Change Management or how not to panic
Along with data migration issues (see Data migration and how to keep your hair on), another oft raised bugbear and headache waiting to happen for many IT environments is Change Management, or more likely the lack of it. Organisations that have intransigent processes and practices face an uncomfortable time of it when the spectre of IT system change rears its head. Employees who have ‘done it that way for decades’ can refuse to entertain change simply because they have always ‘done it that way.’ Managers can turn a blind eye to training and heads of businesses simply switch off, putting the whole issue in to the too-hard basket. Resistance to change is human nature, so how do we manage change effectively?
The system of life on this planet is so astoundingly complex that it was a long time before man even realized that it was a system at all and that it wasn’t something that was just there. ~Douglas Adams
Step 1: Apply common sense
It’s not rocket science, so make it easy for those affected to understand why change is necessary. If a user clearly understands how their life will be made easier, their department more productive, their buy-in is more possible, even probable. But all this fails unless there is management buy-in, so it must come down from the top.
Commit to the whole process, not just while it is new and interesting. There will always be something that needs doing in place of the project so commit don’t just be involved. Remember the old joke about bacon and eggs? The chicken is involved but the pig is committed.
Step 2: Decide on a methodology
How are you going to make change happen? What is the process? The Waterfall methodology has been the stalwart for many software engineering projects in the past, because its eight stages are sequential, it is well documented and project managers know what to expect. However, it is very rigid and once a step has been taken you can’t repeat the process without starting the whole project from scratch.
More recently, an Agile approach has been preferred because it is more flexible and better allows for change. The project follows a process framework called scrums and is split up into small modules called sprints, at the end of each project priorities are evaluated and feedback can be implemented before the start of the next sprint. Each sprint should be planned for in advance, including the tools to use, stakeholders involved and frequency in communication. However, if not managed well, project timelines and budgets can be extended and because the system doesn’t provide a definitive plan at the very beginning, the final product can be markedly different to what was initially intended.
Therefore, our suggestion is to combine the best of both. As we are talking change management, a definitive outcome is already known. You are changing to a new system and ultimately everyone needs to follow that new process, so Waterfall’s well documented and defined outcome is ideal to start with. From then on, Agile’s scrum processes enable companies and user groups to adjust smoothly to rapidly-changing requirements. It increases the quality of the deliverables and copes better with change. The main premise is to be as transparent as possible and to have clearly defined goals as well as defined stakeholders. This approach provides an opportunity to change in a modular way; small defined steps that help dyed-in-the wool users to recognise the benefits and realise the change. As a result, scrum projects achieve higher customer satisfaction rates.
Step 3: Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
The dictionary defines communication as the sharing or exchanging of information, news, or ideas. Simply telling won’t cut it. Often great ideas can go unheard, purely because the manager of the change has not been listening. You may be dealing with people who are afraid of the unknown and the best way to disarm that fear is to listen. Perhaps take a moment to consider whether you are listening for gist, or listening effectively. We have two ears and one mouth, it’s best to use them in that order.
Common obstacles to good communication include; internal politics, a lack of trust or respect, cynicism and low morale, poor time management and ineffective work practises, and a perceived lack of leadership and management.
So, Change Managers need to be exponents of:
- Developing agreed communication performance measures
- Articulating or re-affirming communication responsibilities between members of the change program leadership group
- Openly discussing critical dependencies that have an impact on other deliverables
- Ensuring all communication and messages are made available to everyone involved so there are no misunderstandings or unclear directives
- Communicating with team members openly and honestly
- Encouraging cross-stream communication and collaboration for program-wide deliverables and needs
Overall, the benefits that can be achieved via successful internal communication include:
- Enhanced engagement and understanding
- More effective management – lead by example
- Increased staff morale and motivation, and a sense of purpose
- Staff satisfaction equates to value for money
- A sense of ownership, team members feel like they belong and their input is valued
- Everyone is on the ‘same page’
- Improved perceptions of the change program’s reputation and image
- Two-way flow of information
- Informed and active decision making
So how would this process look like in the real world? Mandar Jadhav, one of IBT’s Senior Consultants, suggests the following:
“A good and live example would be moving from a legacy ERP to a cloud based ERP…so what would be a Change Manager’s responsibilities?
- Identify stakeholders
- Identify tools and methodology to use to track progress and milestones, something like JIRA.
- Set up recurring Outlook meetings with different stakeholders in different forums at regular intervals
- Identify functionality gaps between legacy and cloud implementation
- Identify potential areas for automation and business process change/improvement and communicating with the decision makers.
- Manage user training (including identifying power users and generic users)
- Update user guides
This may not be a full list, or in any particular order, but it’s a start to how you actually utilise the steps involved.”
Everyone from the top down must buy in to the change and work towards a culture of trust. Organise regular team meetings during which you clearly define the issues. Put down the phone and communicate face-to-face. Provide regular updates and translate the vision of the organisation into the context of a specific change initiative, and finally transform a central vision into change initiatives and organisation-wide communication.
Businessballs.com provides an interesting analogy and a good way to conclude this article:
A little girl was watching her mother prepare a fish for dinner. Her mother cut the head and tail off the fish and then placed it into a baking pan. The little girl asked her mother why she cut the head and tail off the fish. Her mother thought for a while and then said, “I’ve always done it that way – that’s how babicka (Czech for grandma) did it.”
Not satisfied with the answer, the little girl went to visit her grandma to find out why she cut the head and tail off the fish before baking it.
Grandma thought for a while and replied, “I don’t know. My mother always did it that way.”
So the little girl and the grandma went to visit great grandma to find ask if she knew the answer.
Great grandma thought for a while and said, “Because my baking pan was too small to fit in the whole fish” ̴ M. Hamanova
Some useful links and other related articles:
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