Change management can be almost magical in a way, with some organizations seeming to flow through software upgrades and others floundering after spending hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars. Assuming that all the technical teams are competent, what is the “special sauce” that allows some businesses to introduce radical change without alienating staff and vendors? Perhaps the main difference isn’t a technical skill at all, but the ability to ensure that there’s a wealth of information and continuous communication that details the benefits of the shift. Giving executives a few talking points for their direct reports is helpful, but it’s only the first step in a comprehensive communications strategy that reaches throughout the organization and helps each individual worker understand their contribution to the change management initiative.
Creating Change That Sticks
People get comfortable with their jobs and their lives, and it can take a significant effort to encourage them to make a change. Workers have a way of changing as little as possible or rejecting change outright when it’s not properly introduced. Creating change that sticks starts with individuals understanding how they are contributing to the success of the whole. This means a concerted and specific effort that tailors your message to your various audiences, providing not just the features of the project — but the benefits that each individual can expect to gain from supporting the project. Perhaps their reporting will be easier, or they can reduce the number of steps they have to take on an ongoing basis.
Listen First . . . Then Pitch Change Management
You might be wondering “How can I tailor my communication to each staff member? I don’t know all their pain points” — which is exactly the point! Listening to your various constituents will not only help you understand how your change management initiative fits into the overall corporate strategy, but also the perceived benefits for various teams. Even if you never adopt the suggestions of team members, listening thoughtfully and taking good notes allows people to feel heard and be a part of the conversation. This helps you form the strong bonds of trust and relationship that you will need when you are introducing change to the organization or asking workers to adopt a new platform.
People-First Change Management
It may sound counter-intuitive to begin a technology project with an internal marketing and communications plan, but that’s essentially what you need to do. Proactive change involves creating an engine that will continually provide targeted and useful information to your teams. Not just noise, but thoughtful communication that provides crucial details about upcoming milestone dates and helps people feel as though they are a part of the project. This people-first approach to change management is used by some of the world’s largest organizations and fast-moving startups. Executives need to see the impact on their budgets and staff members as well as the long-term strategic impact on the business. Line managers need to use the language of the organization to weave an emotional message that appeals to their staff members. Individual workers want to see that the change management initiative will make their life easier. They also want to see how they are playing a part in moving their business into the future.
Consistency is the Key to Long-Term Adoption
It’s relatively easy to kick off an extensive software upgrade project with the best of intentions and a clear communication strategy. As time wears on, team members become tired of repeating the same messages and may slow down their communication schedule or stop altogether. This is the crucial time for projects, as staff members may forget the benefits that they’re going to gain and simply feel the frustration if things aren’t going exactly to plan or if they’re being inconvenienced during the project. Consistent communication throughout the project — along with regular celebrations for successes — will provide the organization with the endurance and resilience needed to stay the course.
Driving change within an organization often starts small, with creative and energetic leaders who are willing to take the leap and leverage their personal capital for the good of the organization. These same charismatic leaders also need the structure provided by consistent communication and strong technical leadership to ensure the change management sticks. Searching for the right IT advice to help your growing business? CIO Advise works with many leading organization to help them streamline efficiencies, improve workflows, boost valuations and increase profitability. Schedule a no-obligation consultation at cioadvise.com or contact us for more information at 833-CIO-ADVS.