Change is an Individual Experience – Avoiding the One-Size Fits All Approach to Change
We’ve all heard the same story. An organization has invested a lot of money in a software platform that their teams have said they need, their leaders are bought in to their favorite product, but no one winds up using it. What is it about platform rollouts or any organizational change that makes adoption so challenging?
We don’t claim to have all the answers – human behavior is a funny thing – but we’re excited to share a glimpse into our approach and some of the tactics that have worked well for us and for our customers. Each methodology centers on the notion that change is a unique experience for every individual and so, we always need to be thinking about how our actions may impact the broad spectrum of people we work with, not only at the point of change, but over the long term.
Perception isn’t always reality
Let’s start by thinking back to the last time you did a speech or led a presentation, one you were particularly nervous about. When you were practicing or asking for feedback, someone might have said, “perception is reality, if you make a mistake, just keep going and no one will know but you.” It’s great advice. It can help to build confidence and free us from the fear of making a mistake. But of course, there are exceptions to every rule.
Whether you’re rolling out a new process, or in our case, launching a new collaborative work management platform, having a well-rounded view of the entire ecosystem and how everyone’s needs intersect is critical. What may be intuitive for one person might be confusing for another. What might be a time-saver for one person might be a huge waste of time for another. By considering a multitude of perspectives, you’ll uncover concerns but also opportunities that otherwise may have been overlooked. With these additional insights, your roll out will have a much better chance of being successful across the entire team!
Challenge yourself to step outside your own reality. Take a colleague for coffee and ask them – “what would this change mean for you? How would it help or hurt your work experience?” Create a day-in-the-life exercise and experience a day in the shoes of a teammate, you’ll be surprised by what you learn.
Don’t forget about me!
So now that we’ve asked our teams how they perceive the change, we’re good – right? Well… maybe. We tend to focus on the common denominator, sometimes forgetting about a unique need, outlier, or something we simply didn’t know existed. In most cases, that’s okay – it helps us prioritize and solve large problems quickly. But when launching a large initiative, project, or technology, these outliers can have a measurable impact on success.
For instance, your organization might have a large team of Project Managers (PMs), all of which work from the office, except two – who work from home most days. You’ve brought your Project Management Director into the rollout process, gathered feedback throughout, and have even brought in some PMs for focus groups and ideation. In all this time, neither of the two team members who work from home were engaged and so platform access from off-site locations was simply not considered. This would be a nightmare if it went unnoticed until after the rollout. It may have cost implications or worse. If they can’t use the tool properly, collaborative teamwork might be near impossible – the opposite of your desired outcome.
Promoting diversity in points of view and experiences will flag issues that you might otherwise miss and result in a better final outcome for all team members. Include a broad cross-section of people who represent different subcultures, teams, and minority groups – you’ll discover valuable insights that will make for a far more balanced and thoughtful rollout.
Change is not a point in time
As the saying goes, “the only constant is change.” It’s what makes change management so challenging. Needs evolve, objectives change, people come and go, and we’re learning all the time. When working with most technology partners, you’ll be partnered with a Customer Success lead, who, at Sensei Labs, is tasked with understanding what you and your organization is looking to achieve with this change, and to work with you to achieve it. But what happens when the goal has been achieved? What happens if, along the way, we realize what you’re looking to achieve won’t accomplish the broader objective? Organizations change so quickly that plotting an inflexible plan within an ever-changing landscape is a recipe for failure.
In partnership with your Customer Success lead (at Sensei Labs, we call them Customer Success Coaches, or CSCs), it’s important to keep up the habits that have made your launch successful thus far. Post-launch is not the time to stop collecting feedback, to stop outreach programs and focus groups, or to stop gathering perspectives. This is when it’s most critical! A clear, defined, and open feedback loop should be established from the onset. You should expect your CSC to provide the data you need to understand how your team has adopted the change and to challenge you to ask questions, check-in regularly, and actively engage with your organization.
Changing human behaviour, particularly at scale, is a profoundly individual experience, so it’s only natural that it’s easier said than done. There is an infinite number of facets to consider and it may not always be easy, but it’s important to remember – it’s not a solo performance.
Find partners, whether with your CSC or within your organization. Ask lots of questions and talk to as many people as you can. With a richer understanding of not only what teams want, but what they don’t want, you’ll have opened your reality to even the most nuanced needs. Treating change as an ongoing effort will help to ensure you and your organization reap the long term benefits of your time and financial investment.
I challenge you to apply this problem solving approach to everything you do! It’ll mean an everlasting feedback loop that will serve you well for the next time you, your team, or your organization undertake your next big change!