Change Management

June 16, 2021

Sal Catalano

I remember early on in my consulting career when I first heard the expression ‘change management’ and recognized it was a part of my job description. I had two core insights regarding the individuals who underwent significant change to their day-to-day tasks, systems and responsibilities:

  • Change disrupts individuals who were previously comfortable in their roles
  • Most people do not like it

At the time, I did not fully grasp how important a successful change management plan would be to determining my client’s success. Now, twenty years later and still a consultant, I understand that the most successful leaders are those who embrace change and empower their teams to learn and grow.

Especially when implementing new software systems, there will always be at least one person advocating against the change. This person will often provide feedback that they do not possess the time to learn a new process because their team is swamped in their daily work. I always look to find a way to meet this person ‘where they are’ – to understand their perspective and help them adapt.

One employee may refuse to take the training and believe they can do their job without having to learn the new system. They will often claim to enjoy using complicated excel documents that they have created from scratch which compute their allocations, budgets, and cash flows. In their mind, the prior system was working, so why make a change? Leadership decided to purchase new software and now was forcing the rest of the organization to embrace it. The most difficult part of my job is ‘change management’ – getting the staff to incorporate the new software into their daily processes.

One day I noticed that a particular software system I had been using for a long time had released some significant feature changes.  I quickly became frustrated when trying to do my job.  All the processes that I was familiar with were suddenly gone.  I became increasingly agitated and refused to take a training class. I started to make a mental list of all things that were wrong with the new software.  I realized the complaints I was making sounded eerily like some of my clients.  As humans, it is natural to feel dissonance against change. Therefore, it is important for leaders to effectively handle resistance and consider the needs of all stakeholders.

There may not be an opportunity to include all the stakeholders in the decision process, but having employees weigh in early on during the discovery sessions will forge an ownership dynamic that is critical to implementing any new process. Start with executive buy-in, and in parallel select an end-user system ‘champion’ to rally the team around early wins.

Additionally, it can be tempting for leaders to adopt a “set it and forget it” mentality and trust their team to function and adapt to their new roles, but each specific person and user role needs and deserves their own specific training.  Lack of training is a perhaps the largest contributing factor to lack of user acceptance, which ultimately can lead new system implementations to fail.

As humans, we do not like what we do not know. The best way to combat that feeling is to provide users with the opportunity to train repeatedly and in group settings to gain proficiency on the system. The benefits of training include:

  • Increased job satisfaction
  • Increased employee motivation
  • Uniform company expectations
  • Team bonding

If leaders want to successfully manage any type of change, they must be willing to individually put in the work required to become familiar with the new technology.  They must ask their stakeholders:

  • Are you willing to learn?
  • Are willing to put forth the extra effort and time to ‘get to the other side?’

Leaders set the tone for their teams – they must make sure to provide the tools to take on any challenges and create an environment that is conducive to learning and growth.

Next time you are considering making a significant change to your organization’s systems, ask yourself – “Have you (or your service partner) established a change management plan that ensures your team’s success?”