In Change Management, Team Effectiveness

People GearsI have had many discussions recently about transformation – business, digital and IT transformation – but there is one common theme that underpins each of these conversations: Organisations transform when you effectively lead people through change. If the people side of change is overlooked, transformation efforts will be limited and the expected benefits will not be achieved.

Across industries and geographies, businesses of all types are under pressure to adapt in order to remain competitive. Technology has become an enabler, a disruptor and for some, an inhibitor.

Trends such as mobility and cloud, predictive analytics, big data and the Internet of Things (IoT) are having a profound effect on all industries. How well an organisation is able to cope with the pace of technology advancement will determine whether the impact of this technology is transformative or disruptive.

According to the Gartner CIO Trends Survey 2016, nearly 40% of CIOs report that they are the leaders of digital transformation in their enterprise. So how can CIOs ensure strategic initiatives drive transformation, and not just implementation?

Here are my 6 points for increasing technology adoption to drive transformation:

1.      Consider behaviours and attitudes, not just process

The impact of every new initiative needs to be evaluated and managed appropriately, not just in terms of the impact to different business processes and areas, but also how behaviours and underlying attitudes need to change to support the initiative.

Consider the implementation of new software such as a collaboration suite. Implementation plans typically include training to teach people how to use the new tools, for example: for sharing documents within a central repository and features for collaborating with colleagues. But often what is overlooked are any underlying concerns around the added transparency this solution will create. Many people may feel insecure about sharing their work, exposing themselves to potential criticism or unwanted input. These sorts of underlying fears and anxieties lead to resistance, and constrain the adoption of new solutions. By understanding attitudes and recognising potential anxieties early on, action can be taken to address these concerns and to help bring people on board.

2.    Ensure consistent and continuous communication

Internal communication is an area that is easily overlooked during times of rapid change, and the impact of this is often under-estimated. Typically, announcements are made at the beginning of an IT initiative, creating excitement within the organisation. But as time goes on, and as people get busy, communication isn’t followed through consistently – resulting in dwindling support, or even worse, a growing cynicism about the initiative.

It’s important to plan for regular and consistent communication to keep people informed and up to date. Also consider who is doing the communicating; people need to hear information from top-level senior management as well as their immediate managers.

Messaging needs to be consistent and connect with people at an emotional level, painting a picture of how their working lives will look once the new innovation is in place. It’s important to focus on the ’why’, as well as the ’what’s in it for them’.

3.    Drive engagement

Generic, high-level messaging is useful to inform; but in order to gain support, communication needs to be tailored for the individual or department. For example, how a new IT solution impacts the HR department may be very different to the impact on Finance and these differences need to be catered for in your communications.

Traditional internal communications tools such as email and newsletters are good at informing, but they do not drive engagement. Two-way communication channels, which allow feedback and interaction, are essential for encouraging participation and engagement.

Incorporate different ways for people to give feedback and air their concerns. Providing opportunities to meet face to face is vital during times of uncertainty, when anxiety and stress levels can be high. Facilitating open discussion, and providing people with as much information as possible will help to minimise resistance, as long as people are engaged in the process. This can also help uncover useful suggestions and ideas early on in the process.

4.    User acceptance vs user adoption

User acceptance testing, which ensures the system behaves as expected when used, is not enough to guarantee user adoption. Even with system training, and comprehensive online help, there can still be nervousness and a reluctance to adopt new systems.

Sufficient time should be allocated for people to experiment with new systems, in a safe environment where they can learn and get the support they need. With pressures to meet tight deadlines, time is very rarely allocated for this, yet providing people with this opportunity will have a significant impact on the level of user adoption post go-live. The amount of time required is proportionate to the level of impact and likely resistance to the new solution, so plan accordingly.

5.    Identify change agents

Resistance often occurs when people feel their individual needs have not been addressed, and nuances in their business processes, or department-specific requirements have been neglected.

Identifying local champions in your key business areas can help ease these problems. Advocates of the new system can help sell the concept within internal teams, often with more credibility than management would have. These champions can offer support and guidance, and will become the ’listening posts’ to gauge the attitudes of people and decide if further action is required, such as additional training workshops or one to one sessions.

6.    Continue after implementation 

Generally the main focus and effort put into introducing new systems ends once a system has gone live and development has ended. But when the new system has an impact on people’s jobs and activities, support needs to continue to encourage people to use it until it becomes embedded and well established. Local champions will continue to play an important role in ensuring this happens and should maintain their level of support and guidance for some time.

Success stories should be regularly communicated, and benefits should be publicised in order to maintain support and keep people motivated to use the new system.

More than ever before, organisations have a huge opportunity to harness today’s technology to drive business transformation. It’s how well you are able to guide people through this process that will be a key factor in the success or failure of your programmes.

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