Doubts About Change Management
Although we are all increasingly aware of the need to guide the human aspect of transformation, there are still many different beliefs and doubts about the benefits of change management.
Here are some of the most common ones I encountered in companies.
When reading this blog, imagine a concrete project: a company that wants to implement a new technology or platform (a new CRM, for example). While talking with the management or the project team, you can hear things like:
#1 We have no time; it will slow us down...
Supporting change is not done willy-nilly, and there are specific steps to follow from the start of the project (i.e., during the design phase). Often forgotten by the project manager, these steps may appear futile and time-consuming in the project’s progress.
These phases, such as the definition of success or the risk analysis, will allow for anticipating potential obstacles, resistance, and non-alignment. They will allow us to define the best approach that will enable better adoption of the project. Good preparation will avoid blockages during a later project phase.
#2 Employees will love it... no need for change
Of course, one of the objectives of digitalization is to facilitate, improve, innovate, and make work more comfortable for people. And yes, at first, enthusiasm might be there. But, as time goes by, difficulties may appear.
Imagine an employee working with a system for more than ten years. They know all the ins and outs of the system. Or they might even have designed or improved the tool themselves when they started the job, and they might be proud (think of the famous spreadsheets). Even if they are aware of the benefits of the new tool, some doubts may arise:
- Will I be able to handle the new tool?
- Do I have enough skills?
- Will I still be able to do my job?
- Will my job exist?
Or maybe some colleagues misunderstood the project’s scope or objectives and are not aligned anymore. So their enthusiasm was based on the wrong interpretation.
Your change plan should anticipate and tackle all those sources of resistance and many more.
#3 The teams have already absorbed many changes, they are used to...
Nowadays, when the word ‘transformation’, digital or any other, resonates in all companies, employees are stretched. Especially if we consider the global context in which we are living that asks us to adapt continuously.
No wonder some people are showing fatigue (and I weigh my words). Change saturation and change fatigue are important factors to consider: either your company cannot absorb the numerous disruptive changes, or your employees start to show emotional signs of saturation, such as stress, apathy, disengagement… or maybe both.
Not taking this into account will not only have an impact on the success of your project but will also have severe consequences for the well-being of your employees. This can lead to undesirable consequences for the organization: increased absenteeism, resignation, disengagement, and conflicts.
#4 Change is everyone's business. There is no need for specific resources.
Indeed, any collective change is, above all, an individual change. The way to embrace and adapt to the new platform, for example, will be different for each employee. This must be taken into account from the beginning of the project. Everyone will have a role: the sponsor, the project manager, the people manager… to allow the end user to adopt the new solution.
These roles will have to be activated and supported in their mission. While the project team will focus on the technical aspects and feasibility of the project, the change manager will focus on the human aspects of the transformation. And we all know that if it’s not a person’s business, it’s nobody’s business.
#5 We will handle the change during the implementation.
The individuals most impacted by the change are often the people who are directly concerned with the implementation. If they are not involved from the beginning of the project, resistance is likely to be very strong and coming at a crucial moment. We have sometimes seen teams rally against a project up to the point of boycotting it. A significant financial impact and a missed improvement opportunity can have severe consequences for the company compared to its competitors, for example.
#6 A good communication, some training and the job is done!
Of course, this is better than nothing but change management is much more than a communication plan and a training plan.
Listing these responses stimulates a more global reflection on the rational but also emotional aspects. It helps to bring structure, activate roles, and plan. Some of the things an organization could do
- Empowering the project sponsor to have sufficient visibility and commitment to building the coalition around the project.
- Equipping and accompanying people managers in their communication with teams,
- Helping them to listen and take into account resistance.
- Providing tools, fostering cooperation, involving people, and ensuring the success of the project together with the rest of the team.
To conclude, invite people to embrace the change will allow you to increase the success of your transformation.
“With change management, employees feel prepared, equipped, and supported. 6 x likely to meet project objectives; 5 x likely to stay on schedule. “ (https://www.prosci.com/)
The key role of change management during a transformation will be to align executives and ensure that the transformation project is consistent with the company’s strategy and objectives. This will provide a sufficiently strong sponsorship and lay the foundations while taking into account the global context of the company.
Secondly, it will allow you to consider the needs and emotions that change often creates among our employees. Some emotions are positive to the project, while others may have a negative impact on it:
- On the project: resistance, boycott, ongoing questioning that bogs down the project,…
- On the atmosphere within the teams: lack of trust, conflicts, competition,…
- On the health of employees: stress, disengagement, absenteeism,…
So, if you want to achieve a higher adoption rate while preserving the well-being and health of your employees: YES, you will have to integrate change management as early as possible in the transformation initiative. And if you haven’t done so yet, better late than never.