Change is never easy, especially to those everyday processes and actions that become patterns or habits in your life. If someone moved the silverware drawer to the other side of the sink, how long would it take you to stop pulling out the old drawer, cursing to yourself about moving the silverware, then heading to the other side of the sink to open the right drawer? A week? A month? Would you inadvertently start storing the silverware in the old drawer again just to stop some of the frustration? Now imagine this type of change happening in your workplace where people have comfortable excel files, email filing systems, laptops with stored document and there’s been a mandate that all data must be on a central server. Or, better yet, all data must be on a central server that is behind a firewall requiring VPN access. There were no rumors, you didn’t know it was coming, and perhaps worst of all, you don’t have a say in the matter. Imagine the muttering that would happen hourly as people reach to their standard filing place only to be reminded that items are now elsewhere and you must navigate to the new area.
Some people will point out that change is only difficult if you have some type of pattern established. My view is everyone has a pattern in place to some extent. OK, maybe you don’t know what fast food restaurant you’ll be getting lunch or dinner from day to day, but you know where your clothes are and how they are organized. If someone moved those clothes or switched your socks with your t-shirts, you’d be in the same change adoption situation.
I find the key to change adoption is to avoid the ‘mandate’ until all other options are exhausted. What works well in many cases is inviting resources to be a part of the change definition and direction. Implementing culture change or process change, for example, requires a good base understanding of the current defined process and the actual executed process (c’mon now, you know they aren’t always the same). From there, people involved will be able to aid in the identification of what needs to be better and contribute on how it can be better based on real-world experience. These people in many cases are tagged as Key Stakeholders, but too often I find the key stakeholders are executive management roles – not the people executing the processes and the ones that eventually drive adoption. And what of those resources that complain about the current process? Definitely include them – positive attitudes are earned, but negative attitudes are contagious. Listen to those complainers and those who handle items day to day. Their input is invaluable and critical to handling change management. When these resources are part of the change management team, adoption success is much higher since there is more of a peer-to-peer understanding.
Listen to everyone, acknowledge information, prioritize information, then ACT. Nothing is more of an enemy to change adoption than resources being heard but no action or acknowledgement happening. Quickly this is viewed as ‘they don’t really value our opinion’ and the negative attitude contagion begins. As change is introduced, continue communication of status, issues, actions, and next steps so everyone feels part of the change versus being mandated into it. Can change happen overnight? Yes, but adoption of that change takes much longer. I hear quite often software vendor taglines like ‘easily deployed over a weekend’ which is almost always true. The adoption of that deployment, though, is a whole other timeline that could be up to 3 months depending how you’ve involved your team or key stakeholders, considered impact to process and retraining of resources, and followed upon with issues as they arise quickly and effectively. Nothing helps change more than having someone immediately respond to any complaints, questions, or general issues – with the caveat that the response needs to actually address the comment!
So plan out your change process by
A) Establishing a key stakeholder team of executors and executives,
B) Inviting the team to define the change process and plan
C) Being responsive to comments when change is introduced.
If you resort of the mandate method, you may have a mutiny on your hands…I’m just sayin’.