Ah, change management—the dental floss of the corporate enterprise. That thing we know we should do but often skip over because we simply don’t want to take the time. But, be forewarned: In the Digital Age, making a change without managing that change could cost you big in terms of adoption, productivity and employee morale.
“In the past, companies purchased one, big packaged solution that ran on workstations in the office. When you deployed new software, you’d call everyone into a room, train employees on how the system worked and follow up to make sure everyone retained what they learned,” said Beth Gerwe, director, Deloitte Consulting LLP. “Now, the way we consume information and access applications has dramatically changed. Instead of ‘how do I use the system,’ it’s ‘how do I get what I need on my phone or tablet’? The technology implementations themselves have also changed. We’re seeing more multi-vendor, hybrid solutions accelerated with agile delivery approaches and iterative concepts. That ‘one vendor-one package’ implementation is the dinosaur. Today, the best-of-breed approach makes change management more complex and more critical to achieve targeted outcomes.”
There’s more learning at the point of execution, more embedded videos and, in the case of Agile, more situations in which teams design as they go—bringing stakeholders along for the ride.
“Change management used to be ‘one size fits all.’ Now it’s all about the user experience,” Gerwe said. “The good news is, companies have a lot more information on their end users now and can utilize this for a more effective change management approach. For example, the sales force may be mobile, fast-paced and able to take in information in bite-sized pieces; whereas the finance group may be more centered, more analytical and have a completely different learning style. You can’t approach these very diverse types in the same way. Change management has to be personalized for each group.”
So, how should companies approach change management in the Digital Age? According to Gerwe, the place to start is with these five basics.
1. Create a Case For Change.
“This seems so intuitive but many organizations rush right past this,” Gerwe said. “You’ve got to be able to articulate change in terms of what it will achieve.”
Are you replacing an outdated or sunset system or are you truly transforming your organization? If it’s just an upgrade, all you need is a simple case for change. If you’re trying for a transformation, a broader behavior change is required.
“Oftentimes, the purpose for change doesn’t get articulated that well across the company. If no one knows why they’re doing something, why would they support it?” Gerwe said. “Once people truly understand what the change is for, people will get on board. If they’re left in the dark, they will tend to resist. That’s human nature.”
2. Make Change Management End-User Focused.
Communicate what the change will mean to the individual end user. In other words, “what is happening and why should I care?”
“If the change is going to make your staff’s job easier, tell them. If it’s going to help them respond to their customers more quickly, communicate that too,” Gerwe said. “Why do we download apps on our smartphones? Because it makes our life easier or more fun. In the world of change management, you have to tell the end users how the change will impact them and why they should get on board. This not only makes them part of the change but oftentimes turns them into real advocates.”
3. Engage the Right Project Team.
“A lot of companies put together project teams comprised of employees who have spare time, not necessarily the right team for the project. But, why wouldn’t you put your A-team on an initiative that’s setting the future of the organization?” Gerwe said. “Our experience shows that the quality of the team is directly related to the outcome of the project.”
Choose people who know how their part of the organization runs—how things really work in their department or division. Then, help them understand the value the project is driving and how to articulate the benefits of the system or processes to their peers.
“This all ties back to the end-user focus—understanding the world of that end user and then customizing the change to that environment. The idea is not to talk about the new system but what value it will drive; what will it do to enhance your job,” Gerwe said.
4. Stay Focused on Value-driven Change.
The great benefit of agile delivery concepts is the promise of seeing results and driving value faster, which works, unless companies get a little sidetracked along the way.
“Oftentimes, companies start down a path and somewhere, in the implementation process, they see another piece of software—the technological equivalent of a bright, shiny object—and in the heat of the moment say, ‘I want that, too’,” Gerwe said. “It’s important not to get caught up in the moment. Step back, and objectively assess whether or not the additional technology adds to your original goal. Will it add value to what you want to do or is it another cool thing that will take your eye off of the prize?”
Stay focused on what really matters—articulate and focus on the value you are trying to attain.
5. Use Hard Data to Measure Progress.
We’ve all heard it a million times before: “You can’t manage what you don’t measure.” The only way to gauge the success of a change is to look at the hard data.
“It is essential to really look at the analytics around your initiative. Measure progress as you go, inform the people involved and make changes, if necessary,” Gerwe said. “For example, if you’re standing up a new system, you can measure help desk volume, the number of tickets opened, and the types of questions the callers asked. Using this information, you can see areas that may require additional training, communication—or an adjustment to the technology itself.”
Then continue measuring, long after the implementation is complete, to create an environment of continuous improvement.
“I’ve run training and communications for Deloitte’s internal tools for years, so I’m continually looking at data. Where did people quit a template or a specific tool—and why? Is it difficult to get to or use, or does lack of use mean that the specific tool is no longer relevant? You have to continuously look at the ‘whys’,” Gerwe said. “I’m also a big believer in leveraging end user feedback to gauge user satisfaction, as well as gathering metrics around actual system use. You should see an uptick in asset use if your change management program was successful. If it’s stagnant, you need to go back and evaluate what changes are needed.”
The Best Change Management is Effective, But Stealth.
Gerwe is quick to point out that, although change management is omnipresent, it rarely takes center stage. It’s not the star but the enabler.
“My dad was a referee for football and basketball—a member of the Oklahoma Secondary Schools Officials’ Hall of Fame. As an official, he serves an important purpose, but you don’t know he’s there. He blends in and does his job without taking focus away from the actual game,” Gerwe said. “Good change management is a lot like that. You don’t know that it’s there because it blends in so well – things happen smoothly, but it definitely gets the job done.”
Some sage advice on how to change things—for the better.