Is your approach to change adoption the best it can be

… if not, then you are leaving money on the table

Where are we?

Every year a vast amount of investment is made in IT, in existing service and developing/ implementing new capabilities. Unfortunately, we know from long experience there is waste created when new capabilities are never used or used badly. Actually, lots of waste. Is this because they are the capabilities that aren’t needed or because we’ve never managed to get them used effectively?

Its a mixture of both. IT service and change organisations are starting to get more attuned to enabling and driving great adoption. Why? Well because this in turn drives benefit and increases the amount of value created from the investment. In a world where investment is inevitably constrained, surely this is important to everyone?

Well, kind of. The IT industry has been accused of several missed opportunities (nicer than failings) in this area. It’s why we see ‘business change managers’ as discrete from ‘project managers’.  Its why training and broadcast communications are seen as ‘change adoption’.

There are a few different reasons.

It can be easier to worry about the technology and abdicate responsibility for delivering on the value to others. ‘They are the only ones that can deliver the benefits’ (which can be true of course, but still…).

It relies on skills and experiences that exist outside the boundaries of many IT organisations. Reinforcing the ‘someone else’s problem’ theory (reference ‘Life, the Universe and Everything ‘ from Douglas Adams).

It’s not all missed opportunities (failing). The drive towards approaches that place customer insight and managing uncertainty at the centre re certainly helping. Necessary but not sufficient in our view. And definitely much better than outdated approaches and methods (think SSADM for those old enough).

What can make a difference?

Ok, so there are barriers to great adoption. How do we start to look at the problem as an opportunity we can act on? Well truly successful change adoption relies on acting on the following:

  • It is more about people…. than processes and technology
  • It is about engagement … more than communication
  • It is about collaboration …. more than individual expertise
  • It is about involvement early in the work … more than training at the ‘end’

Lets take each of these in turn and unpack them a little.

People. This is about helping people see a different future. It can involve thinking in a different way, behaving differently, following a different process, or indeed using different tools. Or it can be all the above. As human beings, we are programmed to protect the status quo – because it requires energy for us to change. So no matter how exciting IT think the change is – unless its attractive, easy and timely to make the change, then we are hugely resourceful at finding a way around it.

Engagement. Communications is about telling people the messages you think they need to hear. Irrespective of the stage in the process. Communication tends to be one way. Engagement is two way, and allows you to interact, experiment, manage the uncertainty and achieve a better outcome speaking WITH people not To them. Including when you are wrong and need to act.

Collaboration. Great change adoption recognises the context and flexes accordingly. Bringing together great talent and expertise from different fields can drive improved adoption, more quickly. It can involve digital marketeers, digital designers, risk and compliance experts, amateur dramatics, animators, digital story tellers, experts in Augmented and Virtual reality, organisational designers, process designers, coaches of all descriptions and expertise from every area of your organisation. Sound daunting? Well, we didn’t say it would be easy!

Early involvement. Ensure the change adoption lens is applied from the outset and throughout whatever lifecycle is your chosen way. There are some great frameworks, approaches and thinking that can help. From Sprint methodologies to Model offices to experimentation to cognitive load…. Avoid piling everything into a mandatory training course on how to use the ‘system’ at the ‘end’ of a project – it you’ve involved and collaborated with people along the way, they’ll understand the what and why and learn along the way… Just remember this is about people and not falling in love with the processes and frameworks.

So, how do I make a start?

First, recognise the importance of change adoption. Take it seriously.

Define what you mean by change adoption and differentiate clearly from change management (which can be interpreted differently, e,g, some people will hear change control in a project or squad/team, or technologists will see this as the flow of change into production).

Next, start thinking change adoption before you even write the business case.

If you have the expertise within your organisation, make sure you set a context where they can be successful and elevate them to the table. If you don’t, get some! – Build the coalition and approaches that recognise your unique circumstance and DNA.

Lastly, change adoption is easier in organisations with a clear purpose. Is yours clear?

A final word.

In a world where the pace of change is increasing, uncertainty is also high, the capability to drive change adoption isn’t a luxury, it’s a survive and compete imperative.