By Sharon Ford, Technology Education Specialist, Perkins Coie.
There are many interesting changes in the Knowledge Management (KM) area including AI and machine learning, Chat Bots, automation and more. Many of these initiatives involve technology changes, but they also result in process changes including how people work, and they may evoke emotions including concerns about job security. Regardless of the type of change, one thing you need to keep in mind is organizations don’t change; people do. If individuals need to change, then there needs to be a focus on people when initiatives are implemented and that is where change management comes in.
Whether a change being implemented is defined as a KM change or any other change, I encourage you to evaluate every project you are implementing with a change management lens. How can you do that? While this is not an official change management model, I’m going to leverage something you probably learned back in grade school – the Five Ws. The Five Ws (sometimes referred to as Five Ws and How) are questions to be answered for basic information gathering or problem solving. They are often mentioned in journalism and research, and they comprise a formula for getting the complete story on a topic.
The 5W example can be applied to provide a change management lens for your projects including:
1) What’s the Why?
2) Who’s your Sponsor?
3) Who is impacted? And, what is the impact?
4) How will you engage stakeholders? And, where can they find more information?
5) When and how will you measure adoption?
Below is a brief overview of each.
What’s the Why?
The Why or the Vision should identify how this change makes your organization competitive and should explain the WIIFM (what’s in it for me) for different stakeholder groups. It should include why the change is happening and the risk of not changing. Whenever possible, tell the why in a story to allow people to connect to the vision not only with their heads but also with their hearts.
Who’s your Sponsor?
Prosci has conducted multiple studies on successful change efforts and found the most important factor for success is sponsorship. A Sponsor should remain active and visible throughout the life of the project, not just identify the need for change then announce it and walk away. Often, the Sponsor comes from the organization that is causing a change, but a project will be more successful if leaders from the impacted areas are engaged and show visible support for the effort. Part of the change management activities should include providing a roadmap for the Sponsor(s), so they know the activities and the commitment required.
Who Is Impacted? And, What Is the Impact?
People typically identify stakeholders by role, but you should also consider other aspects, for example, their typical workflow, their current frustrations, and their usage of a mobile device. These and other factors influence the level of impact. Personas, which are often used for marketing purposes, can also be created as part of stakeholder identification for a project to capture the different needs and expectations of various stakeholder groups.
How Will You Engage Your Stakeholders?
A quick and easy answer is to engage them early and often. You may have heard of the “Rule of 7,” a marketing principle that states prospects need to come across an offer at least seven times before they really notice it and start to act. That is a good rule for stakeholder engagement as well. Also, ensure the communications for a project incorporate the listening side, e.g., meetings, surveys, an email address or a project page where people can provide input, ask questions and get more information. Remember the perception of a change can differ by stakeholder group, even by individual, so to help reduce resistance, you need to listen to concerns and feedback. You should also consider creating a Change Agent Network for your project. Change Agents are early adopters who receive training and advance details on the initiative, so they can proactively engage others, assist with adoption and help to reduce resistance.
A term that is gaining some traction is change engagement instead of change management. Wouldn’t you rather be engaged than managed?
When and How Will You Measure Adoption?
Remember the quote from Peter Drucker, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” Understanding adoption behavior is helpful in identifying whether a change is providing value. Identifying adoption metrics has its own subset of the Five W’s. You need to think through what to measure, when to measure, how to measure and who should measure. When you are identifying and tracking metrics, think of adoption as a phase reported over time rather than a single event.
Keep in mind that people know how to do their jobs the current way. Even if the current way is cumbersome and inefficient, it’s comfortable. Thinking through the Five W’s can help you focus your change management lens and guide people through their concerns and resistance.
It is also important to note that people often fear change because they fear failure or criticism. Building a culture where people are willing to risk failure in order to change and grow is also a major factor in successfully implementing change – perhaps a topic for future blog.