I hear it all the time. Change management is “just communication and training.” I cringe. Just communication and training? No wonder our projects continue to fail to achieve adoption levels that are both desired and critical to meeting the established ROI goals.
I’ve worked in organizational change management for two decades. I’ll grant you that change managers spend nearly 80 percent of our time on any given project performing activities related to communication and training. From communication artifact creation, reviews, edits, more reviews, and then distribution (and the same with training), it takes a lot of time and effort. This activity is critical to successful change management, and ultimately project success. However, we don’t get there without three other crucial components:
- case for change
- stakeholder management
- sustainment activities
1. The Case for Change Tells Your Employees WIIFM.
The case for change is the most often overlooked component of many change management projects. Ironically, it can be one of the quickest activities to do, and yet, it’s one of the most important things we do. The case for change answers the question why:
- Why is the company doing this project?
- Why is this change good for my department?
- What’s in it for me (WIIFM)?
The case for change is the beginning of achieving buy-in. If I can get people to understand the why, accept and embrace it, then I can get them to read subsequent communications. They’ll sign up for training. Better yet, they’ll attend and pay attention in the session. When go-live day comes, they’ll be ready and excited. Without a compelling case for change, communications and training will fall on deaf ears. We’ll have a disaster on our hands at go-live.
2. Stakeholder Management Addresses the Specific Needs of Each Group.
When it comes to Stakeholder Management, the biggest mistake we make is treating all stakeholders the same. We assume that if we communicate to all the stakeholders about what’s coming, when it’s coming, and yes, even if we get the case for change right, we’ll be successful.
Wrong! All stakeholders are not created equally. Each stakeholder or stakeholder group will likely find itself in a different place when it comes to perspective, concerns and willingness to accept new ways of working. Senior management will have different objectives than the newly hired, fresh out of college analyst. A department whose systems will be replaced will be more anxious than another who only receives downstream reports from an impacted system.
Additionally, stakeholder dispositions will change over the course of a project, as more information is learned. Often, stakeholders dispositions may change for the good, as they get more excited about what is coming. However, there are occasions when concerns will surface that will cause a stakeholder to question the project. By periodically checking in with our stakeholders, we’ll know when these issues arise, what they are, and how to address them. In doing so, we can nip the concerns in the bud and return the stakeholder to a healthy disposition.
3. A Plan for Sustainment Keeps the New System Going Strong.
Organizations often don’t want to continue to invest in change management activities once they’re in a production state. The new system is out there and working, and it’s back to business as usual, right? Not always. Unfortunately, change is hard and requires reinforcement to sustain it. In new and challenging situations, people will often revert back to prior ways of working that they were more comfortable with. Often they don’t know where to go to get help. Additionally, there are many times where we don’t measure adoption success rate. Measuring this is hard, but it can be done (objectively and/or subjectively). It’s critical to being able to know if we’re achieving our goals, and more importantly, if we need to change any tactics, yes post-implementation, to get the engagement successes we’re looking for.
Download our guide, How to Overcome 5 Change Management Mistakes, to learn more.