Large organizational changes, like an ERP implementation or upgrade, affect many people and processes. When not handled correctly, these changes can lower productivity and morale. The Avaap Organizational Change Management (OCM) team offers some words of wisdom on how to avoid project heartbreak when initiating organizational change in this special Valentine’s Day treat.
Executives and business sponsors are critical change champions to every organizational change effort. Prosci®, a global leader in change management best practice research, found through their 20-year longitudinal research that the number one indicator of project success is active and visible sponsorship for the change. Conversely, the number one indicator of project failure is lack of active and visible sponsorship. Leaders need to be aligned and demonstrating active and visible support – in public and in private – that show they support the transition and will role model the expected changes.
Barbari Griesse, Vice President of Advisory Services
There is Power in Listening
Instituting two-way communication protocols with multiple avenues for people to bring forward questions, concerns, and ideas has the added benefit of strengthening the organizational “muscle” for navigating future changes.
Employees are often seen as ‘targets’ of the change and communications are delivered ‘at’ employees. Dialogue is important, and true employee engagement includes feedback loops. During times of change, employees need the opportunity to share their thoughts, opinions, reactions, and feedback about the change itself, the disruption that is occurring, and the progress being made. Industry best practices recommend:
- Create feedback channels that are anonymous. Allow employees to respond with confidence that their opinions will not be held against them.
- Leaders and managers need to share what they have heard and are learning. Having front line leaders transparently discuss feedback received, positive and negative, demonstrates to employees that when they speak someone is listening.
- The organization must act on the feedback received. Without organizational action employees will stop engaging and their willingness to change will decrease.
Mark Dillard, Director of Consulting Services
Use Labels with Caution
In the world of OCM, we use the term “resistance” to describe when individuals or groups (stakeholders) impacted by change are not adapting and adopting to the new way of working according to expectations or plans. As practitioners and/or leaders of change, we must caution ourselves in using the label resistance when addressing behaviors that delay the new way of working.
Alternative terms for resistance include confrontation, struggle, conflict, or defiance, invoking a negative, auto-defensive response that creates a barrier, impeding efforts to address slow adoption in individuals or groups.
Behavior that is categorized as resistance is driven by emotional or intentional refusal to change when more likely the delay in adoption is something else – lack of ability or understanding, procrastination, past change experience, personal life events, change saturation or fatigue. Seek to understand and find out what is driving the behavior at its root.
How to approach slow adoption behavior?
- Express the importance of the new way of working.
- Collaborate to form a solution.
- Put time and actions in place.
- Take ownership to remove barriers or get additional support when you can.
Leslie Oines, Principal Consultant
Practice Makes Perfect
Nearly half of our day-to-day behaviors are wired so deeply in our brains that we perform them automatically. The habits that make up our everyday behavior are a key part of why it can be hard for us to adopt any type of change. Put a detour on the route, move the bread at the grocery store, or hand an iPhone user an Android, and you’ve disrupted the habit. People need to slow down and think about something they did yesterday, using valuable brain power. This intentional shifting and focusing of attention on the new behavior is a form of task switching, which might waste only 1/10th of a second for each task switch, but can add up to a loss of 40 percent of your productivity throughout a day. And it can take an average of 66 days to build a new habit.
You can help make this easier by:
- Fostering a supportive environment that encourages employees to adopt the change. Make the effort to understand what the root of resistance might be. Give key employee ambassadors early access to understand the change first and to help others through the process. Track progress and recognize success.
- Make it easy to do the right thing so it is convenient to adopt the new behavior. Be clear in communication and training, repeating what you say five to seven times to help it sink in. Look for components that help form a habit loop.
- Extend grace while employees are adjusting to the change. Plan for mistakes, empower leaders to empathize, and respond to questions.
By their very nature, habits keep us doing what we have always done. Creating new habits takes time, and there is no magic, one-size-fits-all solution. Being aware of your initiative’s impact to habits ensures that you can identify changing behaviors and best help employees to adjust.
Katie Brandt, Consultant
Looking to kick off a new organizational change initiative? Get in touch to learn how to get the most positive impact from change!