3 Ways to Break from Change Management and Drive Transformation

Before you read the rest of this post, I want you to think through your approach to change management. 

You're rolling out new technology to a small department and considering how to gain adoption and guide people from old to the new process. 

When are you starting the dialog with people in the department? What steps are you taking to get people on board and participate in the journey? How do you measure success, and what steps are you prepared to take when you hit speedbumps? 

Change Management to Digital Transformation - Isaac Sacolick

I get this question a lot - from CIOs, CDOs, and digital transformation leaders driving strategic programs - down to IT end-user computing managers looking to roll out a new version of software - to infosec managers instituting multi-factor authentication. 

Many of us are skilled in the selection, planning, and development of new technologies. Over the years, agile methodologies, design thinking, product management, and continuous planning practices have helped more people working in IT, digital, data, product, and innovation become more market and customer-driven.

But we have a bunch of hoops to jump through before we get to change management, and I find people's knowledge, skills, and practice in this area behind the curve from what they need to succeed. The challenge goes beyond rolling out a new process or technology because transformation leaders must be more comfortable becoming change agents.

Here are some simple approaches that will get you to think differently about change management and begin applying transformation management best practices.

1. Go from Change Management to Transformation Management

Please see my previous post on What is Driving Digital Transformation Change, where I explain some differences between change management and transformation management. It's a mindset change, whereas people often consider planning/executing change management toward the end of a process, whereas transformation management requires you to think, plan, and execute it as a track of work from the very beginning.

Here's an example: You're rolling out a CRM upgrade and will be asking a small sales team to begin logging their customer activities through the platform's mobile app. When do you start planning the introduction, testing, and training of the sales group?

In transformation management, the planning and learning with the end-users start at the front of the process by learning pain points, opportunities, and where changes are going to create the most friction,

2. Learn and Plan for Transformation's Personas

How you work with people through a transformation process depends on their personas. I divide people into the following groups:

  • Early Adopters - Dislike the current ways of working, receive benefits from the improvements, and are eager to learn
  • Influencers - May not be early adopters but have a lot of influence in the impacted organization
  • Hand-holders - This group will change and transform, but they won't volunteer for the job. Tell them what's expected of them and walk them through the process. They'll be supportive so long as what's asked isn't a significant step backward from their comfort zone
  • Silent Naysayers - These people may not be vocal with their objections, but they sit back and are late on line in taking on process change or adopting new technologies
  • Detractors - Required to change, invested in the current ways of working, less eager to learn, often have no direct benefits from the improvements and the transformation

It's also important to classify people in one or more of these groups:

  • Stakeholders - Benefit from the transformation but may not be directly impacted by the changes required to support them
  • End-users - Are people impacted by the transformation and require a change in mindset, process, and technologies, but may not directly benefit from its outcomes
  • Change agents - These are people who are driven by outcomes, improvements, and opportunities and are willing to take on responsibilities to help guide the transformation
  • Sponsors - Are stakeholders that have a leadership role in driving the transformation and overseeing its business outcomes
  • Decision Makers - Have a role in making decisions tied to the scope or implementation of the transformation

So in my example above, the sales team are all end-users because the true stakeholders are in management and marketing who want to learn from the customer activities. The inside sales team may be early adopters because they're already used to working in the CRM daily, while field sales are largely a mix of hand-holders, naysayers, and detractors. A couple in field sales have worked at tech companies before and are identified as potential influencers. Inside marketing, the head of digital marketing is recognized as a sponsor, and the chief data officer is a key decision-maker in how the data is collected. Because there are over one hundred people in sales, HR dedicates one of its training leaders to being a change agent in the program.

3. Use Agile to Plan and Execute the Transformation

So, you're starting early and planning this transformation with a vision statement to align everyone. You've taken steps to identify personas and are ready to begin planning the transformation. Now what

The point of starting transformation early is, like other digital practices, it requires an interactive approach where you're learning, planning, executing, and capturing feedback in iterations. Yes, I apply continuous agile planning to transformation practices. 

In this sprint, you might be training early adopters and capturing their feedback. In the next sprint, you might update instruction materials based on their feedback and then introduce some of the hand-holding groups in later sprints.

If you enjoyed this post, please review my writing on handling detractors, creating force multipliers, and changing the culture in digital transformation.

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About Isaac Sacolick

Isaac Sacolick is President of StarCIO, a technology leadership company that guides organizations on building digital transformation core competencies. He is the author of Digital Trailblazer and the Amazon bestseller Driving Digital and speaks about agile planning, devops, data science, product management, and other digital transformation best practices. Sacolick is a recognized top social CIO, a digital transformation influencer, and has over 900 articles published at InfoWorld, CIO.com, his blog Social, Agile, and Transformation, and other sites. You can find him sharing new insights @NYIke on Twitter, his Driving Digital Standup YouTube channel, or during the Coffee with Digital Trailblazers.