs a different type of fix, which I am not addressing here. Some management teams need to improve their “leading change” skills which also not part of this discussion.
While owning a systems integration company I also saw the problem from a project deployment perspective. I had the chance to repeatedly see the difficulties customers experienced in change projects. When I deconstructed the components of project deployment and change management I received valuable insight into the choke points.
1) We send out “change is coming” messaging of various formats (CEO address, presentations, emails, dept. meetings, etc.) all of which may be well constructed to describe the why and the what. The 1st choke point is that we forget that our brains are great at forgetting (memory decay) so the messaging does not stick after a few weeks. Offering such activities as feedback sessions does not prevent Memory Decay. The clarity of the message can give way to misinterpretation. What if we changed these one-way communications to a feedback loop for everyone using the latest brain science on learning?
2) Skills transfer is another key step as part of your change deployment strategy. Learning (training) has undergone a major evolution in the last 10 years in part because of technology but mostly from the advancement in science into our understanding of how memory, recall and behavioural habits actually work. Unfortunately, our training / learning methods are not advancing to take advantage of this most recent knowledge. Webinars or web portals are small improvements to classroom type learning but do not qualify as innovation. By adopting more effective methodologies Change Management will have more frequent success at developing new skills and behaviours to their target audience.
3) Now that employees understand the importance of the change and they have the new skills the third step is to engage and actively use the new processes or systems. As Lou Gerstner pointed out, “If you can’t measure it you can’t manage it.” Tracking transaction activity is a great indicator of user engagement. However, employees tend to note like the idea of being monitored… I don’t either. To make this easier, the following 2 conditions should be met. First, transaction monitoring will only occur during the ramp up period. Second, only a few key metrics will be monitored to give a good indication of user adoption, information recall and utilisation.
Before accelerating change became my passion, I lived with a slow and sometimes painful change process for too long. It took a while for me to figure out how to remove many of the barriers to change. With the help of a group of friends and experts in their various fields of study, we innovated a new system and process to make change adoption faster and easier. The results have been remarkable and rewarding.
Here’s my question to you: As a Change Instigator, are you getting too many unsatisfactory results? What can you change of your own approach to embrace better ways of achieving project success?
For 20 years John Breakey led his Systems Integration business, UNIS LUMIN, through significant, successful changes in the industry. Since 2012, Fivel has been solving the Change Management / User Adoption problem using the latest sciences in human behaviour .