“A technology unused is a useless technology.” This slight adaptation of a quote from the forgettable movie Spies Like Us (1985) rings true for many project leaders, technology professionals and BPM practitioners today. How often are expected results and outcomes missed not because a solution did not come in on time, on budget and meeting technical objectives, but because those employees who were expected to use the solution ultimately did not?
“A rigorous, intentional and structured approach focused on catalyzing adoption and usage correlates to more successful project outcomes”
“The achievements of an organization are the results of the combined effort of each individual” – Vince Lombardi. Change ultimately comes to life in an organization through its employees. Technologies do not use themselves; processes do not adhere to themselves. When solutions are implemented, it is individual employees who change how they do their jobs, if real change is to take place. Or sometimes they don’t adopt and use the change, with dire consequences. While the technical side of an effort can certainly be complex and challenging, it is the people side that is truly the “hard” side of change. What are you doing, and what can you do, to support the individual changes trigged and required by your change efforts?
Begin by asking yourself these three questions:
• How much of the expected value and benefit of the solution we are working to implement is dependent on employees changing how they do their jobs?
• How much are we investing on the technical solution – in terms of dollars, hours and team members?
• How much are we investing on the people side of the solution in terms of dollars, hours and team members?
If you are like most, the numbers will not line up. All too often, the people side of the solution is underfunded and understaffed relative to the overall project spend, and especially relative to contribution the people side of change makes to overall return on investment, benefit realization and value creation. Without a structured, intentional approach to catalyze individual transitions, project teams end up installing solutions that do not deliver results. The change landscape is littered with technical solutions and optimal processes that have failed to deliver sustained impact due to failure on the people side of change.
While there are many definitions and interpretations of change management, for the sake of this conversation we will use this simple seven word definition from Prosci: “catalyzing individual transitions to drive organizational outcomes.”Over the past two decades a growing body of knowledge and research has moved to change management from the “soft and fluffy” and conceptual toward a more process-driven, tool-rich work stream that project teams can leverage and integrate into their project approach. What Prosci calls the “unified value proposition” emerges when solutions are both designed, developed and delivered effectively (that is the technical side) and are also embraced, adopted and used proficiently by employees (that is the people side). Together, meaningful and sustained results from change can be achieved.
Prosci has conducted research for nearly two decades on best practices in change management. In the latest round of research, over 800 change practitioners from around the world provided concrete direction the highest impact activities that drove successful change. Below are the seven top contributors to capturing expected project results and outcomes by catalyzing individual transitions. As you review each of the seven, ask yourself: how well are we leveraging and applying this critical success factor in our changes?
1. Active and visible executive sponsorship – In times of change, employees look to and listen to senior leaders for direction and guidance. Senior leaders are the preferred sender of messages about why and change is happening and the risk of not changing. They also need to build coalitions of support, especially for BPM and technology changes.
2. Structured change management approach – A rigorous, intentional and structured approach focused on catalyzing adoption and usage correlates to more successful project outcomes. The people side of change is too important to leave up to chance.
3. Dedicated change management resources and funding – “If it is not someone’s job, it is no one’s job.” Effectively strategizing, planning and supporting individual transitions must be resourced, or it can easily be over shadowed by technical aspects of change.
4. Frequent and open communication about the change and the need for change – Effective communications send the right message, to the right audience, at the right time, from the right sender and through the right channels. While many projects create “telling plans” which only broadly distribute details, effective communications plans answer the questions employees have.
5. Employee engagement and participation – Employees are ultimately the ones who change how they do their jobs when BPM and technology solutions are installed; their engagement contributes significantly to adoption and usage.
6. Engagement and integration with project management– Prosci research data shows an increasing trend of integrating project management and change management on projects across three main dimensions – people, processes and tools. Integration supports the “unified value proposition” that delivers actual results and outcomes.
7. Engagement with and support from middle management – Middle managers are uniquely close to the employees impacted by change in terms of relationships, trust, proximity and operational understanding. Their engagement, support and active role fulfillment is crucial for catalyzing successful change.
Successful, sustained, meaningful change requires more than on time, on budget and meeting technical requirements. Change ultimately happens one person at a time because organizations don’t change, people do. The true value you can create with your BPM and technology transformations depends on employees embracing, adopting and using your solutions. What can you do to increase your impact and the value your changes create? The answer is the growing discipline of change management.