Change management is critical to the success of any project and especially to the implementation of a new system.
Are employees resistant to change?
There is a widely held view that employees are inherently resistant to change. I disagree. Employees are resistant to change only when it will adversely affect them. If a new system could eliminate their jobs, do you blame them? But if the change does not threaten their jobs, they are more likely to accept and even welcome the change. New systems can make employees more marketable, eliminate the drudgery of inefficient manual processes and allow them to be more effective in their work.
Will change lead to loss of jobs?
In my experience, the elimination of inefficient processes does not lead to firing, but to growth with no hiring. If growth is out of the question, however, and there are too many people for the work required, it’s better to be honest about the situation. Even the employees who keep their jobs will be angry if their colleagues are blindsided by a firing spree.
Employees should be consulted not only because their involvement would lead to buy-in but also because they have knowledge that may be useful. Representatives from each department should be involved from the start, with a kickoff meeting to explain the project. Employees should be interviewed to better understand their requirements and opportunities for business process improvement. Employees should also be involved during the final demonstration. Get their agreement on the script, let them attend the demonstration that pertains to them and obtain their feedback.
Management also needs to be ready and supportive of any new system. One technique is to have management identify the critical success factors (what must be done well for the organization to be successful) and the key performance indicators that map to those critical success factors. Set target key performance indicators at the beginning of the project, and celebrate only when the KPIs are attained.
The biggest problem
The biggest problem is when the system change is supposed to standardize processes across multiple divisions or profit centres based on best practice. The division or profit centre may have developed procedures that optimize their processes and which may not be considered best practice. Those responsible for the division or profit centre are often not motivated to adopt standardized business processes and why should they if it will lead to disruption of business.
Many organizations have naysayers who have been around a long time and exert a certain amount of influence. You must seek out these naysayers to learn about the risks and what to do about them. As you gain this knowledge, you also indirectly gain their buy-in (if you take their advice into consideration).
Good project managers know about change management and will inform employees and management about project status. A good project manager will also plan the implementation to avoid scheduling conflicts and excessive overtime.
Change is constant and most people adapt quickly — especially to new technology. But there will always be a few people who are afraid of change just because it’s different. These individuals should remember the words of Bob Dylan:
- “Come gather round people
- Wherever you roam
- And admit that the waters
- Around you have grown
- And accept it that soon
- You’ll be drenched to the bone.
- If your time to you
- Is worth savin
- Then you better start swimmin
- Or you’ll sink like a stone
- For the times they are a-changin.”