People and Change


Of the pillars of information management, the people/process/technology triad, 85% of your problems come from people.


Why? Because people are resistant to change. We’re wired for that way. Change management is often ineffective. It is treated as a certainty that people want or need the proposed change to happen, and the new course is already good.


Transformative change management doesn’t come just from control (top-down) or IT (middle-to-middle). Remember, everyone in an organization can contribute to workplace transformation, even if that role is just to convince the person sitting next to them that it’s a great idea. Leaders help steer the ship and offer sponsorship. Individual team members can play a role in advocating for user feedback. Managers stand in the middle and serve the interests of those both above, below, and from the client's perspective, hopefully, all three accurately and positively.


The first point for change management is user stories and empathy; those advocating for change must understand the source of resistance. Organizations are full of unwritten rules and codes of behavior, causing people to get upset. Simply arguing won't make them go along with the plan.


Things often go wrong at the very beginning of a change project—perhaps even prior to what most people would consider the beginning—with unvalidated assumptions about what people want. Success requires that one start by asking the simple questions that are too often given short shrift: Is this actually good for our people? Has anyone asked what they think? This is why user input is so critical because the lack of it can literally stop change in its tracks.


In most cases of change, an optimal solution is probably an option that isn’t visible from the starting point. The way to find it is to collaborate and take stakeholders' feedback seriously. While leaders may think or even say that they are already doing this, many employees often feel otherwise.


A pilot program can make all the difference, allowing people to practice the new way of doing this before they are expected to embrace it. This is not the same as a model or mockup. A drawing is better than nothing, but spending time in a space is essential. As people try the new environment or platform, or technology, project managers can gather data under conditions that are relatively close to the proposed future state. There’s also no reason that the pilot needs to be limited to one idea.


There are a couple of exceptions when it comes to piloting. It is critical that people be given the freedom to explore the new environment independently and by choice—otherwise, it’s just another duty. It is also essential that a project manager is either physically present to observe or is otherwise actively soliciting feedback.


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