Implementing any kind of significant change in an organisation is often a complex and difficult process —and yet in the modern business, constant, often IT-oriented change has become something of an inevitability.
Whether it’s updating your CRM to provide a seamless customer experience, or implementing a new HR system to maximise your employee engagement, it’s unlikely any modern organisation will remain immune from the challenge of managing (particularly IT oriented) change.
Yet despite the unrelenting prevalence and pace of change in modern business, a recent CHAOS Report of 50,000 IT projects of varying sizes from all over the world found that only 29% are considered successful, with 52% considered “challenged”, and 19% reported as “utter failures”.
So what’s so hard?
The most commonly cited reason for projects that fail is problems with the people side of change. Yet organisations often invest significantly more in the technical elements of change than in supportively and considerately leading their impacted people through the change.
At Ratescalc we passionately believe that the first step in ensuring the success of any type of change, but particularly IT or systems change, is in understanding how to support your people through the process. And the key to doing that effectively lies in following 3 simple steps – the first is to communicate with your people, the second is communicating with them, and the third is to communicate with them!
The Change Curve
In the 1960’s, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross first developed her famous Change Curve as a way to explain the grieving process. Since then it has been widely utilised as a tool to help people understand their feelings, emotions and reactions to significant change at work.
Kubler-Ross proposed that a terminally ill patient would progress through five stages of grief when informed of their illness: Shock, Denial, Anger, Depression and finally, Acceptance.
She further proposed that this model could be adapted to any dramatic life changing situation and by the 1980s, the above version of the Change Curve had become a firm fixture in change management circles. The curve, and its associated emotions, can be used to predict how performance is likely to be affected by the announcement and subsequent implementation of a significant change.
It might be shocking to some to consider that the upheaval of change at work has been scientifically shown to be similar to the process of dealing with the loss of a loved one, yet anyone who has borne witness to the stress of a failing project will recognise that the science is sound.
Application of the Change Curve
The first step in managing any type of organisational change is understanding how to manage the change that each individual will experience. Driving the change through to a successful outcome will often require new thinking and present new challenges for everyone involved, but despite the huge costs of failed IT projects (not only in realising the business outcomes but also in terms of lost productivity and morale), few small or midsize organisations have the resources or inclination to invest in third party support and expertise, mistakenly thinking it can’t be that hard.
But as the Curve demonstrates, everyone has to move through the “trough of despair” before they can emerge and find their new normal, with acceptance and ultimately, integration. However brief it may be for some, there will initially be a period of resistance and denial, perhaps denying anything is happening, or making excuses for why it won’t affect us; perhaps it won’t happen at all.
Developing an understanding and familiarity of the Change Curve will help you predict how people will react to change, so that you can help them make their own personal transitions, and make sure that they have the help and support they need.
How to move people through the Change Curve
Ultimately it is personality that underpins how each person will respond to change, so understanding these differences is crucial in allowing leaders and managers to predict how different personality types are likely to respond, and then deploy the correct leadership or coaching style in order to smooth the transition from resistance and denial through to acceptance. This approach works equally well for individuals, teams, and organisations.
However, unless leaders actively help move their people through the stages of the curve, then individuals may become stuck at any stage, making the change more difficult, if not ultimately impossible. So how do you help guide your people through change in a positive and effective way?
Communication, communication, communication
The answer is of course, communication, as previously stated. And whilst everyone within the team will have different preferences in terms of how they like to be communicated with, it’s crucial for leaders to take time at the outset of the project to consider the key players and influencers and how best to get them on board. In our experience, the answer lies in a supportive ear, a heightened degree of emotional intelligence, and a working environment that values open and honest communication.
So as a leader looking to implement significant change within your organisation, the challenge is not only to get the systems, process and structures right, but crucially, to help and support your people through their individual transitions, which can often be intensely traumatic.
The easier and more painless you can make this journey for your people, through coaching, support and understanding, the sooner the business will realise the benefits and the more likely it is that your change will be a successful one.
At Ratescalc we have years of experience in change management processes and in supporting organisations through systems implementation; albeit nowhere near as complex or expensive as a front office or payroll system, the Ratescalc application will still require the deployment of some simple change management techniques.
Talk to us about how we support you through that process and the benefits of using the Ratescalc system.