I love yard work. There’s something about the satisfaction that I get when I mow my grass, particularly the instant results and fruit of my labor, that I just can’t get enough of.
Well, it’s spring where I live, and the season of yard work is upon us. A warm and wet winter has my yard possibly looking better than it ever has before. I can sit and just stare at it, admiring it, seemingly for hours. It was in one of those moments this morning that I thought about how much effective Change Management was like growing grass!
How you ask? Let’s look at this way. Work was put in well in advance to achieve the result of a beautiful yard. Throughout the winter, I put on several applications of weed killer in order to root out those detractors from the yard. Five weeks ago, I applied lime to balance the pH in the soil, a common thing we have to do in the south. About three weeks ago, I applied a generous amount of fertilizer. God provided the sun and the rain, and the result? A beautiful lawn for our family to enjoy.
Change Takes Preparation and Time
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So how’s that like Change Management? We’ve heard the adage that for successful end user adoption and engagement of a solution, we can’t “communicate on Monday, train on Tuesday, and go live on Wednesday.” For an implementation to be successful, particularly one that requires stakeholder behavioral change, a key component is time, both collectively and individually, for the pending changes. Each person has to make the decision to change, and ultimately go along with (adopt) a new way of working independently, and this is not an overnight process. I often tell my clients that you can’t start Change Management work too early, but you can certainly start it too late!
Much like growing a healthy lawn, there are key ingredients that will make a Change Management program successful. First, I have to understand what I’m working with. A good Stakeholder Assessment will tell me whether I have detractors in my audiences that I need to address, and who I will need to encourage to get their full support. From there, I can build my communication plan to effectively address each of the constituencies where they are. While I hopefully won’t put any weed killer on those who may be resistors, I certainly can create a plan to understand and address their concerns.
Preparing the Landscape
I also have to prepare the landscape as a whole for change. Much like balancing the pH in the soil, I must prepare the organization collectively so that it will be fertile and ready for the change. Building awareness, rationale, and benefits of the program, and how it fits in with the big-picture goals of the business, are critical.
Finally, I will “fertilize” the individuals, even those who may be more supportive from the outset who I want to be strong advocates when we go live by continuing to provide them timely, relevant information that will keep them growing along my change curve. In these, I will add these “individual benefits” to my list of organizational benefits, in order to answer the question, “what’s in it for me?” These benefits may be different by user group, and like addressing the detractors, will not be satisfied with a one-size-fits-all approach. All of these actions, combined with the normal, required Change Management tactics – communication and training, which I analogize with the staples of the sun and the rain for my yard, will lead me to a beautiful result for the organization and end users!
Coming to Terms with the Weeds
Of course, when I do my yard work, I won’t eliminate every weed in my yard, and likewise at work, I won’t eliminate every form of user resistance to our project. In a similar vein, there will be some users who adopt our program regardless of any Change tactics, much like there will be some grass that will grow, regardless of any care and treatment. And at the end of the day, I’m after that middle 80%, and if I’ve done the work in advance, I will see the fruit of my labor. For yard work, that’s a freshly cut lawn to enjoy. In business, it’s a project where the users are ready, willing, and able to work in new ways when we go live, and for our organizing to achieve and maximize our return on investment (ROI) as fast as conceivably possible. Now that’s gratification!