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  • Writer's pictureKayla Holt

Organizational Change; Fear or Embrace?

Resistance to change should be a thing of the past if we could develop growth mindsets and create organizations with growth cultures.” – Paul Gibbons

Does your organization have a culture that embraces growth and change?  Were the recent work changes effortless or felt by your uses?  The top reason IT projects fail or never get off the ground is fear of change.  Even when ROI and work efficiencies can be demonstrated, fearing change can halt any project in its tracks.

What if you could transform a culture that is resistant to change to one that not only embraces, but thrives off change? Often when we provide solutions for clients there is a hesitation. The hesitation isn’t because of the product, the price, or a skepticism of our reasoning. The hesitation is due to the belief that end users will reject the change. Most of the population resists change. We feel comfortable with that we know. I mean, why fix something that isn’t broken? 

Let’s analyze that thought process for a moment. Just because it isn’t broken today, doesn’t mean that it won’t break in the future. Processes and business development aren’t just about inside processes, people, and tools. There are many factors outside of your control that impact your business; competitors, technological advancement, pandemics, or even a Windows update. If you are always waiting for something to break before acting, then you’re putting your department, company, employees, and customers at a real disadvantage. Even though it isn’t broken, could it be better? More efficient? Could it add more value? 

Most of the time, change isn’t rejected because people are stubborn and unwilling to adapt. Change is rejected because of the way it is delivered. There is a stigma that IT professionals speak a different language; they speak at a level that can be difficult for non-tech professionals to understand. This causes a breakdown in communication. IT professionals often have a difficult time putting their thoughts into laymen’s terms, and non-tech professionals often do not understand when they speak the “tech language”. How do we bridge that gap? (I’ll answer that shortly)

Pat Bodin stated in his book Get in the Boat, that there are three tiers of people within an organization:

Tier 1: Strategist. Strategist provide vision, culture, and focus. These are the people responsible for the business model; your “C” level professionals (CEO, CTO, COO). 

Tier 2: Operations. Most employees will fall into this category. Operations are the people who are doing the day-to-day tasks. They’re executing the processes and using the technology needed to make the Strategist’s visions become reality. 

Tier 3: Tactical. These are your IT professionals. They provide the support needed to keep the Operations group functional. 

Bodin used an example of a ship to show how the three tiers are all vital to an organization. When thinking of a ship, the Strategists are the captains. They tell you where you’re going and point you in the direction they wish to go. The Operations is the engine. They power the ship in the designated direction. The Tactical is the hull. They keep the ship from falling apart and provide the support needed to keep moving forward. All three tiers are vital to an organization. 

Using his logic, you can see that the Tier 2 workers are the ones that will be adapting to the change. They are also the ones responsible for keeping the ship moving. Although they may not be decision makers, their input is vital to any implementation. 

Now let’s go back to the question of “How do we bridge the gap between IT and non-IT?” The solution is the same as when you have two people that speak different languages. You get a translator. Someone who can understand the technology and put it into laymen’s terms for the end users. Usually the translator is in the role of a Project Manager. The Project Manager works as the middleman between all three tiers. Not only do they translate between operations and Tactical, but they also translate between Operations and Strategist, and Tactical and Strategist. Each tier has different concerns and values. Knowing what those are allows you to target the conversation and be able to relate to their concerns. Strategists want to know how the change will impact costs and productivity. Operations wants to know how the change is effective and how it impacts their day-to-day tasks. Tactical people want to know how the change impacts efficiency and security. 

Communication is only one part of successfully implementing change. Another vital part to implementing change is listening. It seems simple but listening can be a very powerful tool. Often, decision makers are the ones furthest from the change. They’re bringing about change to reduce costs, increase security, increase revenue, or a mixture of all of them. But they aren’t the ones that will actually be using the tools or be directly impacted by the change. Beyond that, most of them do not understand the day-to-day tasks of the Operations people to even be able to determine the impact it will have to their processes. This is where a lot of projects and implementations fail. 

To successfully implement change, you need to not only be able to determine the impact of your end users and customers, but you also need to work with your end users to understand how their process is changing and listen to their concerns about it. Take their concerns as valid and address each one in an empathic manner. Now I know some of you read that last sentence and scoffed at it. Who has time to “hand hold” hundreds of employees? What about the ones that are just known to be negative and you know will complain no matter what? The truth is that those people are the greatest risk. When you ask someone to verbalize their frustrations, often times they realize on their own that their resistance is out of fear of change and not actually because of what you’re implementing. Once you can pull that knot of people through the hole, you’re ready for the next step!

So now you’ve been able to successfully communicate the change. You’ve heard the concerns and you’ve been able to address them. Your end users are anxious but feel as if their voice has been heard and are willing to give the new change a try. Now what? Well, now you’re ready to implement and train. One of the most important keys to success during this step is to train in small groups. Pushing a new application out to hundreds of people at a time has a high risk of chaos. Start small. Pick one or two people from each department to be a part of a Pilot group and work directly with them. Have the Tactical people ready to quickly respond to any issues. The Pilot group can spend a week or so running through all of their day-to-day processes, asking questions, making tweaks, creating documentation, giving suggestions, being a part of the solution. This work could be done in a development environment if the change is part of a bigger process. Once the Pilot group is comfortable with the tool, have them train their peers. End users are more open and honest with people who are on the same level within the company hierarchy than they are with their supervisor or someone who is a Strategist. 

Phew! That seems like a whole lot of work just to implement some change, right? But is that ALL you did; implement change? It may seem like that, but within the process you also earned respect from your employees. You gave them a voice. You included them. You empathized with them and validated them. You built a trust in them. All of which will add value to your bottom line. 

At OBC we aren’t the team that is just installs software and walks away. That is one of the main differentiators that we bring to the table. We take a holistic approach to any project or implementation. We take the time to understand you, your environment, your end users. We analyze the impact to your security, end users, infrastructure, and budget to assist you in not only implementing, but choose the change that is right for you. We create a detailed plan that is customized to your culture. Is your employee base primarily self-sufficient? Do they need extra hand holding? Do they respond better to one on one assistance? Physical paper? A video? Do you have a mixed bag of each of those? Not a problem! OBC can adapt and cater to the uniqueness of your business – and still have highly competitive costs.

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