Change Is Not An Event, But A Process.
“Time will tell.” If I’d received a Dollar for every time, I heard this statement, I’d be flying to the moon with green fuel already. No, time will not tell you. You’ll never know if you don’t ask, and asking these days means listening, doing, trying and improving.
I remember back in 2014, when digitalization was the hot topic and industry 4.0 became more than a term. I saw many, big reorganizations and companies trying to derive the impact of digitalization for their business. Suddenly, IT projects became Digital Projects, Design Thinking was introduced for literally everything and agile was the way to go, no doubt about that!! Blockchain was the most hyped term and Silicon Valley certainly was even more crowded by business tourists than Ibiza or New York. A crazy time, and I still feel this spirit of optimism. It was clear, that digital transformation would have an impact on more than technology and processes. The way of working would be impacted, customer centricity would open more opportunities to build even better relations.
The more this became clear to everyone, the more reluctant people got. The way business is done in the chemical industry seems to be unchanged for ages now. 80% of the global transaction in the industry are said to be offline, while the biggest, digitized part of the 20% is found in China. People keep buying from people and yet, figures and research tell a different story. One, where 50% of B2B buyers are between 24 and 39 years old and where 80% of the buying decisions are made even before contacting any sales, preferably online, easy and without any human disturbance.
The thing with give and get
The game with technology is, that you have to feed some kind of information into it to get something in return. Input and Output or I/O, as simple as that. Asking the right questions doesn’t always leads to the right answers immediately. Often this is the point, when a project is characterized as fail. “Systems should be smart by know”, “I don’t have time to evaluate the data”, “The process works for ages now, why changing it?” and so on. Feeding a system with all kind of information should lead to a result, obviously. And why are things getting more complicated, it should be the other way around, people wonder. From what I see, companies are greedy for insights, but they are drowning in the lake of data.
I have been too long in all this and I understand the complexity of change, and the power of resistance. And yet, in a retrospective, just a few things really changed. While agile concepts where buried into waterfall, Design Thinking was burned as term, although the methodology still is valid, business divisions accepted their role as driver, leading change by generating relevant demand. They widely accepted, that there is light at the end of the tunnel, accepting or even embracing new opportunities. Were it not for the fact that while technology evolved, organizations and responsibilities didn’t. I haven’t met any IT department which is set up as Profit Center. As long IT is doomed to be measured in bottom line targets, the clash with business is unavoidable, since they need to grow and keep customers loyal. Trust is the ultimate currency for a successful empathic change.
One doesn’t change the world by envisioning only, but by doing, by setting the right objectives, and by winning the hearts of the people who’ll have to deal with the result as part of their daily business life. By following these simple, three advices, it gets hard to hide behind the industry complexity, asset heaviness and process dependencies. If one understands the purpose of evaluating data, to get a system not only smart, but to offer a very personal assistant, around the clock, helping to achieve the personal targets, perception might change. It is not about the community of colleagues, their demand, and the question how reflect all this in one single solution, but about individual, regional challenges or the increased demand of an important customer.
In times, when projects are still measured the old way on Return On Invest, which usually ends in bottom line objectives, the discussion on value add too often has to wait in second line.
The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence;
it is to act with yesterday’s logic.
Resistance is natural, deal with it the right way
Elisabeth Kübler-Ross was a Swiss-American psychiatrist, a pioneer in near-death studies. She also was the first discussing the theory of the five stages of grief, also known as the “Kuebler-Ross model”. Letting things go is part of change. If you are into change management, or if you need improve the adoption of your project, I strongly recommend spending some time to derive the overlaps of near-death and grief, to your challenges.
It is amazing, that resistance follows the same patterns, be it convincing your partner that you desperately need the new Apple Watch series 6 (although your current series 4 is totally fine), or convincing an organization, that a Customer Relationship Management tool is imperative for the successful future of the company.
Remember, as the one in the convincing role, you are always in a special position as you are far ahead with experience and in your decision maturity. Usually a convincer would find itself out of the valley of tears, between Experiment and Decision. By dealing with all the relevant stakeholders along this empathic change process, you’ll be confronted with the right questions and challenges. This also can be used as your “set of measuring points” for the success of the project. If you follow this approach strictly, you’ll find yourself in a position where tools and technology are secondary, more enablers than ultimate champion gear. The insights you gain are the problems, and the obstacles in the organization preventing a real, bold step ahead. Of course the infrastructure, the processes and the tools need to pave the way, but they follow the needs – not the other way around.
There are many ways for change management. The one with communicating go live plans, waves and training plans are important, as part of a project. There are other types of change, more related to the culture of a company, spiced with regional culture. You need to accept instead of ignoring them, as these types might be the influencing driver for making any project or transformation successful. Technology can help with change on any change, but it requires a certain fan base on sponsor level, as you might need to deal with things, you do not want to hear.
The lever one has driving change by communicating in a video or by eMail top down, is limited. It is the spirit and the soul you need to touch by building trust.
Accept change as what it is – always a process.