In today’s world of cloud technology and apps, changing or upgrading systems has never been easier. Whether you are changing from an on-premise to a cloud solution or providing your customers with a native app for their mobile device, much of the change is as simple as pointing your data to a new endpoint. So why is it so hard sometimes for those changes to be readily adopted? Why are your customers not acting on or receiving your changes as you anticipated? Why doesn’t it just work?
Because your customers are usually human.
Change is difficult. Change has different impacts on different segments of your associates or your customers. Some adopt or acclimate right away and start realizing the benefits of your product or service. We love these customers or associates; they make things so easy. But we usually have folks who realize only some of the benefits or have a hard time with the change. They become your squeaky wheel, your biggest challenger, or worse, your apple that tries to spoil the entire bunch.
What you may be missing from your service project is change management. How do you know? Ask yourself these questions:
- Are your organization’s leaders skilled in the arts and sciences of change management?
- Do you have a change management plan or methodology?
- Is change management part of your project plan?
In my past six years as a consultant for some of the biggest brands in financial services, tech, and retail, strong change management has been the difference between extraordinary adoption and a completed project, or even the success or failure of a project.
I support using a change management methodology called ADKAR, which stands for awareness, desire, knowledge, ability, and reinforce.
Most successful changes start with the impacted stakeholders being made aware of the changes. This is just an introduction to the changes that will be coming. This information may have a positive, neutral, or negative impact on morale, job satisfaction, workload, role, and/or position within the organization. Prior to making your associates aware of the change, I recommend completing a Change Management Assessment. See the following example:
Steps to Complete a Change Management Assessment
- Identify changes or workstream
- Provide a brief description
- Identify a single owner
- Judge the impact to the stakeholders
- Is it a positive, negative, or neutral change?
- Is training required?
- Is a communication plan or strategy required?
- Are there organizational changes associated with this change?
- How aware is the organization that this change is coming?
- Identify all stakeholders associated with the change
Often the building of desire coincides with the communication associated with awareness. This is your “why.” Having a strong understanding of the possible outcomes, consequences, and ripple effects is critical to be able to build the desire for change. While creating your plan to build desire, a great idea is to bring in two to four influential associates to understand their concerns, questions, and thoughts on what the general populous reactions will be to the changes.
This is where your training or continuous learning plans come into play. In general, most people recognize this phase of change management best. This is where you develop and execute training or provide the knowledge for your associates.
If knowledge is the training or learning, ability is the opportunity to put what has been made aware and trained into practice. You will also want to make sure you are quality monitoring in this phase and that you are available to provide coaching and support.
Sometimes the most forgotten area of change management, reinforcement is your opportunity to implement incentives (and consequences, if necessary) to help your associates keep/adopt the change. The most important part of this phase is credibility. Are you walking your talk? Is this a fly-by-night, flavor-of-the-month initiative? Identify multiple ways that your changes can be internalized by your teams.
The more impactful the change, the greater the need for change management. If you are discussing culture or a major technical system change, there are very few other things that could create as much impact as change management. Investing early in the change timeline and a change management methodology will help ensure your ability to execute. This model can be used for external customers as well, and I suggest just trying it for your next customer impacting initiative.
Now I have some questions for you:
- Have you used change management methodologies before? If so, how did it differ?
- If you fear process, does this sound like too much process?
- Are you considering a change on the magnitude of a culture shift?
I would love to hear your thoughts.
For more on the specifics on ADKAR, visit PROSCI’s Change Management Learning Center.