‘Change is hard because people overestimate the value of what they have and underestimate the value of what they may gain by giving that up.’
James Belasco and Ralph Stayer
If you’ve ever struggled to change or get someone else to, even when it’s for the better, then this quote from the book the Flight of the Buffalo will ring true.
It’s one of the reasons why changing the way people in your organisation work is one of the hardest aspects of implementing new ERP software. It’s easy to get caught up in the specifics of the software you are choosing and forget that you are not just altering your business processes – you need to change your colleagues too! Without the support of the people who need to use the software, it’s no good. That’s why I want to share some points I believe are fundamental to organisational change management.
Start by assessing how big the change is
To begin with, you need to have a clear understanding of how much is actually going to change. Are you simply improving your current processes, or radically changing them? This will determine your change management strategy.
Try and get a complete view of the impact the change will have at various levels throughout the business. Are you going to create knowledge gaps that need to be filled? Will people’s jobs change significantly?
Then you need to be realistic about how long it will take to bring about that change. Ask yourself how your company tends to respond to change. Does it embrace it? Or shrink from it? Perhaps the size of your company, or the industry you are in, means you need to allow extra time for new practices to be adopted.
With these things in mind, you can create your road map, so you have clear timescales and goals in mind.
Communicate clearly with all colleagues
You’re unlikely to ever hear any company’s employees complain about over-communication. Simply getting everyone together for an update once in a while is no good.
Before you communicate you need to consider your audience. Rather than delivering one blanket message to everyone, break your audience into different groups and tailor your messages to each of them. They’ll want to know how the change will affect them specifically and what they will gain from it.
Be prepared to face resistance from some people. Humans are naturally wired to fear uncertainty and the thought of changing their working routine may make some of your colleagues anxious. Be sympathetic to this and listen to their concerns.
The best way to mitigate against the fear people are likely to feel is to gain their trust early on. People are more likely to listen to what is being said if the message is delivered by someone they trust. Identifying a trustworthy “change agent” to liaise between your technical team and end users is one of the first things you should do. This should be someone who believes in your project and is well respected by others.
The psychologist Leon Festinger explains that people experience mental distress when their actions are not aligned with their beliefs – a state he called cognitive dissonance. So, to motivate people to change, you need them to believe in what they are doing. Aim to convince them that the change is beneficial. Present them with evidence that supports what you are saying and explain what you hope to achieve and their role in realising the new vision.
To make sure your message gets out to everyone, identify the key stakeholders in each of your functional areas, so you can make sure your message cascades to everyone who needs to hear it. Keep people updated, so they are not left in the dark wondering when and how things will change.
The danger of poor communication is that misinformation will spread and breed fear. As a result, people’s motivation will drop and the quality of their work will suffer.
Get buy in from the start
Clear communication will help you get the buy in you need. Getting support from your executives is particularly key because they can help influence everyone else.
Your Management Team need to lead by example, so others will have someone to look up to. Their support needs to be visible and they should be vocal about it.
That means your executives need to know the progress of the implementation and any risks you are facing.
Involving employees in making choices will help them feel invested in the change and motivated to support it. They are less likely to resist change if they don’t feel like it has been imposed on them.
Factor in training
Getting your new software up and running is only part of the job, you’ll also need to factor in time to train people to use it. The quality of the training you give your end users will either instil them with confidence, or leave them panicking.
Don’t simply deliver a generic training programme to everyone, make sure you are giving them the information that is most relevant to them.
Training shouldn’t just focus on the technical aspects of the new software either, it should also let people know about any process changes.
Give people plenty of time to get to grips with the new system. David Kolb’s widely used model on adult learning stresses the need to give people time to digest new information. Break down the information into chunks and allow enough time for them to reflect before sharing more. Give them time to experiment and try out what they’ve learnt.
A mistake people commonly make is delivering training before go-live, then leaving it at that. It’s best to make sure people still have access to training support even after go live, while they get used to the new system.
The cornerstones I’ve highlighted here are just the beginning when it comes to successful change management. Implementing ERP will throw up a range of challenges and opportunities, which will develop, and ultimately strengthen, your business’ ability to manage change. Embrace the opportunity and watch your business fly!