Hot on the heels of yesterday's post, in which I shared a suggestion from the Prevoyance Group's Patrick Gray that IT personnel would have an easier time with change managment if they took an individualized approach to selling users on the benefits of a new solution, I saw a post by Marcia Xenitelis, who bills herself as The Change Communicator, in which she offers several other ideas that should improve the odds that users will more readily accept a new system or way of working.
She offers several bits of advice but here are my two favorites:
Involve the management team and create a process for them to engage their teams. This is a variant of the often-repeated bit of advice to get a strong executive sponsor. But she takes it a step further by pointing out that business leaders will be able to more confidently promote a new system if they are required (emphasis mine) to learn how a system works and how it will impact their area of the business. I think it's clearly IT's responsibility to educate the business leaders, using language the leaders can understand. Writes Xenitelis:
Then put in place a simple format and support them in designing a brief presentation on the system to their teams. Like a sports team, one win and momentum and enthusiasm increases, but you need to make sure that they feel "safe" about taking this step and don't set them up to fail.
I think that's a terrific idea. In fact, I think it might work even better if a business leader and IT leader gave these presentations together. It more effectively conveys the idea of IT and business as members of the same team, working toward the same goals. And IT leaders could help field any questions business leaders aren't comfortable handling alone.
It's also a good idea to give business leaders regular updates to share with their teams. I met a CIO at the Midmarket CIO Forum in Orlando earlier this year who told me about an SAP implementation that was completed in record time, largely because the executive sponsor sat in on every meeting about it. That kind of commitment is a lot to ask, and may not always be possible, but it illustrates how getting business leaders personally invested in the success of a new system can make all the difference.
Open communication channels that make it easy for folks to ask questions about changes. More important, she adds, "make sure you provide real answers." She offers several suggestions: a dedicated e-mail address, formalized team briefing process and/or regular change updates. The regularity of the communications is probably more important than the channel here. For dispersed teams, an internal blog or similar channel would probably make a great deal of sense.