Making Change Stick – Leveraging the care factor

Recently, I was in a meeting with some partners who develop and sell a market leading process improvement tool, which I shall call Happy in this article because the name does not really matter, as you will see.Sitting down across the table from these guys, I realised for the first time even though we have had some demo sessions and attempts to use the software previously that successful deployment of the software meant that every user in the company will have to access the system through the Happy process dashboard. Hmmm ! I was now thinking hard and fast about the implications of my new understanding so I said:Me: Really? this means that everyone in the organisation will have to access the process dashboard to interface with the software:Happy Representative: Yes that is correct. (with a facial expression that suggested duh ! where have you been all this while? You didn’t realise?)Me: Really! Wow! Do you understand that this is a big change that is required of the user base?Happy Representative: Kind of. We do realise. (without much conviction in my view and clearly not understanding my ‘fuss’)Me: Wow I hadn’t realised. This is a disruptive change because you are now adding another layer of work for employees, asking them to check a dashboard for monitoring process changes and suggest improvements etc… Happy Representative: Yes, but it is just one centralised dashboard and it is very intuitive. (strangely, everyone describes their interface tools as intuitive)Me: Really! Just one dashboard ? Can you imagine what else they may be needing to do as a result of other on-going changes ? Do they even understand their role in how this software works? Or what value it is going to add to their lives as employees or even to the company aside from being asked to just visit one new dashoard tool everyday ?Happy Representative: Sighs! I guess…This was yet another teachable moment for me, because once more I see how changes are introduced in companies and how they are set up to fail right from the start, because we just do not think about the impact on the people that have to engage with the change to give us (the corporation) the desired results (business benefits for the investment). Familiar? Well rest assured that the sponsors (champions) of these changes you have to face are NOT introducing the initiatives to stifle your creativity, increase your workload for no reason or just to irritate you…oftentimes there motivations are opposite. In reality, someone is very excited about the possibility of this initiative giving us (the corporation) a competitive advantage or making our (staff) work easier…BUT sometimes they forget to TELL us. To change sponsors aka Executives or Champions, the users (staff) do not set out to sabotage your efforts to make the work easier, faster or give the company a competitive advantage. They need a more empathetic introduction of the change, which understands that they are more than just a number hence should be consulted, carried along and maybe wooed as the change is introduced. After all, there is seldom only one change going on at a time in most organisations. This is what I refer to as the users dilemma.So what do we do?First things first, sponsors of change (champions, executives) need to understand the ‘users dilemma’. Success for our change initiatives requires that we identify a suitable Champion to lead the introduction of the new change and really sell these benefits to the users who will help the organisation realise the anticipated benefits. Its not unnecessary if you are the bets company to work in Nigeria and you have 10 people waiting to fill the positions if people don’t get on your change bandwagon. No one wins if that is the alternative you have to employ. Sponsors or Champions of the change must be identified and equipped to paint a realistic and hopeful picture of a better future (may be a painful better future BUT candour is always appreciated), they must learn to walk the talk and the people will follow their lead. This action is the singularly most effective way to make change stick in your organisation, sponsor or champions do not just make the resources available and track progress, they roll up their sleeves, they sell the benefits, they show their commitment to the benefits and consequences of not engaging.

Your people follow what you do, not what you say.
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