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Stop asking me to wear that shirt (or use that technology)

Once upon a time, my mother bought me a shirt. More often than not, I hate clothes bought for me and this shirt was not different. For no particular reason I resisted wearing that shirt. May be it was old-fashioned or may be I did not like the colour; something about that Shirt did not sit right with me.

For years my mother kept asking me to wear that shirt. With every reminder, I hated that shirt more. My mother is a persistent woman but finally she gave up and stopped asking about the shirt. Here is what happened after that

One fine day, I ended up in a situation where I could not find any clean/ ironed shirt to wear (yes that happens to me) and as fate would have it, the only shirt available to me was the one my mother gave me. I gathered the courage, put on the shirt and went on with my day.

‘Hey, nice shirt!’

‘Why don’t you wear such shirts more, they look good on you’

‘This definitely does not look like your shopping. Looks good’

Some of the things I got to hear that day. Not sure all of them were compliments but I will live with that.

I came back home and tried my level best to figure out why I hated that shirt. The best I could come up with was this –

‘I was a young rebellious kid who did not like the fact that his mom bought him something without asking him first’

Now replace the shirt with technology and my mother with any change/ transformation managers in your organisation. You will get the same situation

  • You will mostly hate the technology procured by the organisation
  • You will hate it more as a result of the ‘adoption stats’ and constant reminders to ‘use the technology’
  • You will one day be forced to use the technology and if everything is right, you will actually find it beneficial.
  • You (and the change manager) will be wondering why you hated the technology so much to begin with.

I think we as change managers need to ditch the traditional adoption measures and focus on creating situations where there is a reason or at least an excuse to adopt the technology. We also need to find ways to ensure that end-users feel that they bought the technology along with the organisation. It is a difficult thing to achieve but I think it is mission critical.

As humans, we have tendency to hate new things when those are forced on us. Asking ‘why you are not using it’ just adds oil to the fire. I am sure none of us want that. My mother knew that shirt will look good on me, she just could not find a way for me to try it on. In my case luck helped and I ended up wearing that shirt, I am not sure if organisations can depend on luck when it comes to technology adoption!

How I learned to drive and what it means for technology adoption !

20150710_162435My wife has been following up with me for past 8 years to learn driving. I never took her seriously till 2016 and by end of 2016 I have become a fairly confident driver. You must be wondering what changed in 2016?

  • My wife gave me the final ultimatum in 2016?
  • I watched F1 and was inspired?
  • I got fed up of the delays on Southern Railways ūüôā and decided to drive to work?

Nope. None of the above. Here is the real reason – I moved into a new home

There isn’t a single grocery store within walking distance of my new home and that meant for the first time in my life I felt ‘the need to drive’. To begin with, I had to learn to drive and it took me a while. I think it took me the longest among my friends to learn driving. I failed the driving test once and bumped my car into my own driveway during the initial few days.

What happened next was interesting – I actually started enjoying driving! Granted that it did not happen overnight but as my confidence grew I finally decided to go on a ‘long drive’. I dreaded it but it was a nice experience. There were moments when I felt that driving is not all bad and then when I was cruising on one of the beautiful roads, I said to myself – ‘I can enjoy this’ . For 34 years of my life, I hated travelling by road. I properly hated driving and always looked upon it as additional work which someone else can do for me. If I can somehow like driving then for me anything is possible.

Here is what I learned from my driving experience and I think it is applicable to any and every technology adoption program

Users have to feel the need to use the technology. In my case it was my new home but every user has to have a solid reason to use the technology you are offering. Only few will use the technology offered by an organisation because they like to. Others will wait till they have to!

Not everyone will adopt at the same pace. There needs to be time, money and resources to support different needs of different users. I needed more time to learn driving and it was Ok. The important thing is that we all finally make it.

Even with the need established, it will not be easy. I bumped my car and your users will make similar mistakes. That should be acceptable as long as they are making progress. Creating environment where users are allowed to make mistakes is crucial.

