5 key lessons in change management
Posted by Louis D'hondt on 02/09/2016
“The only human being crying for change is a baby with a wet diaper”
The success of a software implementation is determined by both the quality of the solution and the acceptance of it. There are no exceptions to this rule. The same holds true for transport planning tools as well. If you have ever had to deal with transport planning, you will know that the complexity of the ‘Vehicle Routing Problem’ (VRP) is not to be underestimated. Academics recognize it as an ‘NP-complete’ problem, implying that even the biggest brainiacs don’t have a solution at hand. While the algorithm and the development of the tool itself demand an extreme amount of effort and attention, the impact on the people who will use the tool is equally important.
Ready for change?
When change lies ahead, people conduct a risk assessment – whether consciously or not. The outcome of that assessment is influenced by a whole series of factors, such as the person’s mood, performance and position at work and self-esteem. The more scarce the information that is shared, the more people feel they have to take a leap of faith. Therefore, for a smooth implementation of change, it is crucial to convey the right message and provide accurate information.
A project consists of multiple stakeholders and progresses through a series of steps. Each step demands structured and fluent communication between all parties. We list five key takeaways for successful change communication below.
1. There is ‘noise’ in every communication activity
There is always one person transmitting the message and another one receiving it. Those two people might (and probably will) interpret the message in a totally different way. For example, a manager saying ‘We are investing in a state-of-the art planning tool’ might be interpreted by planners as meaning ‘We won’t need you anymore’. Putting yourself in the other person’s shoes and scanning all subjective variables is essential for good communication.
2. It’s a matter of trust
Besides the content of the message itself, the person conveying it needs a significant amount of credibility. In addition to being trustworthy and dependable, he or she also needs experience, must be supportive when necessary and must have enough authority to resolve conflicting objectives. In addition to information and support, trust is needed to turn the various stakeholders into true ambassadors of the project.
3. No one-size-fits-all approach
Every company is built on a certain degree of hierarchy, whether it is formally documented or not. When conveying the message of change, make sure to analyze each layer in terms of when and how each person should be addressed. If you fail to do this, you risk skipping a layer in the hierarchy and denting that layer’s sense of importance.
4. Make it worth the effort
By emphasizing the importance of all stakeholders’ commitment to a project, you help people to realize what they stand to gain from it. Devise a carefully thought-out value system to get all stakeholders on board and convince them that they have the opportunity to benefit from being part of a team that will receive credits for undergoing change successfully.
5. Keep it simple
Provide correct and relevant information to all stakeholders, in a simple manner, focusing on what’s in it for each category of stakeholders.
Four key questions need to be answered:
- Why do we have to change?
- What will change?
- Why do we have to change now?
- What will happen if we don’t?
Reactions to change often have a rational component (I don’t get it), an emotional component (I don’t like it) and a trust component (I don’t like you). The only way to counter this resistance and deal with it is by communicating in a timely (right from the start of the project) and efficient manner.
And last but not least: communication is not a department, it’s everyone’s job!