July 6, 2012

Un-Loose Change

Rule Number 1:  Any system will move toward chaos.  So, in response you must:

  • actively participate in your organization’s adaptation to something new
  • be forced to change anyway

See, your desire to participate in an organizational change or not has no bearing on the outside world who will continue to adapt or die in a million little ways every day. So you can participate or face obsolescence – it is definitely a choice.  However, sooner or later a lack of change catches up, and the bed is on fire.  (If you doubt that, maybe ask Research in Motion, or Myspace or CD manufacturers.)

Rule  Number 2: Change is as hard as you make it.

Face it, “change management” is by default an unnatural process.  It involves people who fall across a widely varying spectrum of desires/needs/resistance to actually doing something different.  Organizations, are, by default, designed to do the same thing with some level of repetition and create value in doing it.  Managing change flies in the face of what organizations and the individuals who populate them are made for.  That being said, you can often find enough people willing to take on some level of change.

Our company works at the intersection of marketing strategy and technology.  Over the decades I have done this, I have planned, partnered, prayed, cajoled, pouted, and almost screamed (okay, I think I did actually scream) about organizations that need to change.  Here are four things you absolutely must do:

1.  Analyze your stakeholders. This means finding not only your enemies, but even more importantly, your frenemies.  You can handle a clarified bad relationship.  The people who are out stabbing the boat later are the ones you need to worry about.  We break these folks into three buckets (consider this a modified approach to Napoleon’s Thirds) :

  • Tech savvy; the people who understand the benefits of technology and aren’t afraid of breaking something
  • Process driven; those who accept that a new method is coming and they might not always be entirely comfortable but best to play along
  • Self-sufficient; these folks have done it the same way for a long time and its not broken.  They don’t like technology, often find every workaround and amplify every challenge

Here’s the thing:  you have to give the tech savvy the loudest voice you can but you really need to just let them do their thing.  They will get it, and bring the process folks along.  Just introduce them.  And then you need to spend the rest of your considerable time and talent winning over and or mitigating the potential for damage by the self sufficients.

2.  Design your education approaches for the self sufficients. The tech-savvy will watch video or be willing to poke around to get what they want.  They understand that nothing was ever installed and perfected at the same time.  The process driven will use any tools they find, so give them a wide variety.  They will also get the most out of side-by-side education.  Once they get over any minimal hurdles, they’re golden.  But the self-sufficients will require every trick in your education toolkit. The level of detail will be needed once they realize that the train is moving forward without them.

3.  Report to management using the three groups. Name names.  Give them an understanding of who is doing well and who is not and where the hang-ups are.  They need to understand the successes and the challenges.

4.  Stay focused on the value of the effort in all of your communications. The organization invested heartily in the effort.  There was a defined need and benefits case.  The only way the self-sufficients will finally come along is when they start to realize the organization needs the value of the effort to contribute to its success.

And remember:

If you dislike change, you’re going to dislike irrelevance even more. – Eric Shinseki

Related Posts