5 Ways to Get Users to Accept Change
|By Lew Sauder|
"The only thing that is constant is change." This saying has been used throughout the ages. However, as technology infiltrates the business world, change becomes more rapid. New innovations in hardware and software build upon themselves, creating an exponential increase in the rate of change.
Not so long ago, if a co-worker suggested submitting a document, most people would have pictured someone physically handing over a piece of paper. Today, many would assume a document in electronic format, being sent by electronic means.
Some accept these changes more readily than others. When an organization introduces any form of change, especially using more advanced technology, they face collective resistance. There are, however, ways to improve the acceptance of change by more people within the organization.
1. Include the team in the decision
Before formally deciding on a change initiative, develop an internal core team. Select a cross-functional team of individuals who are considered open-minded, forward thinkers.
Explain to this team that the organization is considering making a change. Ask them to be part of a committee to represent their functional area to help you come up with a solution that will benefit their group, and the company as a whole.
Users are much more willing to accept change if they know one of their own people is involved in the decision.
2. Formally announce the decision
Once a framework for change has been developed, make the announcement formal. Not just in one format, but as a campaign. Hold an all-hands meeting with the sole purpose of kicking off the new initiative. Tout the advantages and why this will benefit the organization and everyone involved.
Send an email to all employees with more detail. Provide a link to a special page on the company's intranet that answers frequently asked questions, provides a timeline and a form to allow people to ask additional questions.
Hang posters throughout the company to increase awareness.
3. Keep them updated
Communicate status throughout the organization on a frequent basis. If this is a long-term project, create a newsletter that is sent out bi-weekly or monthly. Use the newsletter to make everyone aware of the latest accomplishments and upcoming milestones to watch for.
Avoid letting the posters get stale. Update them regularly when new milestones have been met, or just to let people know that the project is still a go.
Many people who don't receive updates wonder if the project has been canceled.
Create anticipation of upcoming accomplishments. "Coming Soon" posters will let everyone know what to expect. When people look forward to something, they are much less likely to resist change.
When facing anything new, no matter how seemingly simple, it can be confusing to some. It is even more likely to create confusion when technology is combined with a change in routine.
Any new initiative must be introduced with appropriate education to be successful. Formal training should teach individuals how to use a new system, how to process exceptions and where to turn if there is any further confusion. If possible, test the training on a small group of individuals and make changes before a full rollout.
Provide a help desk. This can be a physical location the team can turn to or a phone number to call. Distribute the phone number so that everyone has it available.
5. Announce the launch with fanfare
When the project goes live, have a celebration. When Apple announces a new product, it is a media event. Depending on the size of the company and the impact of the new initiative, make it an announcement that shows the organization's excitement and commitment. Demonstrate how it will work and how it will allow the organization to grow.
Cynics will call it a dog and pony show. Focusing on how detractors will respond, however, will never accomplish anything. Instilling excitement and interest throughout the organization will quiet the critics.
If team members are excited and see the benefits of a new initiative, they will be open to the change and be more willing to accept it.
Resistance to change can kill the implementation of a new initiative before it even gets off the ground. By including critical team members, communicating frequently at appropriate times and making sure all stakeholders understand how to use a new system, an organization can greatly improve the chances of a successful change.
Lew Sauder is a PMP certified project manager who has worked most of his career as a consultant with top-tier and boutique consulting firms. He is the author of Consulting 101: 101 Tips for Success in Consulting, Project Management 101: 101 Tips for Success in Project Management and co-author of The Reluctant Mentor. Follow him on Twitter @LewSauder.