Why does change management hurt.
I have been catching up on a few blogs this morning while waiting for a Dr's appointment, and luckily had time for a read through of Benedict Evans post on ways to dismiss technology.
The broad theme of the piece is around our ability to miss the point, and not see the potential in new technologies unless for some very special cases.
However a particular passage really struck home with me, and for me it reflects the pain of organisational change which I come across again and again.
"First of all, it’s quite common, especially in enterprise technology, for something to propose a new way to solve an existing problem. It can’t be used to solve the problem in the old way, so ‘it doesn’t work’, and proposes a new way, and so ‘no-one will want that’. This is how generational shifts work - first you try to force the new tool to fit the old workflow, and then the new tool creates a new workflow. Both parts are painful and full of denial, but the new model is ultimately much better than the old. The example I often give here is of a VP of Something or Other in a big company who every month downloads data from an internal system into a CSV, imports that into Excel and makes charts, pastes the charts into PowerPoint and makes slides and bullets, and then emails the PPT to 20 people. Tell this person that they could switch to Google Docs and they’ll laugh at you; tell them that they could do it on an iPad and they’ll fall off their chair laughing. But really, that monthly PowerPoint status report should be a live SaaS dashboard that’s always up-to-date, machine learning should trigger alerts for any unexpected and important changes, and the 10 meg email should be a Slack channel. Now ask them again if they want an iPad."
For me this is about helping to people realise the benefits in change and giving them incentives to pick it up and run with it.
I have worked with a lot of organisations and the one thing that seems to be constant is that staff just want to do their work, they are not bothered if they are doing it in an efficient or productive way, just that it gets done eventually. So there is no initiative to look at new ways of working, no one asks the question why am I doing things this way? It's just the way it's always been done so lets get on with it.
So far so frustrating, but give people a new tool and new way of working and they will demonstrate all the initiative in the world to get back to doing things the old way.
Giving people those hooks to allow them to see what this new piece of technology can do is critical to engagement, but you have to get them to where they are ready to listen before you have a hope of succeeding.