There will be moments when every user will think ‘this stuff works’. Those moments need to be nurtured, harnessed and celebrated. These are the moments which become stories and will be told across the organisation.

Enjoying technology is the epitome of adoption. It is the most difficult trick in corporate technology adoption. I thought I will learn how to drive, will actually drive but never thought I will ever enjoy driving; I actually did. The key for me was to have an experience that I felt good about. You need to aim for those experiences for your users. If they get it, they will enjoy the technology and not just use it!

Indian demonetisation – The perfect case study for change management!

  1. Right intentions – check
  2. Questionable execution – check
  3. Majority users agreeing in principle – check
  4. Majority of users suffering – check
  5. Lack of clear KPIs to measure benefits – check
  6. Project team constantly coming up with new ideas to tackle situation – check
  7. Obvious lack of planning – check
  8. Project getting muddled up in politics – check
  9. Benefits likely to be questioned – check

This in short is the story of every change management program and it seems a program as big as India’s Demonetisation is no different.

I had the pleasure of experiencing this change management program as a user and for all the right intentions of the project team, I was left with a feeling that this was not well planned and users were not at the centre of this particular change management program.

The project team (government) kept insisting that ‘pain’ is necessary for the gain – getting rid of black money. ¬†As a user I am convinced that if better planned, the pain could have been reduced for the users. ¬†For a program of this size, the last-minute thinking on multiple fronts was astonishing

In my discussions with various people on the ground, I heard various valid questions. Here are 3 of them

  • Did the project team not foresee issues at toll booths and other places. Why was chaos necessary to prompt action?
  • Did anyone not think while designing the 2000 rs note that the ATM machines will have to be re-calibrated?
  • Why were expectations not better managed? Why do the BAU ( business as usual) timelines keep changing? Why have few days become few weeks and now potentially few months?

In each of the change management project, users have similar questions. What seems to be common sense to them, seems to be alien to the project team. What seem to be big issues for the users are usually trivial to the project team. Project teams more often than assume that users have to suffer and make little or no effort to reduce the pain. Users in this and every case are sensible and want to support the change, if only they are shown some empathy !!

Note : РI am  not a supporter of or against the demonetisation move. My views here are strictly as a change management professional.

 

People hate change! Do they really?

time-for-a-change-897441_640

I have been reading a lot around the subject of change management. Almost every model, approach , paradigm starts with the basic assumption that ‘people don’t like change‘. ¬†I for one don’t completely agree with that basic assumption and I am dedicating this post to explaining why. I think people don’t hate change, they just hate badly executed changes.

Here is my fundamental question

‘If people queue up to buy the latest phone, why don’t they queue up to benefit from the changes that organisations launch’

Surely buying a phone is a big change. New phone means new accessories, new features, new chargers plus¬†the effort to get your head around all of that. ¬†That is a lot of¬†change and a lot of effort. Why don’t people hate that? Why don’t people resist that change?

Now replace¬†‘phone’ in the above situation with ‘house’, ‘car’ or anything else and the same can be argued. In these scenarios people seem to enjoy the change and in fact look forward to the change. Why then the same people resist change when it comes to their professional life?

let’s take the same phone and think about a OS upgrade. I bet lot of us have hate those. On the face of it, these upgrades are supposed to make our phones perform better but they rarely do to begin with. Many a times we are not aware of the potential problems and there are times when we regret the day we decided to upgrade the OS. ¬†New Phone and New OS are both essentially change but I am sure while most of us love the former and¬†we dread the later. ¬†I wonder why is that.¬†Now if you had bought a new Samsung Note 7, then it is possible that next time you will be less excited about even a new phone. Guess that tells us something – People don’t hate change they just hate badly executed change.

