Change Management 101: Are You Ready for Change?

Change management expert and coach, Melinda Starkweather, walks through the three main areas of team pushback when dealing with change.

By Melinda Starkweather

Change management concept

“My team says they’re ready for new technology and I’ve got an executive sponsor, so I’m set, right?”  The definitive answer is: maybe. 

Preparing the team is a great start, as is getting an executive sponsor on board. But for most organizations, this is only a good start. It’s not enough to see you through a change project.  

Having an executive sponsor that’s actively promoting the change is essential. It’s the number one determinant of project success.

Having an executive sponsor that’s actively promoting the change is essential. It’s the number one determinant of project success. Does your executive know what’s expected of them? Do they know what active and visible leadership looks like? Do they understand how to use their position and influence to help the project?  

Are the executive sponsors aware of how to use their position to create incentives and accountability measures to support the change goals? Are they aware that their participation in critical meetings and even trainings will be meaningful to the staff? 

An executive sponsor who sits in an office and asks for updates is useless to the project. If your executive agrees to sponsor the project, but gives you a caveat that they’re very busy and can’t work on this day-to-day, you have a problem. Find an executive who can commit some time and energy to your change project. If no executive can help, let them know why active executive support is necessary and try to negotiate some levels of assistance. 

Team agreement on the need to change is different than the team supporting the change process and the final product implementation. Team pushback is usually focused on one of three areas: the product being implemented, the change process or a personal issue. 

The Product

When organizations select a new technology, like an AMS, the decisions are usually made at a high level to satisfy certain team members – usually those who own the processes that bring in the most revenue. Not everyone will be happy with the new system because it was never intended to satisfy everyone on the team. 

Team members may agree to a new system that looks like it will solve their needs, but as it is implemented and something doesn’t meet expectations, or if the learning curve is steeper than expected, staff push back. What is sold to an acquisition team, and what the staff see implemented are often two different things. 

Further discontent grows when the product needs to be customized with an SSO or other development project. These customizations always take longer than expected and leave staff disappointed with the final product. 

The Process

The change process is difficult and can impact anyone … even people who are eager to change. If the executive sponsor hasn’t accounted for capacity saturation, then staff get overwhelmed by having to complete their usual tasks, as well as learn a new technology, and maybe create reports or prepare data for the transition. People are suddenly twice as busy. When burnout hits teams, they lose their enthusiasm for change. 

The change process can create a lot of ambiguity for teams if the project leads don’t communicate well. Ambiguity intolerance is a common character trait (we all want to know what’s going on). When people are stuck in ambiguity, they typically have a decrease in productivity, they engage in more nit-picking behaviors and procrastination. Knowledge management is the solution to this. Creating clear roadmaps and providing dependable communication will help the team with this issue. 

Personal Issues

Change projects can challenge self-image, including group self-image. If someone is a technology subject matter expert and the organization is switching technologies, that individual will feel like they are losing their identity, and even their job security. They may question their value to the organization, even if leaders don’t. The loss of perceived influence can cause people to try to scuttle change projects. It seems petty, but it happens. Yet, when asked, these same people will tell the boss, “Sure, I’m ready to change.” 

Other personal issues can arise from needing to learn a new system. Many people learn differently, or at their own pace, or have learning disabilities that will make this change difficult. 

The best way to prepare for change is to educate teams in digital change competencies, so everyone on the team knows what to expect and how to manage problems. 

Additionally, it’s helpful to use tools to manage expectations, resistance, accountability and the other components of change. 

Have you dealt with a big change recently? Tell us how it went and share your tips with peers at MyForum.

About the Author

Melinda Starkweather is a Certified Change Manager. She is also co-founder of <a href="">Starkweather Association Services</a> and <a href="">Cirrus Change Readiness</a>. She can be contacted at <a href=""></a>.


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