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The key question behind successful change management

Change management is never going to be ‘one size fits all’ but if you can answer this one simple question, it’s guaranteed to be effective.

You’ve signed off on a business transformation initiative and your team is rolling out stage one, a new enterprise information management system. All seems to be tracking along well, until you hear that a select group of employees are boycotting the new software and associated training sessions.

Research proves that user resistance is a key factor in the success or failure of new technologies and systems. The cliche that people don’t like change is not entirely true, but users will resist new ideas they don’t fully understand or feel part of.

If you can answer one fundamental question, then the entire transformation program becomes more natural and less daunting: What’s in it for me?

If someone stands up in a change management workshop or training session and asks, ‘what’s in it for me?’ you know that the change process is likely to go well. In that one question, they’re demonstrating willingness to change and asking you to explain how you can make it happen. If you can show that the new solution or process will make their life easier, there’s a great chance they’ll quickly adopt the change and encourage those around them to get on board.

Change is also increasingly natural in business. Most job roles have changed in the past decade, as have common tools and ways of working. Once understood, change is positive. For example, video conferencing has saved the expense and burden of countless long-haul flights. Improvements in mobile technologies and internet connectivity have revolutionised how, where and when we work.

That said, user resistance is still a huge challenge, and too often people find ways to introduce workarounds, or worse, embrace shadow IT – even if a company mandates that everyone must use a certain solution, for example enterprise resource planning or customer relationship management systems.

Ultimately, resistance comes when the change and the need for it isn’t communicated well, and the benefits aren’t clear for each user. It’s incumbent to demonstrate to end users that the pain of change is better than the pain of the same. Here are three common mistakes in change management programs:

  1. Concentrating on the technology, not the people

    When dealing with a large digital transformation program, it’s easy to get caught up in the new features and functions of the new software, platform or technology. Organisations must develop a change strategy and communications plan around showing everyone all the improvements to their work life they now have at their fingertips. People aren’t interested in new features, but in how they can use them. Listen to your users and create a program that concentrates on the features that will make their life better.

  2. Not understanding the learning culture within the organisation

    There are many great new learning and training techniques available. Virtual learning and e-learning technologies are flexible, cost-effective and allow users to learn at their own pace. They also require a specific learning culture where users are happy with the freedom these techniques provide and will take the time to use them. Don’t invest in a new e-learning system to roll out a big training program if your teams prefer hands-on learning. Change should be driven in the context of the learning culture in your organisation.

  3. Not giving the people what they need

    Perhaps the most common mistakes revolve around the accuracy of documentation. This is a big issue in many areas for software management, but it can be crippling in change management. The most common scenario occurs when new EIM software is delivered and all documentation is perfect. However, it then undergoes a process of patches and upgrades, but the documentation is not kept up to date. Nothing frustrates a user, like inaccurate documentation. As part of any major implementation, organisations should create systems for automatic documentation updates wherever possible.

Change management will never be ‘one size fits all’, but programs focused on user needs, are much more likely to succeed. There are now packaged change management solutions available that deliver customisable modules to take you through the preparation, deployment and post-implementation stages of your change management programs. This way, you can create a change experience for users that helps make adoption smooth and natural.

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