Digital Transformation

Change is Hard and That’s OK!

shutterstock_178129901_350As the title states, change is hard. Most people (yes, there are a few of you out there who love and embrace change) are resistant to anything new. A recent poll of participants during a Perficient webinar on the Internal Impacts of a Digital Transformation indicated that culture changes, process changes, and other “change management” related endeavors were the most challenging to implement within their organization. In fact, the poll results weren’t even close – the pollsters selected those “softer” impacts 4 times more frequently than “technology and tools” as the hardest things to implement within their organization.

Why? For one thing, technologies and tools are predictable. If we can build a system with few if any defects, we know what we’re going to get. Building a new system can be very linear – plan the work then work the plan. Oversimplified maybe, but generally speaking, with a technology build and implementation, we usually know what we can expect.

People, on the other hand, can be wildly variable. Lasting change happens one person at a time, and what’s good for one person may not be good for another. Each person has the ability to form their own opinion and do on most subjects. And, people and their dispositions aren’t consistent over the course of time, even in themselves. While someone may be excited about a new tool at the outset of a project, that opinion may change as one learns more about what the application will or won’t do, and more directly, the impact it may have on them.

Another reason people are resistant to change is that we just like the way things are. We like knowing how to do something. We regularly work hard to master certain skills and processes to be as efficient and productive as possible. Generally speaking, we don’t like to have to figure out a new way of doing it – even if that new way is better at the end of the day (which, for most projects that we do, it is). As I like to say, even Change Managers don’t like change sometimes!

The reality is, though, staying competitive in business requires change. It requires new technologies and tools. It requires culture shifts. It requires new processes and ways of working. It requires new skills. Each of these impacts people and requires behavioral shifts. We must be motivated to change. We have to understand and buy-in to the reasons for the change – why the change is good for the organization, and why it’s good for me. We may have to retool ourselves for those new ways of working, even to the point of developing brand new skills. We have to do all this on top of our “day job” of doing the work we’re tasked with. That is hard.

Change Management is all about how we modify behaviors to prepare our stakeholders for pending change. Effective Change Management is more than communication and training. It’s about gaining adoption and buy-in on the front end so that when communications are sent, they are read, and when training is delivered, it is absorbed. Without buy-in, communications are deleted before being read, and training is a “check-the-box” activity verses absorbed. In this scenario, long-lasting behavior change is almost impossible, and our projects become severely at risk.

Yes, change is hard. We have statistics that prove people changes are the hardest to implement for an organization. But take heart – it can be done, and done well, by paying attention to this critical aspect for any project, large or small. You’ll be amazed at the results, and at the end of the day, change won’t seem hard at all!.

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David Chapman

David is the General Manager for Perficient's Organizational Change Management practice, part of the Strategic Advisors Team. He has over twenty years of consulting experience and resides in Charlotte, North Carolina. Be sure to also check out David’s personal blog. It focuses on collaboratively building the breadth and depth of our collective change management knowledge based on insights and experiences shared to help one another grow.

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