A couple of weeks ago I was talking with a couple of fellow change management practitioners and the conversation steered on the importance of implementing cloud services.
They were focusing the attention on the process linked to the implementation and how the technical side of he project is all that matters. If like me you deal with the people side of change you will be “used” to this type of thinking.
How do you overcome the myth that the people side of change is fluff?
- Let’s stop calling it the soft side of change. For some reason this denomination comes across as denigratory and puts the people side of change in the passenger seat;
- Focus on the link between the technical and the people side of change. Use a simple example to illustrate the concept such as:
let’s pretend that the company wants to implement a new payroll system. The technical part of the project is essential. However, what happens if no one in the organisation is going to adopt and use the new system? This is where the people side of change comes in: organisational change is driven by individuals. If we do not engage them the change is simply not going to happen.
It is like purchasing a super expensive and powerful Ferrari and being unable to do anything with it as no one can (or is willing to) drive it!
- Re-direct the discussion on what really matters for your audience: if you are talking to the CXOs of your organisation they will be interested mainly in finance and strategy – therefore link the people side of change to these aspects and how you can help them achieving their objectives. On the other hand, if you are talking to a project manager they will be more interested in project deadlines and staying within the allocated budget.
Therefore, how did I overcome my fellow change management practitioners’ objection that the people side of change is fluff?
First of all I have focused the conversation on their ultimate goal, pointing out that in order to complete a project on time and within budget employees adoption and engagement are essential. If the final users (the employees) drag their feet and find “alternative” methods that in their eyes justify cutting corners and not using the new system the project will not achieve its objectives and finally it will fail. Ultimately this failure will have a detrimental impact on the project management team and its perceived ability to deliver value.
Additionally, I pointed out that organisations ultimately are made by people and they are the final users: if the project team ignores the users’ requirements and force a new system on them, unless the new system is very similar to the old one – which is very unlikely – the organisation will be unable to capitalise on the speed of adoption (how long it takes to change), the usability (how many people actually make the change) and the proficiency (how effective the employees are at making the change). Instead of banging on concepts like resistance to change, I expressed the same concept by redirecting the conversation on the consequences for the project team: delays in implementation, higher costs and potential failure of the project.
The project and the people side of change management are equally very important. However, the secret to get the buy in form the senior managers and project managers/leaders is to direct the conversation on the aspects that matter to them and how, by managing proactively the people side of change, the company can achieve its goals and realise the benefits.
Avoid talking about the activities that you will carry out (this will make you look like a commodity function) and using change management jargon (your audience doesn’t care about concepts like resistance to change or stakeholders analysis). Focus instead on what really matters to them, use their language and clearly tell them why you can add value.
If we, people side of change management practitioners, want to seat at the decision table we have to demonstrate that we can add value to the bottom line.
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Question: what argument do you use to overcome the myth that the people side of change is fluff? Share your answer on LinkedIn.