Let me say that again ‘people don’t really hate change’. They in fact love change when it comes in the right proportion, at the right time and in the right way. ¬†If I can walk up to my employees and offer them something that they know will make their life better, I don’t think they will hate the change. The problem is that employees are never presented change in a way that they can embrace and enjoy.

Most change management projects start with the grim view of employees i .e.¬†they don’t like change and¬†more often than not it is downhill from there. ¬†Instead of looking at how we can present the change differently, we curse and moan about the users. Many a times we conclude that employees are the biggest problem and for better part of the project we try to solve that problem.

Here is a different way of approaching this

Let’s start with a different assumption – ‘People love change’. If a¬†proposed change is not working then the issue if with the¬†change and not with people. This will make you approach the problem in a different way. You will try to create a change package that is of the right proportion, at the right time and the right way. You will keep trying till you are able to excite your users about the change. You will aim for the day when people will fight with each other to be the first recipient of the change you are offering.¬†I am not saying that you can make every change exciting. There are changes which will never fall in this category but most can.

We need changes to be like a new phone (not note 7 ūüôā ) and not like the new OS ūüôā

Organisational change is not about the change !

It isn’t. It is about people/ employees/ internal customers and not about the change. How many times you have heard these statements ?

  • We need to embed change
  • We are rolling out change
  • Change has to be embraced

We make it so much about the ‘change’ that we forget that it is the people/employees/ internal customers who are changing. Change in itself is nothing. What we call ‘change’ is the act of people changing their behaviours. Most of the times ‘change’ as a noun becomes much more important than ‘change’ as a verb. We start talking about ‘a change’ as opposed to ‘ to change’. This is where I feel most change management projects miss the point – ‘Change management projects are about people and not about change itself’

Let me help you visualise this. On the left is how we mostly do it and on the right is how I am proposing we should do it.

people-and-change

  • If you put ‘Change’ at the heart of everything (left), then you will have change driving people and that in turn driving the benefits
  • If you put ‘People’ at the heart of everything (right), then you will have people driving the change and that in turn driving the benefits

This all might be very subtle but I think this matters. I think people (employees) need to feel that they are driving change and not the other way round. To achieve this we need to think people first. We need to create structures that empower people to drive change. We need people to see benefits as their achievement and not achievement of the change project. To begin with, we need to acknowledge that ‘change is about people and not about change’.¬†I have few more thoughts around the subject but that’s for another day!

Cannibalisation of change and how to stop it

‘Change doesn’t fail, it mostly gets cannibalized

Something that I mentioned in my last blog post. I have been trying think of a way to avoid this phenomenon and here is what I have come up with

Here is my thought process behind the proposed strategy matrix.

  • There are always multiple changes happening alongside your change at any point of time
  • These changes are not always aligned with your change
  • Not all of these changes are high impact. Some of them might not even register for your target users
  • If you can identify the impact and alignment for all these changes, you can¬†successfully prevent cannibalization

strategies-to-prevent-change-cannibalisation

Let’s now look at the matrix quadrant by quadrant

High Impact, High Alignment – Synergise

All changes in this quadrant are pulling the users in the same generic direction as your change project.  These projects present a great chance to find synergies. The onus is on you to find the synergies and create situations where both the projects can be mutually benefited

High Impact, Low Alignment – Align/ Abstain

You got 2 choices here – align or abstain. Given that this will be a high impact change, if your particular change is not aligned then that might mean failure. The challenge is to find any possible alignment to ensure that your change project is not coming across as an obstacle to the other change. If that is impossible, then you are better of pausing your initiative till the other change initiative is in it’s prime.¬†You will most probably fail to get the users’ mind-share¬†so it is better that you take a pause, regroup and relaunch your initiative.

Low impact, Low alignment РInform

These changes although a deterrent, will not cause a lot of trouble as long as you are informed about them. If completely ignored, these changes can cause irritation to your change initiative so it is imperative that you are aware of these changes. Users every-now and then will have queries around these small changes which will need answers.

