I’ve been through several big organizational changes in my corporate career. Some were train wrecks, while others rolled smoothly along. I worked for one company where 90% of the finance department just disappeared overnight, without warning beforehand or announcements afterward. At another organization, during a merger, great pains were taken to let everybody know what was going on, to get people from the different sides together, to create general good feeling and to provide training where it was needed.
In both cases, productivity dropped.
The difference? In the second case, the drop was less steep and didn’t last as long as in the first case. As you’re initiating your project, assume it involves some appreciable level of disruption for people, accept that there’s going to be some productivity loss and set your sights on minimizing it.
Resistance to the change is at the heart of most productivity loss. Most people dislike change, especially at work. We’re in a steady routine, we know the processes, we have the relationships, the systems are familiar to us. Then Big Picture Change comes along and we’ve got to rejigger everything. Argh!
This resistance is similar to the “objections” you hear sales people talk aboutovercoming. You pitch, the customer objects, you counter their points of objection and—boom!—sale. CarMax, the national used-car sales company, does a great job of this. Worried a dealer will rip you off on your trade-in? CarMax will give you a decent price. Worried you might buy a lemon? CarMax lets you return your car in five days, no questions asked. Worried something might break down after the five days? CarMax gives you a 90-day warranty during which they will fix just about anything.
CarMax has thought through the possible objections ahead of time and come up with ready-made counter-measures.
You, too, can take the CarMax approach. To overcome your stakeholders’ objections, start by defining the specific impacts of the change. Look at the tools people use, the process flows they are involved in, the relationships they leverage. Where the impacts are, there also will be the objections. Then go after crafting the best solutions you can. You’ll need the help of your team and a broader group of stakeholders, including those folks likely to feel the impacts of the coming change.
Your reward? More rapid cooperation from those downstream of the change and more support from those upstream, resulting in decreased productivity loss and increased prowess for you, the forward-looking PM.
Russell Roman in allpm.com. “What is Change Management and how does it fit with Project Management?”
Tim Creasey in www.change-management.com. “Definition of Change Management”
www.change-management.com. “Change Management Basics: Roles in Change Management“