At PIKON, nearly everything we do for our clients is a “change” project. From simple application change requests all the way through to a complete system implementation, it’s important to remember that something is changing and will almost certainly have an effect on the wider environment.
In most cases, the change will involve a system modification and/or a business process adjustment. However, it’s easy to overlook the impact these changes have on the people involved. Therefore, it’s important that strong change management practices are utilised during such a project. Note that we’re not talking about technical change management, but rather the co-ordination of a structured period of transition from situation A to situation B in order to achieve lasting change within an organisation.
Change as an ice cube
There are many ways of modelling change; however, the simplest model is also the most intuitive: Lewin’s Change Management Model of imagining change as an ice cube. In order to change the shape of an ice cube, there are three steps that you need to take: melt the ice into water, pour the water into a new mould, and then freeze the water into the new shape.
Before a change project can be carried out, the organisation must be prepared for the change (i.e. the water needs to be melted). This involves building a team, communicating the aims of the change and reducing / removing any obstacles that may stop the change from happening.
Once the organisation is prepared for the change, the change itself can be carried out (i.e. the water can be reshaped). This is where the system is implemented, the processes are changed and the people are trained.
Perhaps the most important step is once the change has been implemented: ensuring that the change sticks in the organisation and people don’t go back to the old way of doing things (i.e. the water needs to be re-frozen). Evaluating the change project as a whole and learning lessons for the next change is equally as important.
Better the Devil you know than the one you don’t
During a change project, it is inevitable that resistance to change will be encountered. The NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement defines the following levels of resistance that may be encountered:
- Level 1 – Information Based Resistance: Comes from a lack of information, disagreement with the idea itself or general confusion.
- Level 2 – Physiological and emotional reaction to change Also referred to as the fear response – fear of losing face, friends, control or even a job.
- Level 3 – Bigger than the current change Doesn’t involve the change at all – for example: religious, cultural or personal differences
In all three cases, communication is important in order to reduce the resistance to change.
Information-based resistance is best overcome with providing more information, logical arguments and detailed facts about the change project via presentations, workshops, Q&A sessions and other internal announcements. During this process, it’s advisable to not only provide the necessary information, but also to inspire people – getting people to enthusiastically support the change will help to overcome resistance in the future.
On the other hand, an information overload may make an emotional-based resistance even worse. In this case, it’s important to engage in a meaningful, two-way dialogue with the affected stakeholders in order to identify the root cause of the resistance.
Resistance to change isn’t inherently a “bad” thing or something to be eradicated, particularly in larger projects. Soliciting feedback, suggestions and critical evaluations from all areas of the organisation is key in order to ensure that the technical and process sides of the change are successful. However, it’s important to communicate that such feedback is being listened to and is used to steer the change – people will feel more involved in the change as a result.
- Never underestimate the importance of people when performing a change project.
- A comprehensive communication approach is just as important as technical expertise and process knowledge.
- Preparing the organisation for change is key – as is ensuring that the change sticks once the change has been implemented.