Change Management: Rule #1 – have a plan!

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Organisational change management is a real challenge If it’s overlooked or payed lip service to it will spell disaster for technology initiatives.

Ultimately implementing a new technology in an organisation requires people to adapt and change the way they do things. The degree of change obviously varies depending on the penetration of the new technology concerned. Without the change element, technology implementations fail. Whatever the new technology solution, Human Capital Management, Finance or a new mobile working solution, business processes will be affected. Changes in business process necessarily require associated user adoption.

As a general rule if you are changing business processes or a piece of technology that supports business processes then you defiantly need change management plan.  If the impending technology implementation supports existing processes, then the plan might just consist of a training plan. At the other end of the scale, the technology implementation might allow for a wider review of the operating model, the implications of which are a fuller change management plan that involves visioning, coaching, stakeholder management and amended job descriptions for example.

Creating a Change Management Plan – the 7 essentials

Over the years I have developed a list of 7 essentials to be addressed when compiling a Change Management Plan. These essentials are key to building out an effective change management plan, which if addressed will support new business wide technology and processes. My 7 change management plan essentials are:

  1. Define the vision and key outcomes.Building an agreed view of the future state is vital. The change management plan should specifically describe how the organisation will be effected. It should also be very specific about what behavioural changes the initiative should influence, the effect on the bottom line and what success looks like.
  2. Understand your Stakeholders. The plan must identify all your stakeholders and describe how to engage with them.Ultimately what we are seeking to do here is move stakeholders from a ‘let in happen’ to a ‘make it happen’ mindset. Stakeholders are key to success and will be effected by, and can affect the initiative. They will influence and help to drive the success of the new technology, they must to be engaged early on and be kept abreast of the change management plan’s progress.
  3. Get the messaging right. The plan should contain a messaging strategyThe vision and key outcomes will be essential for developing the communications plan. It is also imperative to really consider employees, manage expectations and understand how they will view the new technology and processes. The messaging should address these employee concerns.
  4. Provide a communications plan. The communications plan should include communication types, frequency, schedule and target audience. Channels include newsletters, posters, status updates, workshop sessions and so on. The plan should develop a view of the most appropriate communications channel for each type message, the audience and the frequency of messaging
  5. Start to form a powerful guiding coalition. If appropriate this can include the identification of and engagement with change champions. Change champions are the individuals around your business who will promote the new technology and supporting processes. Their role is to influence the interest and excitement of other employees about the project, so they are typically role models who are trusted by management as well as their co-workers. They also are typically good at networking and skilled at influencing and engaging co-workers.
  6.  Test, test and test. This is where the technology plan comes together with the change plan. The technologists will need to test the solution and it is imperative that users have a key role in this, not only to ensure that the solution works, but also to build ownership. A good testing strategy is key to user adoption. Besides defining the right testing for the right phase of the project, testing is an opportunity to get users hands-on access to the new technology and get them excited about what it will do.
  7.  Training is instruction, communication and marketing.Employees need to know how the new system works, but training from a change management perspective is also an opportunity to influence trainees on the benefits of the system and how it helps their everyday job.

Depending on the size of the initiative these activities should ideally be coordinated by the change management lead, but utilising the different stakeholders and functional leads, and the PMO to support them. The PMO should help the change management lead plan and schedule the activities required to deliver the change management plan.

…But there will be challenges….

The aim of change management is to drive user adoption of new systems and processes. Ultimately, change management will deliver the technology strategy and its associated return on investment.

Often overlooked, especially for smaller initiatives, change management has major challenges associated with it.  It requires strong leadership, serious investment of time and resources and detailed planning.  Delivering business change also requires appropriately suitably qualified and experienced personnel (SQEP) who can execute the plan.

Change management has many facets, from stakeholder engagement and communications to the process of getting employees and managers to understand and embrace the required change. Quite often, change can be seen by managers and employees as something that complicates processes or adds extra work to their workload. A winning change management plan will alleviate those concerns and lead stakeholders to support the new system and processes that are driving your change management plan.

Change Management

…..avoiding the ‘gotyas’…

Many a technology project fails because of insufficient investment in change management. They often fail because employees don’t see why a new process is being implemented, how it works or what the real benefits are, the case hasn’t been made. In badly implemented change for employees, the first time they know about a new process or system is the go-live announcement or a training that they must attend. This is not sufficient notice or communication for them to truly understand what is being done, and just avoids the business making the real case for change.

There are however, some things you can do in order to mitigate the risks of change management failure.

  1. You must have a PLAN. Change management begins even before you kick off your project, and a change management lead should be assigned to run the change management stream from the supply/project side of the initiative. Often, if you partner with an implementer such as a systems integrator, they may also provide a change management specialist.
  2. Stakeholder management is a key tenet of the change management plan, you must know who your stakeholders are, where they are now with regard to the impending change, and where they need to be. Eliciting strong support from key leaders is essential.
  3. Prepare early communication about the project and what benefits it will bring.
  4. Develop and strong understanding of all process and organisational changes necessary from the early stages of the project. This will help to define a good communication strategy and ensure nothing falls through the cracks.
  5. Ensure there are regular communications that take employees on the journey and keep them up-to-date. All the time reminding them how the new technology will help them.
  6. Engage leaders and other employees in testing so they get can excited about the technology soon.
  7. The stakeholder management plan should identify those in opposition to the change and deploy a number of ‘instruments’ to build trust in the solution. One approach might be to use testing as a way of changing their minds. A good tester is one that approaches the task with a degree of cynicism, because they will be actively looking for issue and won’t overlook the ‘niggle’. This can be an effective strategy to get other employees excited. Employees will often take the positive opinion of individuals who typically only speak negatively about new projects.
  8. Issue a detailed communication ahead of the training announcement.
  9. Ensure employees are well-trained prior to go live. (Sometimes this can be combined with the next point.)
  10. Run a roadshow or regional events where employees can find out more information. Giveaways are often useful tools to attract attention.
  11. Measure adoption from go live; identify your success criteria upfront and produce daily (or more frequent) statistics to ascertain how many people have been using the new technology system.
  12. Keep communications running for one or two months to ensure adoption.

Whatever new technology and processes you implement, change management is going to be vital in their adoption. Communication is key to helping employees understand what benefits the changes bring and ensuring employees have the knowledge to use the new system without relying on other resources.

 

Post by Pete Wilson

Pete has worked in the technology and business change space for over 30 years. He's worked globally for large public sector and governmental bodies and for large private sector multinationals across numerous industry sectors.

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