Change Management: 6 steps to success
It is pretty safe to assume that you have encountered a significant change at least once in your career – whether in context of your company’s digitization strategy; because of increasing complaints from your employees, or because you noticed that your current processes and process structures were outdated.
There are many types of change in an organization. In my professional environment I mainly deal with the implementation of business-critical software. Experience shows that many decision-makers and those in positions of responsibility are aware of the positive impact new technology has, such as improved processes and productivity. Nonetheless a lot of them hesitate to take this step. Why?
The fear of changeovers
It’s not the new technology itself that causes the hesitation and reluctance in the parties responsible to drive the implementation. As stated, they know that it will improve business structures and increase efficiency. The fear stems from trust in the technology provider, its competencies and its way of managing the project as well as the implementation process itself.
A new technology means first and foremost a big change: new processes, different procedures, new ways of communicating, and redefined measurements of success. The right approach, planning and time are the decisive factors for a successful change.
Phases of technology implementation
The changeover to a new technology/software can be divided into different phases: e.g. definition of workload, project planning, installation of the technology/software, configuration (usually in defined steps), data migration, training and, finally, the eventual shift to the new solution. Plus, the steps to implement the new technology are fundamentally different depending on:
- Project scope
- Type of organization (venues, event organizers, etc.)
- Affected business areas and business departments
- Affected business processes
- Size of organization/affected areas
- Phases of business activity
The perfect timing to implement a technology
Depending on the scope, these types of projects can take up to a year if necessary, even longer in some instances, until each related business unit has undergone the change. There are, however, some critical points in time, which dictate parts of the process for example: the change of finance software at the beginning of the fiscal year. Ideally, a period of time should be defined and specified for each step mentioned above. In our industry we often need to differentiate between venues and companies that are organizing events.
An event organizer lives from event to event: there are phases with more or less business activity. In companies that are organizing events, the change to a new technology generally takes place around one specific event.
Venues, instead, have continuously high business activity (at best). There are hardly any breaks between events. Therefore, it’s necessary to identify those periods of time that are less busy than others. The implementation process has to happen in parallel with the venue’s schedule of events, requiring close cooperation between relevant departments and the technology provider.
So what is the best way to go?
Involving all parties concerned right from the start is crucial:
- Include employees (not just managers/leaders) in the process of selection.
- Explain and justify the need for this change. What are the main advantages of this change? Remember: the change needs the intrinsic buy-in of all employees as it will, at certain stages, be a burden for them as well.
- Demonstrate how processes will change and what the anticipated consequences will be. It is important to not only demonstrate the effect on individual employees and departments but to point out the impact this will have on the whole company.
- Different steps within the implementation process should be defined and planned in consultation with the affected employees. Which employees are needed in which phase of the process? When is the optimal time for them to participate? When do they have their peaks in business activity so you can avoid adding additional stress and pressure?
- Address and respond to resistance and opposition among the workforce. React and cater to all criticism. Identify which employees you might have to work harder to win over. Be sure to convince the right employees (review my post on informal leaders to help identify your targets)
- Plan enough time to train your employees. Frustration and mistakes can be avoided by sufficient preparation and a considerable amount of training. (Have you ever tried to get a Crash-Derby driver into a Formula 1 car? It would probably be a complete catastrophe.) There are different methods and options to match training and education to your individual employees. Try to involve each individual in convenient and appropriate preparation to get the best results.
The implementation of a new technology, or the switch to a new software, is one of the biggest operational changes a company goes through. What experiences have you had in this area? Are there any tips you can add to my list?