17/09/15

People and Change: Remember, You Reap What You Sow

Reap what you sowIt’s harvest season, and here in New England, as well as across the country, farmers have planted, pruned, watered and nurtured their crops since bud break and they’re now seeing the fruits of their labor. The farmer, his family and the hired hands are busy in the fields tending to and gathering the crops they worked so hard to grow during the season. It’s time for them to reap what they sowed, and we can’t help but compare a farmer’s investment in their crops to a company’s investment in managing change within their organization.

Successful change management, much like a farmer’s crop, needs to be planted and nurtured from the beginning to be effective, and is a long, strenuous process. People are at the heart of any change effort and, like farming, you get what you give when it comes to managing them through it.

Below are tips on harvesting the best results from your projects and your people when it comes to change, communication and training:

Value your people by engaging them early and often.

Involve managers and front line employees early in your change process. Their input early in the process will reap savings you cannot always directly measure in dollars, but resistance and denial make your change curve longer, and time is money. By spending less time coaxing your teams to into adopting your new process, system, etc. you will save many salaried hours on discussion and persuasion. Trust us, when people are heavily involved they are less likely to resist the change. Adoption is faster, and the change is embraced and sustained. In terms of communication, honesty goes a long way. Tell them what you know when you know it. When people are ‘in the know’ they will not feel blindsided. Instead, they will feel trusted and valued by management. Investing time in your people and having tactics in place for individual change management is worth it.

Assign the right project role to the right resource and ensure everyone knows who is doing what.

When roles change, communicate it to the team! Seems like common sense, but it’s not always common practice when things get busy and people have too much on their plate. If you don’t have the right skill set in house for a particular role, bring in the right person for the job, even if it’s on a contract basis. In the end, it will save your project time, money, and seeds that never bear fruit (pun intended). A simple RACI Matrix is an underutilized and forgotten tool, but creating one will ensure that everyone is on the same page and accountable for their role and work.

Plan, plan and re-plan!

Implementing changes requires a detailed business implementation and readiness plan. Inside of that large plan, you MUST have well-connected communication, change management and training plans. These all need to line up with your milestones. They need to be thoughtfully blended to support one another, and most importantly, align with the project goals and the business value they offer your organization. Ideally, these plans use a variety of formal and informal mediums and events, and they adjust when the plan’s milestones, key players and/or stakeholders change. When these three plans are all well thought out and connected, people are happier and generally feel confident that management has their interests and needs in mind.

Don’t jump to a training solution until you do a proper needs analysis.

When roles change, communicate it to the team! Seems like common sense, but it’s not always common practice when things get busy and people have too much on their plate. If you don’t have the right skill set in house for a particular role, bring in the right person for the job, even if it’s on a contract basis. In the end, it will save your project time, money, and seeds that never bear fruit (pun intended). A simple RACI Matrix is an underutilized and forgotten tool, but creating one will ensure that everyone is on the same page and accountable for their role and work.

Scale your training and its approach to meet the change effort.

Work with the business stakeholders and SMEs to ensure you have the right plan in place. Like system development, project management or change management, training design is a process. Your training team must be an integral part of your project team, engaged when project seeds are planted, not once development is done. They need to be in the loop on system development, requirements, functional specifications and plans. Have the training design team involved early and collaborating side by side with the project team, Subject Matter Experts, Technical and Business Analysts and/or your Product Development team.

For the love of adult learning, keep training in mind when you’re building your system environments and create a dedicated one for training!

If budget and resources allow, create a dedicated training environment to facilitate real life, hands-on practice in a “sandbox” environment. Quality training materials require access to an environment that is as close to production as possible, so in addition to giving your training developers early access to the system test environment, create a dedicated environment for training. It is worth the investment. Adults learn by doing, when you create a training version of your system, learners can practice and master the new system functionality prior to release into production, ensuring a better and faster learning transfer.

If you want a good crop from the projects you plant, invest in people with thoughtful communication, proper engagement and change plans, as well as practical training. People are at the heart of it all, so when it comes to managing them through change:  “Always do your best. What you plant now, you will harvest later.” –Og Mandino

Keep Learning How to Successfully Manage Change

Read our recently published change management best practices whitepaper – Change Management: Five Divine Principles in Practice.