As technicians, we’re used to technical change management — converting the current state of a particular tech stack to a future state. Organizational change management, however, is often overlooked.

Organizational change management broadly refers to any and everything you do to prepare and support your organization during a time of great upheaval or disruption. It’s everything you put in place to help your people succeed. A systematic approach to both the organizational and human sides of change is your best bet for managing transitions without disrupting your business or making your employees unhappy. 

People, Process, and Technology

Change within an organization brings classic emotions to the table: fear, uncertainty, and doubt. It’s difficult to get teams to rally around the impending change and, more importantly, execute it successfully. They have predetermined assumptions that the project will lead to loss of control, lack of communication and help, proficiency concerns, and heavier workloads. 

All technology projects can be divided into three components: people, process, and technology. It’s easy to configure the tech part of an implementation project, but the people and process are the most challenging to get across the finish line. After all, people’s day-to-day operations will be shifted. It may not be seismic, but it’s enough to disrupt how they get their job done. When the people side of change is ignored or mismanaged, there are additional costs and risks. These costs and risks are felt at both the project level and the organizational level, and include things like resistance, morale declines, delays and efficiencies, and failures to deploy. 

Communicate the ‘Why’

When employees don’t understand why changes are happening, it can be a barrier to driving ownership and commitment, and it may even result in push back. According to one survey of U.S. employees, almost one-third don’t understand why certain changes are happening within their organization.

Incorporating organizational change management before beginning any new service IT initiative will assist in boosting employees’ adoption and lead to success for the company’s IT investment. A Prosci study has shown when a structured change management program is followed, 94% of companies meet or exceed their project objectives.

For those who do it successfully, their first steps for effective change management start with a plan to communicate from the top down. Executives who don’t answer why don’t succeed. It’s important to establish a clear purpose for the implementation: Why are we doing this? How does it align with the business strategy? Are we decreasing cost and increasing productivity? Make your vision for the project align with your communication to employees so both have an impact. They must be clear enough that the entire organization understands and knows how it will positively affect the business long-term. 

If you can communicate the ‘why’ and continue the reinforcement throughout the process, it will help the natural reaction to resist the technology down the line. Studies find that continual communication is a leading factor in a transformation initiative’s success during and well after launch day.

Here are a few reasons why organizations shouldn’t underestimate organizational change management as part of their digital transformation:

The culture of your organization will shift

Even the simplest CRM implementations impact organizational cultures in ways that are hard to predict. For example, you may expect less data collecting and more strategic thinking as a result of your new technology. 

Employees will need a soundboard for concerns and troubleshooting

Listening to employee concerns and challenges is key to effective organizational change management. Project managers must practice empathy and effective communication skills by putting themselves in employees’ shoes to understand the impact this change is having on their lives. What may seem like a small deal can be a tectonic shift in their output, resulting in a subpar customer experience. 

Dealing with work arounds 

Two-thirds of employees hack their work to get around friction points, spending two hours per day completing routine tasks. Service and manufacturing personnel are protective of their processes and have historically demonstrated a greater resistance to technology changes because of their potential effects on customers. When customer emergencies and needs arise, they will address those priorities. 

Over Invest in People

Don’t underestimate the impact of organizational change; New work processes and technologies will never see their full potential if you don’t bring your people along. Your best path of success is putting the team, and their journey through the change, at the top. Over invest in the people part of change management and you’ll be much more likely to succeed than those organizations that neglect this critical success factor. 

Steve Baines