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How to Get People to Adopt Change With Confidence

ChangeWith only a small percentage of technology implementations being deemed successful, we’re often left scratching our heads about where it all went wrong.

Greg Taylor, Change Management specialist, and speaker at Enterprise Collaboration Innovation & Tech Fest, says it’s all about getting your users to embrace change.

He shares with us his five Ps to help your users adopt change with confidence and give your collaboration technology implementation the best chance to succeed.


#1 Purpose

Start with trying to understand what’s the problem that needs to be solved? Don’t just use a tool because “it’s cool”, it’s available and you like it. When it comes to understanding the purpose for change you need to talk to real people and find where their real problems are – never assume you know! Get out and ask people questions: What’s the pain that you’re experiencing in the process? If there’s one thing that could be better in the process what would it be? What are things that we tend to “paper over” that makes us look foolish in front of our customers?

If you better understand the real problems, you’ll better understand how a supportive solution can make people more productive, and you’ll have a real purpose for your change initiative.

#2 Plan

The plan is all about how you will solve the problem – not how you will implement the solution. Key to this is thinking about the path you will travel to help people adopt your collaboration technology; how you will help them grow in confidence with it and then how it will deliver real value for your organisation. It also includes thinking about who is going to drive the change. Getting “buy-in” from your leaders is not enough – they need to be truly committed to the change and commitment is not an allocation of goodwill; it’s an allocation of resources and an unwavering presence.

There’s a useful tool from the Boston Consulting Group that can help you “measure” your plan. You could use this to measure the quality of your plan at the beginning, or even a “health check” on your progress as you go. Check it out – it suggests that success is wrapped up in four foundation elements:

  1. The duration between learning events for the team
    (A learning event is when you stop and look at where you are, where you need to be and how you’re going to close the gap to be successful)
  2. The quality of the project team
  3. Senior and local levels of commitment
  4. The amount of effort that will need to be expended above and beyond the normal day-job for people to make the change happen

Want more collaboration tips and tricks? Join us at Enterprise Collaboration Innovation & Tech Fest, a celebration of the technology, ideas and innovations that are literally transforming the way collaboration is done at work. Learn more.

#3 People

Of course you can’t have a purpose and a plan without then focusing on the people. We know that only around 16% of people will be excited and on board with a change right from the start. You’ll find that around a third won’t get on board unless they know there’s a plan to be successful, and another third want to see it working before they get on the bus. You can also expect a minority to be sceptical no matter what you do – don’t ignore these people, but be prepared for that and look for ways to keep them engaged wherever you can.

You’ll never be successful in change if you simply “tell” people what to do and when to do it. We all know change is hard work and it is important to recognise that emotions play a huge role in adoption. Psychologist Jonathan Haidt uses the metaphor of the rider and elephant when describing our human response to change, where the rider represents our rational side (who we target with emails, plans and facts) and the elephant represents our emotional side. Initially you need to give good direction to the rider to get them both heading in the right direction, but very quickly you’ll also need to mobilise the emotional elephant so as not to exhaust the rider, trying to steer that beast towards the objective. Change fatigue is the dilemma between what the elephant is feeling and what the rider knows has to be done.

Engage them both and then find ways to keep them both on the path and this will lead to your success. Don’t be afraid to talk about what is making people anxious – the future isn’t always beautiful for everyone so get that out, acknowledge it, and show how people will be supported as they make the tough journey ahead. Don’t sell benefits for the company – tell them what’s in it for them. Help people understand what good looks like by creating engaging materials such as videos or through focus groups (in person or online) so people can share stories and support one another.

# 4 Process

Help your collaboration solution thrive by analysing the processes that it supports and identifying where it could break down. If you have a collaboration solution that relies on people sharing links to source content instead of emailing files to one another, you need to make it easier for people to share a link than it is to attach a file. Any obstacles in the process of collaborating using linked content will instantly undermine your intended purpose of reducing email archive sizes, reducing duplication of content or improving the speed of collaboration. Understand your process and how people use it – what is the typical behaviour of the person involved in the process, and where might this behaviour need to be modified in order for you not to fall victim to the dreaded “work-around”?

# 5 Proof

Finally, be clear on how you will know if your change is successful. How will you know if you are actually delivering the value you set out to achieve – the purpose for your change initiative? Look for metrics showing positive behaviour and evidence that people are using your collaboration solution with confidence. Maybe you can use analytics tools to show you where and how people are using the solution. Maybe you are able to incorporate the ability for people to give direct feedback about an aspect of your collaboration platform as they use it. To be successful here you need to be really clear about what examples of behaviour will be true indicators that your initiative has delivered the improvement you were looking for – and if you aren’t seeing the result you expected, you need to have ways to drive that behaviour towards the goal.

About the Author

Greg TaylorFormerly a C130 Hercules pilot in the Royal Australian Air Force, Greg Taylor now spends his days helping people adopt change with confidence.

Greg was a popular presenter at Enterprise Collaboration Innovation & Tech Fest.