In Making Change Stick, Part III, The IT Transformation Institute Founder and CEO Charles Araujo wrote that in many IT organizations, the governance structure is either missing or lacking, which creates a significant dilemma for an organizational change effort. In Making Change Stick, Part I, he wrote that change management isn't an IT problem or an organizational problem. It's a human problem. And in Making Change Stick, Part II, he wrote that executive support is often secured, but not used effectively.
Training Is Not Enough
Have you ever watched a young toddler with something new? They’ll look at it. They’ll hold it. They’ll probably put in their mouth. They might try to roll it across the floor or throw it across the room. To truly understand something, they need to interact with it in a number of different ways and experience the outcome.
We still learn that way.
Which is why training never quite gets the job of behavioral change done by itself. It’s too one dimensional. It doesn’t allow the learner to truly interact with the shiny new toy. To drive organizational change, you must go beyond just training to utilize creative tools that enhance and expand the experience so that those impacted by the changes can interact with them. This can include things such as:
Whatever you use, make it deliberate. The object is not to just do some random things for the sake of doing them. The purpose is to overcome barriers to adoption and to get people to fully invest in and embrace the changes being made. Think through what it’s going to take to develop that deep level of understanding and do it.
The day has finally come and the changes you’ve been working on for months are finally “live.” But you’re not done. Going “live” is the beginning of the adoption process, not the end. If you’ve executed the strategy effectively up to this point, you will have set yourself up to succeed. But the first few weeks after implementation are critical. It is during these first moments that either new habits will be formed or old habits will be reinforced. To drive successful organizational change, you need to ensure that the changes take root.
To accomplish this, you must have a deliberate approach that both reinforces the key concepts and enforces the expected behaviors. Reinforcement is important because this is the first time that people will be able to apply what they’ve learned through training and your other understanding activities. Working in the new environment may not line up completely with what they thought they learned and they may be confused how or where to apply the new processes or procedures. Your reinforcement activities are critical to make sure that they get the encouragement and answers they need to unseat the old habits and replace them with the new, expected behaviors.
On the other hand, there may be people that simply don’t want to change. Or believe that no one will really care. There may be others that are genuinely trying to play by the new rules, but just missed the boat. In either case, activities that enforce the desired behaviors are essential to ensure that the new process or procedure is followed. For those who have simply misunderstood, it will be a gentle correction. For those who are resisting or testing, it will be a clear message that things are really changing this time around.
Adoption activities should include a healthy mix of both reinforcement and enforcement techniques. They should be balanced according to your organization’s culture, the complexity of the changes being made and the anticipated levels of resistance. They may include:
Executing adoption activities is sometimes the hardest to do because the adoption team feels like they’ve crossed the finish line. They’re tired. Sometimes, there’s the next phase of development waiting for them. In the rush to move on, it’s easy to want to skip the adoption step. Don’t.
It may seem overwhelming or needless, but the adoption activities are the linchpin that holds all of your efforts together and makes them take root. Failing to execute this last step can mean the difference between having a lasting impact and your project becoming just another “flash in the pan.”
A Culture of Change
The challenge of making change stick is not an academic matter.
This isn’t a “nice to have.”
The reason that any IT transformation effort is undertaken is because the change that is being driven is essential to the business at hand. The inefficiencies, the ineffective processes, the risk levels that are just too high – these are real issues with real business impact and they need real solutions. But solutions cannot have an impact if they don’t stick. If nothing ever changes, then nothing ever gets better. At the least, this means lost opportunities. At the worst, it may put the business itself at risk.
An organizational culture in which change either doesn’t stick or occurs only at an excruciatingly slow pace is one that breeds cynicism and complacency. It’s an environment that can no longer attract the best talent. It creates an organization that is incapable of true innovation. Such an organization will not survive. Creating a culture in which change is constant and effective is now, quite simply, a business imperative.
IT Service Management adoption efforts stand at the crossroads of change. They are often one of the first major transformation efforts undertaken by an IT organization. As such, their success and the positive momentum that they can create if executed effectively are critical to the long-term health of the organization. Your organization is counting on your Service Management program to be more than just a “flash in the pan.” To ensure that your efforts have the lasting impact that your organization is counting on, you need to make the investment to make change stick.
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.