8 steps to manage a successful change project

It was the year 400,000BC or thereabouts and Troggle was waking as the sun was rising.

The familiar hardness of the ground gave some comfort as did the cold and dampness of his cave. Another day, another doldrum – his environment was not ideal, but it was what he was used to. The morning sun started to give out its expected warmth and Troggle’s attention turned to finding some nourishment.

The day’s routine, if not consciously planned, was unconsciously repetitive. Twelve hours of searching for fruits, berries, the occasional carcass. And twelve hours later, as the sun set, so Troggle returned to his familiar cave. To his safe if unrewarding environment and to his unchanging and strangely comforting world.

Twelve hours later, the sun rose on Troggle once more. The morning sun started to give out its expected warmth and Troggle’s attention turned to finding some nourishment. Repetition, safety, and unconscious comfort pervaded Troggle’s life, and if happiness or satisfaction existed, it was manifest only in its unchanging consistency. Prehistoric routine.

Eleven hours later, on this unusually wet and wild day, which if it had a name its name would be thunderstorm, Troggle passed the yet to be named but familiar tree, and the yet to be named thunderbolt arrived at that exact moment.

Change, we know not yet your name, was due to arrive in Troggle’s life.

The debut of fire, the transformation of wood to warmth and the ensuing disturbance created anxiety and angst. Troggle knew not what to do. Drawn to the light, he touched the heat and felt the pain. Retreating, then approaching, and repeating the experience many times, he began to learn. His mildly curious cavemen colleagues watched with bemusement, yet were drawn closer by Troggle’s persistence and encouragement.

The initial strength of the heat became familiar, he was able to adapt this new experience and gain comfort. He mastered new skills, processed the new element in his life and helped create a better world for him and those close by.

Troggle’s previous cold world was banished, and the initial pain of learning, short but brutal, became the smallest of prices for the greatest of gains.

This pre-historic narrative reflects how 402,000 years later we still have long-established reactions to change. To leave a comfort zone is always difficult, and to go through that learning curve can be painful.

What can we do to avoid the burning issues of Troggle and what steps can we follow to make any change process a positive experience.

Here’s a few tips:-

  1. It is vital to consciously and formally adopt and create a process – a very clear plan and a path towards the outcomes and benefits of any change.
  2. Ensure the top management team support the change – Troggle clearly led from the front.
  3. Consider the needs of all stakeholders and ensure they are thoroughly involved in all steps of the process.
  4. Respect the different stages of a change.
    • Manage the transition phase carefully – don’t get burned.
    • Accept the new world. It’s important to commit to the new warmth.
    • Be ready to let go of the past comforts.
  5. Focus on user adoption – bring more on board and share the warmth.
  6. Be ready to handle and discuss resistance. There will always be luddites and critics, but don’t silence them – win them over, and don’t let them stay in their cave.
  7. Celebrate and broadcast the first wins. Highlight the benefits of the new warmth.
  8. Review the benefits and quantify the success.

Measurement is important, both at the onset to win support for any change, and definitely at the conclusion to justify the decision, and gain more adoption. Very few people, organisations or cavemen deliberately choose to embark on an uncomfortable change for themselves – support is essential. It will only happen when planned or when the opportunity becomes so clear or the existing pain is so severe.

Whichever route you take, the outcome has to be beneficial and meaningful. Strategic change can create anxiety and fear. It will be a challenge to people’s comfort zones but will generally be a necessity for organisations that want to grow and prosper.

Creating a process and adopting some of these steps should make a huge impact on how well the business does at delivering strategic change and avoiding having burnt fingers.

Be a modern day Troggle to your firm !

Martyn Best, Document Direct

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