Every change, however small, requires a change management strategy to be successful. When we talk about change, we mean an alteration of the status quo that will eventually impact people in some shape or form. People are complex creatures, so we should not underestimate the amount of effort a ‘simple’ change will take because we do not know how people will react until the change happens.

This is something that our interviewee – a Director of Business Change at a global real estate company, knows well. They have a track record of successful change management across a range of industries.

This article explores some lessons they shared with us on how implementing a seemingly simple process change – a small manual modification to a previously automated process, can have great implications if not managed appropriately. For simplicity in this article, the manual modification will be referred to as ‘the project’ or ‘the process change.’

1. Know your audience

When implementing change, the most important thing is to understand your stakeholders and tailor the ‘what’s in it for me’ message to the different groups.

Nowadays, we live in an era where we are bombarded with information all the time, so what people care about is:

  • Why is the change happening?
  • How will it impact them?
  • What do they need to do about it?

It is vital to communicate the answer to those questions from the different stakeholders’ point of view in a clear and simple way, especially to the senior leaders and Board members; if there’s no engagement and sponsorship from the top, it is extremely difficult to cascade the buy-in across the different teams.

This is also applicable to the training material developed to implement the change. It is harmful to assume a one-size fits all approach and studies have shown that a personalised learning approach yields better learning results If your training material isn’t relevant to individuals or teams, they’re going to lose interest.

Our interviewee encountered several obstacles during the project that meant they had to map out new team-specific processes and create different training for each one.

2. Understand your starting point

Understanding your ‘as is’ and mapping out the different possible scenarios is important to minimise the number of surprises, and this should be done upfront as much as possible.

During the project, described by our interviewee it was thought that everyone was using the same system. However, when the new templates were shared, they realised that some business units used different systems and therefore the IT team had to allocate more time than expected to deal with this.

Some people might find this assessment stage frustrating and a waste of time. However, if not done properly it can cause more problems and delays in the future.

3. Adapt the communication channel to your audience

In a progressively hybrid world, there is a much greater emphasis on communicating effectively with people in a virtual environment. The traditional email exchange isn’t always the most effective communication tool and can sometimes result in a lack of engagement or responsiveness from recipients. Companies have had to find more creative ways to reach people, increase the level of receptiveness and encourage two-way communication and collaboration; communication methods play a crucial part in gaining the attention of the affected group and opening a dynamic dialogue from the offset.

During the process change, a range of communication methods were used, differentiating by stakeholder group. Video calls were organised to explain the scope and timelines of the project in an interactive setting; specific Microsoft Teams groups were set up to encourage feedback and answer any questions or queries. Influential participants were selected and became responsible for supporting the roll-out among a smaller group of their peers as well as feeding back any issues that arose directly to the project team.

4. Define how success will be measured

The success of a project is determined by the metrics that are set, so these should always be clearly communicated and agreed at the start. For example, if the key success metric for a project is time, the chosen approach may compromise cost or adoption to stick to strict timelines. Understanding how success will be measured will guide the selection of the appropriate project approach. Taking these decisions independently of each other can be detrimental to success.

Our interviewee explained that in the project, the key measure of success was adoption of the process change. The initial timeline was set at two months and the process change was to be rolled out to all 3,000 employees at the same time. However, additional challenges were uncovered and, considering the new complexities, this approach was identified as being very high risk and would not support the key success metric. The decision was made to take a phased approach instead and pilot the change with a small group before rolling out to the larger group of employees. A consequence of this was that the project timeline was increased, but taking this approach was more likely to drive a higher adoption rate. The ability to adapt to new information and revise the plan suitably helped guarantee success.

5. Phase the roll-out, if possible, to gather insights and feedback along the way

Testing an idea or change in a small, controlled environment has been proven to reduce the risk of failure as it allows further refinement of the approach before the complete roll-out. This is the driving force behind pilot studies and can be applied to projects where change is being implemented across a large group of people.

Adopting a phased roll-out means you can gather feedback, collect FAQs, and begin to investigate any issues raised on a small, manageable scale. In addition, the success of the initial phase can be measured, and all the lessons can be actioned in the next phase to improve the process. As a result, when implementing to the later groups (which may involve the senior or executive team), many of the issues have already been identified and resolved.

This approach was highlighted as one of the areas that added the most value to the project. Through this, they were able to gain a lot of useful feedback, particularly on training material that had been developed to coach employees on the new ways of working. As a result, the material was adapted for different teams to increase the likelihood of adoption.

The small pilot group also had connections to all areas of the business and became the “champions” for the next phases. This meant that some of the responsibility and workload from them and the core project team was spread among more people, and it played a huge part in driving overall project effectiveness.

6. The importance of a ‘transformation’ figure

Inadequate resourcing was highlighted as a potential shortfall of the project. Indeed, at some stages members of the team felt overwhelmed and had difficulty keeping up with the demands.

When resourcing, it is important to really understand the capability of each person and the other demands on their time; avoid assigning several critical roles to one individual. For example, someone responsible for being the project overseer or strategic lead shouldn’t also be handling the daily troubleshooting and escalation management.

The project team members should not only be aware of their own roles and responsibilities but also those of all other members, allowing everyone to work towards the project goals more efficiently.

Also, don’t be afraid to bring in additional resource if required (and available). The project gained a lot more momentum once someone was brought in to act as the transformation manager officer, or TMO. This allowed them to oversee the project, provide a clear direction and make sure it was consistently aligned with the strategic goals and vision.

When it comes to change, nothing is simple. Ultimately, what really matters is that any type of change, however simple or complex, is carefully planned to ensure its success; time spent planning and pre-thinking the challenges at the start saves a lot more time, frustration and cost later on in the project.

If you would like to hear more about Argon & Co’s change management and transformation offerings please get in touch.

Author: June Azodeh

Richard Powell

Partner

[email protected]

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