Change Management: Planning for Successful Change

You know organizational change is challenging. I’ll spare you the gloom and doom change management statistics because:
(A) The claim that 70% of organizational change initiatives fail has been widely discredited.
(B) Constantly harping about how hard change is just becomes “a toxic self-fulfilling prophecy.”

Change may not be easy, but it is the one constant of the human condition. We’ve been changing (evolving) since our ancestors started banging stones into tools, and look how far we’ve come! Your organization can absolutely achieve meaningful change; you just have to plan for it. Let me introduce you to the three phases of successful change management.

1. Prepare for Change

Today’s organizational change projects usually involve technology upgrades – migration, automation, artificial and business intelligence. It’s easy to get swept up in the technical details, but effective change management means paying just as much attention to the people involved, and it starts from Day One. You can gather human and technical requirements simultaneously. Get a read on workplace culture and morale. How has the organization handled change in the past? What are stress levels like going into this project?

In my last blog post, I talked about documenting the ‘As Is’ process. That’s not just what’s being done. It’s also who is doing it, how they’re doing it, and how they wish it could be done. Documentation is a people-centric exercise. Once you’ve laid out the ‘As Is’ and dreamed up the ‘To Be,’ you can compare the two. Look for possible points of resistance and how you might address them. When I’m reengineering business processes, adoption coaching is a big part of my job.

Adoption coaches have to start by assembling their change management team. You need change sponsors in upper management and change champions on the front lines. Champions are managers and what I like to call super-users, people who understand the strategy behind the proposed change and are excited to make it happen. They will be your institutional buy-in advocates.

The whole change management team has to be aware of and honest about any temporary workload spikes. (Here I always think about the medical offices I helped change over to electronic health records. Staff had to learn a whole new system and scan in years of paper records while IT folks pulled apart the office around them.) But if you and your change team have helped everyone understand the reasons for the imminent change, the light at the end of the tunnel will remain visible. The payoff is coming!

2. Manage the Change

Next, the change management team will need to develop and implement a change management plan. It will establish timelines, envision the rollout, and structure training. During this planning process, it’s vital to keep everyone on the same page. Adoption coaches are experts at reading the room. Even as I’m presenting or facilitating strategy sessions, I’m always scanning facial expressions and assessing body language. If somebody starts to balk, you need to notice it, get the concern out in the open, and find acceptable resolution. This team is the face of the project, and it must present a united front.

An effective communication plan will be the cornerstone of your change management strategy. It’s probably what your change team will spend most of its time devising and executing. You’ll need to identify your various audiences, compose messaging for each, and determine when and how to deliver those messages. Think about how you sell an idea differently to different types of people. Tailoring messages to specific audiences is smart, but be sure all information presented is consistent. People do talk, even across departments.

Don’t forget to communicate with external audiences as well. Customers, members, patients. They all need to be kept in the loop on big changes that will impact their experience. Awareness promotes patience, especially when people know you’re working hard to eventually serve them better.

3. Reinforce the Change

As the change dust is settling, you’ll want to conduct a project audit. Collect feedback and incorporate suggestions that serve the cause. Humans are more likely to adopt the new ways if they feel heard and have a sense of agency. Like we’ve said before, empathy can trump habit.

Remember, there is no ROI on technology that isn’t being used, so don’t just roll over and accept low adoption rates. Today’s productivity measures make it easy to identify pockets of change resistance. Once you find them, don’t waste time getting to the bottom of them. Figure out why Suzy and her unit aren’t getting on board. In my experience, training is often the issue. Do people need more training? A different type of training? Learning styles vary; talk with employees to figure out what works best for them.

Quick resolution of resistance is important, but immediate recognition of success is more important. Appreciate and applaud proactive adoption. Early adopters become project champions and beget more project champions. Encouraging users to take ownership of the new system is the best way to ensure successful change. When new converts jump in to train coworkers, trade tips and share hacks, it fosters a shared knowledge base that will live on in perpetuity.

Need more human-centric best practices to bolster adoption? Download our white paper on how to maximize tech platform ROI by putting people first.

About Justin

Justin Dubreuil has been solving business problems since he was 13. His mom managed a medical office where he helped the good doctor build his IT network and install workstations in each exam room. “I’ve always had an innate sense for what a business needs, and if it isn’t obvious, I’m driven to figure it out.” That’s probably why his older brother was successful in persuading Justin to switch his major from environmental science (park ranger career track) to business management.

As a business analyst, Justin has painstakingly documented and optimized countless processes across several industries. His affinity for working with health care providers continues. In the national push for electronic health record adoption, he helped a thousand different Maryland providers achieve “meaningful use.”

When he’s not reengineering business processes, Justin unwinds by rising to any and every cooking challenge presented. He’s known statewide for his ribs, smoked pork and pit beef, coming in top ten in the Maryland State BBQ Bash this year. On the weekends, he gets to fulfill his park ranger dream, enjoying the great outdoors with his wife of 10 years, their 8-year-old son, two-year-old daughter, two black labs and trusty old English bulldog.