Low impact, High alignment – Leverage

Although these are small changes, you can leverage them to your program’s benefit as the alignment is high. ¬†All change programs in this quadrant are worth collaborating with. Individually they might have low impact but the overall impact on your change program’s effectiveness can be high if these are strategically leveraged.

I am proposing that every change initiative should have a matrix that reflects the project’s view of the change landscape. I am sure every change manager does this subconsciously ¬†but I believe¬†that putting this on paper helps. I am not suggesting that this is a perfect way of doing it, this is just my way of understanding change landscape. Your’s might be different !

Biggest barrier to change? Change itself !

320px-trafficjamdelhi

courtesy – wikipedia by N-O-M-A-D

and I mean the other changes happening in the organisation. Imagine you are driving on the road, what do you think causes the most accidents? A simple answer is other drivers. Agreed that even if you were driving on the road all by yourself you can cause accidents though chances of that happening are remote.

Now replace that road with any organisation and imagine the change programs as vehicles. What do you think is the biggest cause of accidents?  It will be other change programs.

I am sure we cannot stipulate that organisations should execute only one change program at a time. We can however have everyone following some standard rules and regulations so accidents can be avoided.

If you read most of the text on ‘why change fails’, you will hardly every find ‘cannibalization’ as one of the reasons. I think it should be there right at the top. Most changes don’t fail per say, they get cannibalized. They get eaten by other changes,¬†they get stopped in their tracks by other changes and in worst case scenario they lose their meaning because of other changes.

For me ‘other changes’ is the biggest barrier to any change initiative and I am sure there are many ideas under ‘change portfolio management’ ¬†to¬†tackle this.¬†I have few ideas of my own but that’s for another day.

 

Storytelling and Change… now that’s a story worth telling

First of Placeholder Imageall I want to thank Jude Claybourne for a wonderful insight into the world of story telling.  For past 2 days, I have immersed myself into the world of business storytelling under the guidance of Jude. It has been thought-provoking specially in context of the change ideas I have been toying around. This is my effort to put these things together.

2 things from the storytelling session that stayed with me

  • Everyone is unique and each one of us have our unique stories
  • Our stories is what makes us who we are

If stories define us then our change also has to be a story. ¬†We should be able to describe every change in our personal as well as professional life as a story. ¬†As a part of every change initiative that organisations undertake, there should be a story for everyone or at least every group. ¬†Here is where I would like to thank Jude again for introducing me to the easiest way of creating stories using a a simple template –

‘Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.’

I have tried this template¬†and it works with almost every situation. Let’s try something funny to being with

“Once upon a time there was a ‘happy cat’, everyday she would play with all the other cats in the neighbourhood until once day all cats just vanished. Because of that she started feeling lonely and because of that she became a sad cat.¬†Until one day a cute puppy came along and started playing with her and the sad cat became happy again

I know the story sounds stupid but it you follow the structure, story¬†just flows and you can apply the structure¬†to any context. Let’s try this in a change context. Let’s be more specific – let’s try this in sales transformation context . Can we write stories for each of the group of employees who will be involved in this change using our template above?

“Once upon a time there was a sales executive. Everyday he would go out to sell pens. One day he sold pens to everyone he knew Because of that he could not sell any more pens until finally he found a way to meet more people to sell more pens

I could have described this as that our sales teams are struggling with lead generation and we need a better way of generating leads more efficiently. But isn’t the story better? It just keep things simple and makes it easy to communicate what we are trying to do.

If we had these change stories for each of our key employee groups, then that will set the stage perfectly.  It seems we as humans are hard-wired to listen to stories, stories connect us at a different level. We need that in organisational change management. We need to connect with employees at a different level and we need that connection to be strong throughout the change journey. I think there no better way to achieve that than change stories

Here is my challenge for you. Give storytelling a shot in your change initiatives. If not for any other reason then just for fun. Try using the story template at least for one of your target employee groups and run it past them. I am sure you will be surprised by their reaction ūüôā

Change is a transaction… whether you like it or not

give-and-take-556151_640

  • Change happens , just get on it with
  • Employees are paid to work, they don’t need to be marketed to
  • Employees are no customers. There is accountability and ownership.

