How to get staff to engage in change management.
This continues on from our previous article on involving staff. People don’t like change. Even the most radical uni student will be upset if you move his notebook one inch along from their desk. As mammals we instinctively feel that if something is not as it was, then it must be a threat. People just get their backs up at some of the most trivial things. It is human nature as we relish the known, even it is unpleasant and fear the unknown even if it could be beneficial. If that is the human instinct then how do we bring about improvements to business processes, let alone something as complex as software? No matter how good the solution or package is, it will be useless if no-one uses it. All of this needs to have the commitment of the executive and other interested parties to drive this forward. If they get distracted or loose interest or it gets to the “it all seems too hard stage” then you have lost the battle. Unfortunately, this is where change management enters the world of internal politics.
Keeping management up to date
In order to keep stakeholders on track we need strategies to keep them involved, whilst not interrupting their already busy schedules. Important people need to be identified, their special interest determined and then methods applied to target engagement. The RACI, (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, informed) is a good overview to allow methods of communication to apply to the right person and balance that against frequency of contact. (See widget in downloads area) By the graph you can apply the right method of communication and schedule in appropriate levels of engagement. This allows you to pre-empt any issues that may arise and manage expectations.
Keeping communication lines open to all change management stakeholders.
If you leave communication streams to whenever then things tend to drift, and you lose the momentum of consistent contact. This exercise allows us to focus and look for opportunities to include the executive without demanding their entire time. Usually I find that the executive are so busy they don’t have time to get involved with the project. Unfortunately squeaky wheels gets the most oil so you do need to do a song and dance to gain their attention without annoying them too much. The lines off communication may have to come from different avenues such as PA’s or other department heads to raise their level of concern. If you have business owners that have a lot of power but low interest then projects tend to fail due to neglect. Being a guardian for these outcomes means finding ways to engage them in the task at hand without overwhelming them. Progress updates and assistance with removing obstacles tends to keep them involved and in charge without eating in to their other commitments.
Dealing with opposition.
There are other players on the pitch that also may need particular attention. I have had staff at low levels of the organisation but they have the potential to derail and demoralise staff in background through the rumour mill or complaining about the process. This can then become overwhelming as then executive are persuaded by staff opposition and they loose commitment.
External stakeholders may also have an influence, even if not directly involved. Statutory authorities, professional bodies and local groups may all have some bearing on the outcome of the project even though they are not directly involved. These may need different tactics to keep on side. These are the soft skills of project management that are just as important as the objective outcomes. Giving everyone enough oil to keep the wheels moving.
The main thing is to develop strategies that suit each situation and the main thing is to keep the communication lines open so that no-one feels they are left out of the loop. Being ignored or forgotten can lead to permanent rift in communication which can lead to project failure.
This method can also be adopted so that everyone can keep singing from the same hymn sheet even though each has a different part to play.
Next in the series “dealing with conflict”.
About the Author:
Malcolm Ford has had 12 years experience in ERP software implementations across the UK. He has developed training modules for staff and project management tools for business owners to track progress towards going live.