Have you ever decided to develop a new habit that experts promised to make you more efficient, happier, or productive only to find yourself neglecting it a couple weeks or months later? There are many reasons why this could happen, but in all likelihood, the primary driver is simple: change is hard. In fact, change is so hard that 70% of all transformations fail. This can be a daunting statistic when we think about all the benefits IoT, AI, AR, and others are supposed to bring about to make the ‘Future of Work’ safer and more productive. There are several reasons why change fails including but not limited to violation of the employee's implicit or psychological contract with the company, misunderstanding, assumption, too much change at once, and a perceived inability to learn new skills. Which begs the question: how do you tip the scale in your favor? This post outlines 5 elements to consider during a change initiative.
- Culture is King
Culture is often thought of as that squishy and soft element that we'll take care of once all the technical aspects are in place. However, this shouldn't be the case as culture is complex and runs deep. It dictates "how things are done around here" and is often a precursor to behavioral change. In other words, successfully shifting culture towards digital transformation can have a positive effect on adoption and result in a successful implementation. This all starts at the top - executives, managers, and influencers within the company need to incent and exude the attitudes, behaviors, and processes they want to see before they can expect anyone else to adopt it.
- Identify Influencers and Get Them on Board
Key influencers are those people in the organization that employees look to for guidance and have institutional credibility. They may have leadership titles, but it's just as likely they do not. For example, they could be a veteran in the department who everyone goes to for advice (“when in doubt ask Dave”). Once others see the shift and positive attitude towards the change, they will be more likely to participate. Remember that emotions are contagious, leaders need to genuinely exude what they want to see back.
- Take Baby Steps
People can only absorb so much upheaval in a short period of time so when possible break the desired change into phases. A phased approach allows people to become more comfortable and also see some of the benefits the change is facilitating; it's easier to drink from a water bottle than a fire hose. This may sound time-consuming but its significantly quicker than an ongoing sequence of innovation initiatives that never culminate in an operational outcome.
- Engage Your People
There are three primary groups you want to engage when initiating change. Firstly, identify your supporters. These are the people that will be your sponsors within the company and help you achieve your goals. Secondly, identify your resisters, why they’re resisting, and how you either convince them that the change is positive or minimize their negativity. Thirdly, engage with the individuals who will be most affected by the change. In last week's post, we explained that most leaders found it helpful to engage the employees that would be affected by the change and get their opinion prior to implementation since people are much more likely to ‘buy-in’ into something they helped create. Ultimately, figure out who will be your champion, who you have to convince and their objections, and couple communication with active listening.
- Implement Quick Wins
While developing your technology initiative build in some quick wins along the way to help people sustain momentum and see their hard work come to fruition. It's likely that your digital transformation will span several years (or at least several months). This can be a long time to continue down the same path without seeing any results. Ensure people feel empowered to take on this endeavor by implementing quick wins.
This list is by no means exhaustive, there are entire books dedicated to the theory of change management and change within technology. That being said, it starts to paint a picture of how employees may perceive change and the human complexity that it entails. These are intended to be some tips to get you started on your journey.