Making Change Stick, Part III

Charles Araujo


Creating awareness sounds simple, yet it’s something that is rarely executed effectively. That’s mostly because awareness is not about just letting people know that the project is taking place. It’s really about creating buzz. It’s about putting a little bit of Hollywood into your initiative.

Imagine for a moment that your IT organization was going to produce a movie. If it was executed the same way as most ITSM adoption efforts, you would assemble the producer and director, cast the actors, refine the script, shoot the movie, do final editing and distribute it to the theaters. Then - and only then - would you do a simple announcement that the movie was available. 

And the movie would flop.

Not because the movie was good or bad, but because there was no buzz. Because there was no investment by the audience. They didn’t know about it. They weren’t anticipating it. So when it finally came out, they just didn’t care. This is what happens to most ITSM adoption efforts. 

What really happens in Hollywood? A year before the movie comes out, little teaser previews start appearing, “The World Ends. Spring 2011.” When it gets closer, the actors hit the circuit talking about how challenging it was to make the movie, but how proud they were of that special scene. There are commercials and posters. Tie-ins with a toy line or McDonalds. The actors show up in the audience on American Idol. 

By the time that movie hits, you can’t wait for it. You’re dying in anticipation to see what all of the fuss is about. You’re invested. That’s what you need to create when you’re generating awareness for your effort. Your objective is to prepare your organization to become actively engaged in what you’re doing – in the changes that you’re going to make.

Awareness activities should be focused on:

  • The activities that will be executed
  • The problems that will be solved with the initiative
  • The potential impact of the activities
  • General timeline awareness

Your awareness messaging should not be focused on specific details (think of a movie trailer), but should convey the general message of what’s being done and why and how the audience will be involved. This can include anything as simple as emails to much more elaborate efforts that include presentations, interviews for the company’s internal website or whatever gets the job done. As long as you generate buzz and anticipation, you’ve done your job.


Once you’ve got the organization worked up into a frenzy of anticipation, you’ve set the stage to get them involved in the changes that you’re making. This statement often sends shivers through the spines of adoption team members. They reject this idea because the process designs haven’t been completed yet. You can’t show the “customers” (for this purpose, the people you’re going to impact) something that doesn’t exist yet. Can you?

The objective here is to drive organizational change. To do that, the customers need to feel that they’re part of the solution – not the problem. 

Have you ever been to a movie screening? Was the movie done yet? Was it perfect? No, it wasn’t – that’s the point. The producers are trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t to look for opportunities to improve the final product before it rolls out the door. Screenings are often done at several stages of development and often lead directors to go back and reshoot entire scene sequences based on the feedback they receive. Why should your ITSM adoption effort be any different?

As important, after that movie actually comes out, how do you react? You tell your friends that you saw it during a screening (with that air of a Hollywood insider). You take several of them with you to go see it at the theater. You enjoy telling people about the advice you “gave the director” and how you’re sure that they listened and, well, that’s why the movie is so much better now than it was during that initial screening. And almost without exception, the value of the movie is elevated in your mind and in those around you because you were “involved.”

You should have the same two-fold goal as you execute your involvement activities before, during and throughout your development process:

1)      To gather genuine feedback that you can use to improve your final product

2)      To create investment within your organization by involving the customer in the development process

You don’t need to involve the entire organization – in fact, you shouldn’t – and it can be different people at different stages, but the key is that the customer is never left behind during the development process. There are a number of techniques that you can use to drive customer involvement:

  • Pre-Development Surveys: Sometimes there’s no better way to get feedback than to simply ask for it. Surveys conducted at the beginning of the process are a great tool to ensure that your development team gets off to a solid start. Understanding issues, perceptions and the eventual barriers to adoption early in the cycle will help to ensure the applicability of the finished product.
  • Focus Groups: Bring together small groups of customers (those who will be impacted by your changes) and walk them through the changes you intend to make – in whatever form they’re in at that point. Your goal is to get specific feedback on areas of concern, so don’t ask, “Do you like this?” or “What do you think?” Instead, ask direct questions such as, “Will this process step impact your ability to resolve an Incident quickly in any way?  If so, how?” The more specific, the better.
  • Management Forums: Similar to focus groups, bring together groups of functional managers and walk them through the changes to get specific feedback from a management perspective.
  • “Sneak Preview” Roadshows: Less formal than focus groups, sneak previews are half awareness and half involvement. They provide an opportunity to generate excitement, but also to get general feedback from larger audience pools. These tend to be most effective later in the development cycle.



Once development is done and you’ve created your better mousetrap, it’s time to get the organization to start doing things differently. But you can’t just will that into existence, hoping that a little training will do the trick. You must create a deep understanding of what will change, the new behaviors that are expected and how those behaviors will be monitored and measured.

The biggest challenge that most ITSM adoption efforts have is that they are too reliant on training to create understanding. Clearly, training will be a major component of this stage, but the changes you are putting in place are not one dimensional – so you need an approach to creating that deep understanding that has multiple dimensions as well. 

This concept of a multi-dimensional approach to creating deep understanding requires that you do more than just training, but it applies to the training approach itself, as well. Members of your organization are going to be impacted by your changes in different ways. Some may use the process area being changed on a daily basis and in an in-depth manner. Others may only use it peripherally and occasionally. Likewise, managers may have a different perspective altogether. To create organizational change, you must have a tailored training strategy that provides the right level of information to the right people at the right time. This is one of those situations where one size most certainly does not fit all.

Next in Part IV: Training Is Not Enough

Charles Araujo is the founder and CEO of The IT Transformation Institute, which is dedicated to helping IT leaders transform their teams into customer-focused, value-driven learning organizations.

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