Millions of dollars into a major transformation program at ACME Corp, Frank Munsen from Marketing sends an all-call email saying that the new system doesn’t have all the data yet, some of that data is inaccurate and he still has to use the old systems in tandem with the new in order to get work done. “Some transformation, guys!” he concludes. Over the course of the next two weeks, utilization declines, richness of day-to-day data is compromised and the Board requests an up-to-date cost benefit analysis review of the program. What went wrong?
When organizations contemplate transformation, they often focus on elements such as upgrading technology, extracting more strategically useful data from operations, refocusing investment, improving operational processes and so on. What is often missing from the equation however is almost everything it takes to ensure successful adoption of the changes by the target audience: the end clients, i.e. your staff. Even if you don’t go for an all-out professional change management element in your program, you should be aware of the factors that may trip you up and the tools you have at your disposal to achieve success.
Transformation is change, and the hard truth is that change is painful. Your staff need to have some motivation to go through the change. You need to foster the right motivation in the right people at the right time, on the right topic. Success often depends on fully embracing, planning and communicating the classic what, where, when, who, why and how early in the program. Planning and proactive management can keep your transformation program’s attention on delivery and prevent the discord and worry that lead to expensive firefighting.
These are a few specific tactics for creating such motivation, in descending order of desirability:
Minimize Pain: Build your solutions the new way, a way that does not require ponderous manuals and tedious training, but relies on a professional, intuitive application design. If you doubt this is possible, consider how many iPad app downloads (even complex ones) include a how-to book.
Trade: Give something they want for something you are imposing on them. Fix a long-standing pain point quickly in a way that is familiar to them and causes minimal pain.
Incite Competition: Ensure the organization‘s leaders know that early-adopting units will be rewarded.
Bribe: Change financial incentives to be aligned with transformation program goals.
Force: This option works only if your employees truly have no power to oppose executive mandate. Even in this case, this is a tool of last resort because it may have short-term morale consequences.
Additionally, your toolkit should include the following tactics, designed to enable positive motivation by countering common fears:
Support: Your employees may feel that change will be difficult even if they have no idea yet what that particular change is. Reassure them that the level of support necessary to bring them through the change process will be available even if no one yet knows what level of support will really be required.
Retraining: When you can realistically do so, also reassure them that retraining will be available and their jobs are not in jeopardy.
Where and when do you begin change management? When do you issue updates? Look for an upcoming blog that will cover timing for the start, middle and end of transformation.
Achieving adoption requires:
Identifying critical “sponsors” for the program. Staff who “buy in” to the program early often have their own reasons to do so. This is a great opportunity to understand their agendas, augment their motivation using the techniques above and ensure the program has strong voices of support.
Identifying potential opponents of the program and focusing the motivation tactics described above in ways that counter the resistance and foster a positive outlook on the program.
Unfortunately, the answer to this question is either a book of wisdom, or a platitude. Since we don’t have room for a book, I am forced to conclude with a platitude: Goal-oriented, open and receptive management, strong discipline, clear communication, and correctly aligned partnerships with all stakeholders and providers will help you plan and manage transformational change.
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