These are some of the reactions that I have got in past few weeks to my ideas around change. Here is some of what I have suggested

It seems that there is lot of resistance to the fundamental idea that when it comes to change we need to treat employees as customers.  The resistance stems from 3 central themes

  • Change is not a transaction
  • Employees have accountability and ownership whereas customers don’t
  • Employees have chosen to work for an organisations so they have to get on with it

All these have some basis. Employees do indeed have defined role and responsibilities. Organisations expect employees to act in the best interest of the organisation and in line with the long-term strategy. It is absolutely true that employees have chosen to work for the organisation. Change is actually not optional when it comes to employees. Taking that thought further, if something is not optional then how can it ever be a transaction?

On the face of it, all these seem reasonable . Let’s dig a bit.

If you really think of it, change is a transaction. Employees are giving their time/ effort to adopt the change and expect benefits in exchange. Organisations hope that¬†those expected benefits are in line with the organisational benefits but there is no guarantee of that. The other¬†aspect is the opportunity cost. Employees can dedicate the same time/ effort into something that will help them ¬†impact ‘here and now’ as opposed to the proposed change. ¬†Whichever way you look at it, you cannot ignore the transactional¬†aspect¬†of change.

Employees don’t really have option when it comes to change but they can for sure decide how quickly to adopt the change or how effectively to adopt the change. This is where most change projects fail. Every change management approach suggests that organisations need to create a sense of urgency. That cannot be created unless the organisation has ‘buy-in’ from the employees. For all the talk of change not being optional, it seems that change¬†still have to be bought by the employees. If employees have to buy the change then they surely need to be treated as customers.

After reading this, you might think that the worst case scenario (for the organisation), is that employees (as customers) might just choose another organisations ( as a product or service). Trust me that is not the worse case scenario. The worse case scenario is that they decide to continue to with the organisation, pretend to buy into the change but never actually do. As any marketer will tell you , it’s never fun to have disgruntled customers !!

 

Why wouldn’t users just listen?

User's won't listenThey don’t. They just don’t.

  • You tell them where the training manual is, they still ask again
  • You train them multiple times but they still wouldn’t learn
  • You send them thousand emails but they would just ignore

They just won’t listen. What fascinates me is why does this surprise us? Why does this frustrate us?

If you ask me I trust users to be ignorant. I trust them not to listen to most of the instructions and I completely trust them to do their own thing their own way after all you did to shape their behavior. ¬†The problem is that most change professionals don’t.

Most change professionals I have come across seem to exist in a Utopian world. A world

  • where users have all the time in the world¬†
  • where users are just focused on the one change initiative
  • where reading email from the change team is their purpose for existence

I am sure that world does not exist. I am sure every user will tell you that their focus is driven by their own KPIs. I will even go to the extent of saying that users do not really care whether it is in the best interest of the organisation. If their KPIs are met and by co-incidence if that means organisation is benefited then good, else they don’t give a damn. In that sense they are no different from customers (surprise, surprise!). Hold on to that thought for a minute

Let’s look at the other side. Most transformation programs fail to deliver on benefits. Primary reason being that users do not buy into the change , it takes too much time and the landscape changes by the time users come around. Why do you think no one sees this coming?

If I was doing this, I will always start with the assumption that users don’t want to change and will never¬†ever change at the speed which we expect them to. We need to trust our users to fail us most of the times. Once we do that, we can then plan for the failure and set the expectations for that scenario. Do that and very few transformation programs will fail or at least will not be seen as failures.

We have to be honest and brutal when it comes to setting expectations around change programs. If we start living in the Utopian world then we are bound to be surprised..

and yes, treating users as customer will help !