Jason Shipe, Customer Program Manager
For any company introducing modern software systems, overcoming corporate politics and opposition to change is inevitable. Leadership must work together to create an effective strategy and determine what will be best for the company, not just in their area of interest. They must work collaboratively with their personnel until they are all aligned with the strategy and any misunderstandings or differences are resolved. Transparency from top to bottom—from executive leadership to entry-level associate positions—and from start to finish on the project implementation is critical. Always remember that knowing the reasons and “whys” will gain support and buy-in from your teams on any change management.
“Change is difficult because people overestimate the value of what they have and underestimate the value of what they may gain by giving that up.” – James Belasco and Ralph Stayer
Change management is the most complex part of the implementation process. Having a well-planned and properly communicated strategy and project plan, with the right team, the right tools and leadership support all properly aligned, is key to the success of any implementation process.
Leaders need to take the time to comprehend user resistance, understand where it comes from and why, and determine how to address it. Large-scale implementations require significant investment, so it is in your interest to consider the change management recommendations below to best situate yourself for a successful implementation.
By considering these recommendations, you will prepare your organization for the change to come, diminish resistance, and influence others to adopt that change. Leadership for change management occurs across several levels: executive sponsor, project champion, implementation team, training team and providing feedback. A new excitement will be created with the teams as everyone loves being involved from the beginning, and this will help the team understand the new changes/process.
Executive sponsor support
We know how important the role of the top management position is in every aspect of change inside companies. The executive sponsor is responsible for the decisions that are made and accomplished. They have to use their abilities to clearly explain the goals, impact and benefits of the project to the organization. They must be able to collaborate, agree and commit to the change process in order for it to be a success. Most importantly, they must exhibit their trust and confidence in the project. The executive sponsor support team must be kept current and updated on all project details and milestones.
The executive sponsor must be supportive in each phase of the implementation process. This consistent management support system will help drive the entire organization towards the goal of acknowledging and adjusting to the new initiatives that are being implemented, as well as minimizing behavioral struggle to change. To conduct a high-level overview of the project, the executive sponsor should establish a monthly or quarterly governance meeting with the executive leadership teams on both the client and vendor side.
The implementation team must be led by the project champion, as this role is a critical factor for success in the implementation. The project champion must be a person with authority, empathy and effective communication skills to ensure the project stays on track and motivates the team during each phase of the project.
The implementation team is involved when it is time to ”roll up the sleeves” as they are responsible for the day-to-day work. They ensure the initiatives that were carefully planned and established by the leadership come true.
It is critical to have a solid team of implementers. Experts from the various areas involved with the project need to be included on this team. They ensure that the implementation stays aligned with the designed approach. They are very committed to the project, offering continuous assistance during the implementation and ensuring each member takes accountability of their area of expertise. The implementation team must be very personable and willing to continually listen to their stakeholders to achieve flawless comprehensive change.
One of the most critical factors for successful implementations is effective training. As mentioned above, prior to training the change must be communicated to outline what is changing, how it will be implemented and the impact of this new change to each end user. Once the message is communicated properly to the audience, a training plan must be developed with consideration to the change impact for each end user. Remember that anyone can tell someone how to complete a task, but it takes an individual with care and patience to break down the task and explain the ”why” and ”how.” A detailed training checklist is useful for ensuring all end-user impacts are addressed.
Additional training tools such as reference guides, visual cues and videos can make the training processes smoother as visual support is often more efficient for learners. Having well-planned training with the appropriate visual support and the constant support of the implementation team better prepares the implementation for success.
Change must always be accompanied by feedback. It is important to consider the feedback from everyone who is part of the process, from leadership to stakeholders and end users. There are times where unforeseen obstacles occur during an implementation that require the approach or project plan to modify. In such times, it is critical to receive feedback from all stakeholders. This is often when individuals experience personal growth by addressing the challenge head-on to create alternate solutions to achieve the implementation objectives.
When the executive sponsor, the project champion, the implementation team, and the end users share their experiences during each phase of the implementation, it allows the subsequent project phases to be more efficient and reactive. Gathering and responding to the feedback has a positive impact on the project where stakeholders respond favorably as they know that their concerns are being heard and considered.
Taking the time to transparently and effectively involve all the appropriate teams (executive, project management, implementation and training), and listen to and incorporate feedback throughout the process, will give you a good chance of successfully implementing even the most complex changes.