4 Common (and Wrong) Tricks for Managing Change

4 Common (and Wrong) Tricks for Managing Change

Chances are, if you are implementing a new business process or technology solution – anything that requires your employees to change the way they work – you are doing it wrong.  Whether you realize it or not, many organizations use “tricks” to get their employees to buy into the latest business project or IT initiative.  However, when these tricks backfire, they can be very costly. 

Trick 1: Manipulation

Have you ever gotten a survey that asked what insurance interested you most, only to find out your company already decided on the insurance before they asked you?

Have you ever been asked for your opinion about how to introduce a change or improve a process, then had the feeling no one ever looked at or heard your opinion?

Many companies ask for input, but don’t listen to it.  They might introduce new initiatives with a phrase like “the solution you have been asking for” or “improving how you work” or, my favorite, “MYsolution.” Their intent is to make you believe the change was the employees’ idea, or that it is being implemented in the employees’ best interest rather than as a business decision.

Defining a value proposition is important.  However, making one up  with the intent of manipulating employees or end users could easily backfire, eroding trust in future initiatives.

The Better Way – To avoid using this trick and improve your chances of effectively managing change, define the value proposition from the end user’s perspective.  Utilize interviews, surveys or focus groups to get input and help define how the solution will benefit different users.  But don’t stop there!   The only thing worse than not asking for input is asking for it, and then ignoring it.  Listen to the feedback and incorporate it into a comprehensive Communications Plan.


Trick 2: Documentation

Many times, there are notebooks, files, and charts that define exactly how a solution should be designed and managed to ensure it delivers the strategic value intended.  Unfortunately, this information rarely reaches the end user.  A great example of this is governance.  Other than the author of the governance document, who really knows the expectations of governance around Sharepoint or CRM?  The solution designers and developers know a lot about how it is intended to be used, but are not effective in communicating or educating the expectations to employees.

Process improvement is another simple example. Many businesses spend an enormous amount of time and money analyzing their processes and how information flows.  Then, they design a workflow solution or a process that increases efficiencies.  But, if the end users of the process or solution do not see the value in changing, they will not adhere to the new process.  Quite often, end users spend more time and effort creating a work around than they would using the proposed solution simply because they don’t know the expectations or intentions of the new solutions and how it should impact the business.  Employees need to understand what is really in it for them and for the organization.

The Better Way - The education and training required for successfully implementing change goes beyond knowing what buttons to push on a new application.  Create an Education and Training Plan that clearly articulates the expectations of how users should use the solution as it is intended.  Utilize aligned leadership and sponsors to confirm understanding, follow up, and ensure accountability.


Trick 3: Domination

Once we make it clear the success of our solution is more than 70% dependent on whether our employees adopt it and how they use it, we have to ask ourselves, “How can we know they will use it?”   Too often, the response from management is a misguided, “They will do it because we tell them to.” 

Command and control can be a very powerful management approach.  But it requires intense supervision and accountability.  Does your IT team have the influence to “police” adoption and usage?  Do your managers have the time? 

When the Domination approach backfires, employees will only pretend to adopt the solution, or will use it to the least extent possible.  When you ask about it, they will be compliant, but they will hide their workarounds and shortcuts.  This creates a very risky situation because the non-compliance is hidden, and the failure to adopt the change might not be recognized until it’s too late.

The Better Way – Accountability is critical in implementing change.  The most effective driver of accountability is at the direct supervisor level.  Be sure your Change Plan engages leaders at every level and earns their commitment to compliance and adoption of the entire solution.  Provide tools and resources for managers to communicate with their teams and provide the accountability required beyond command and control.


Trick 4: Damage Control

A common belief in project management is that the goal is to be “on time and on budget.”  The pitfall with that belief is when project managers have to choose between taking the time to get the solution right and prepare the organization versus releasing the solution on time and on budget. 

Some leaders will say, “Just get it out there, and we will fix it later.”  Rarely does it get fixed later.  Worse yet, end users will not use a solution that is broken.  On time and on budget then becomes a total waste of investment.

The Better Way –The investment required to recover from the “damage control” approach is significant.  Invest in Change Management early in the project and beyond the “go live” date to ensure (1) the strategic vision of the project is achieved; (2) the solution fits the culture and needs of the organization; and (3) there is a resistance management plan in place to drive change through the common organizational challenges.

These tricks are all common approaches to Change Management, practiced by some of the most successful companies in the world.  And yet, they are ineffective.  To increase your effectiveness in implementing new solutions, manage change with a focus on:

  • Leadership and Sponsor Alignment
  • Organizational Ownership
  • Organizational Alignment
  • Education and Training
  • Communications
  • Stakeholder Impact

In my next post, we will discuss specific organizational change management tactics that can make a big impact on your next initiative.

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