Every change management process in every organization results in an implementation dip slowing down productivity for a certain period of time. A lot of times businesses never recover or do too slowly for their own good. This is a very important reason why 70% change initiatives fail completely.
So let’s talk about how you can beat the feared implementation dip.
We’ll start by touching briefly on some change management basics here so a bit of patience is recommended. Or if you already know the stuff inside out, you can just beat it by scrolling down faster and cutting straight to the chase. Your choice.
I already know what change management is so let’s just start with why it’s so hard to accomplish? Well, change is something all of us experience at different points in time. Quit a job and join another company, it’s change. Switch phones, it’s change. Some changes are easy to manage while others are not so easy. Changes involving organizations or a lot of people generally fall in the latter category which is why there is so much literature on the subject. And yet, change initiatives fail so very often.
It’s because there are so many people involved? Right, a lot of humans and a lot of processes, and both are extremely complex (humans are more complex though). If you switch jobs, you know why you have to do it and you are already convinced about it.
So, it’s really the realization of the need for change and point of its origin that makes a difference? Kind of. With personal change, the realization for change, its origin and its implementation happen within just one individual. With organizations, on the other hand, the realization for change happens with someone, the push for that change is given by someone else and the implementation responsibilities rest with someone else. That obviously means that it becomes a diverging space where all of the stakeholders are not on the same page and so become resistant to change. Principles are also important with excellent change management implementation leading to six times better results over poor implementation.
And there are a lot of employees who are not sure of the reason for the change? Or they are not convinced of the change and results it will bring in? Right. For different reasons, they will probably just be naturally resistant to the proposed change. And if employees, who actually have to embrace that change, are not convinced and are indifferent to it for a variety of reasons, it’s the perfect recipe for disaster. That’s evident in the research findings about 70% of change initiatives failing.
So what’s the implementation dip about? Is it that implementation becomes slow because of a lack of consensus? Yes, now we are getting to the real stuff. Good change management strategy doesn’t go ahead with the implementation of the change without building strong consensus and bringing every stakeholder, small or big, on the same level. A ‘Michael Fullan Change Theory’ definition of the implementation dip would be the drop in workforce productivity when an organization wide change is implemented. Others also refer to a Change Valley of Death or the Change Curve but it’s essentially related to commitment and doubt. The productivity drop occurs because it takes time to adjust to the change. Just like it takes time for a vehicle to pick up speed after hitting a speed bump. This is what we are talking about:
Can’t we have something like a plug and play system? That would be so desirable but, unfortunately, that’s not how it works. The system needs to reboot because you are putting new things, new processes, new software products in there.
That means, irrespective of how well change is managed, it’s not going to be a smooth, straightaway-climbing-in-productivity ride? Correct, change is a well-intentioned speed bump so yes it’s definitely not going to be smooth in terms of overall productivity. Productivity will fall for a certain period of time and managing that dip as part of the overall change management picture is as important as managing change.
How long does the implementation dip last? Is it a like a few days, months or years, what is it? Well, it’s hard to say. Michael Fullan didn’t describe how long it will last. But it really depends on the case. Suffice to say that it would be really long if proper change management steps haven’t been followed. In fact, it wouldn’t be a dip in the case of poorly implemented change, it would be a freefall.
That’s bad. But it’s short in case of a well managed change? Yep. The road to recovery from the productivity drop will be short in the case of well managed organizational change. But remember again, there will be an implementation dip nevertheless.
The real question now is if implementation dips in well managed organizational change can be tackled and cured. Right, that’s the whole point of this post. The implementation dip will be there, no two ways about it. But, you can take some measures to ensure that you return to productivity quicker than usual.
How’s that? So, a very critical aspect of change is the part (and pretty common these days) where you go on a digitization/modernization drive and subscribe to a new software product, which is supposed to be what 80% companies are expected to do by 2020. Or alternatively, you might be switching software vendors or IT providers. Either way, it’s a new software product that your employees will take time getting used to and using it in an optimum manner. Getting used to will take time and is probably the biggest contributor to the horizontal stretch of the implementation dip in the graph. Simply put, the faster your employees get used to the new software product, the faster your business will be back to productivity.
Is this just limited to the implementation dip and getting back on track? Good one. Not at all. Getting new users up to speed with a new software product is just one half. It will get you out of the implementation dip. But what’s the whole point of organizational change? Change is supposed to get you to a level of productivity which is higher than it was previously. So, a very important part of change management is also about getting software product users to exploit the product to its fullest potential and extract the maximum out of it. And that needs some good employee training.
No, training is not such a big deal. Software products come bundled with training resources, there’s access to video tutorials, classroom training etc. Really? Think again. These are not simple on click software applications we are talking about. Applications like Salesforce are really complicated and take a lot of time to understand and getting used to.
Which is why there are learning resources. Okay. How do employees use resources to learn? They get a basic understanding of the application with help from the resources, read through them and refer to them in doubt. They can watch videos as well. Right, good time-tested methods. But how long does this whole process of learning take? And very importantly, remember that you want your employees to reach a high level of productivity. Ideally, you would want them to start working on the new applications like they were proficient in it. With traditional methods, they start learning, go live after a few days but find themselves in tricky situations, a lot of times being unsure of what to do to get their objectives completed. And so, they refer back to the resources or raise tickets. Does it seem like work being highly productive? And how much does it cost? One estimate suggests classroom training costs USD 500 to 1200 per day.
Why must we repeat classic training mistakes? NO ONE will watch a 20 minute software application video past the 5 minute mark. no. one.
Why must we repeat classic training mistakes? NO ONE will watch a 20 minute software application video past the 5 minute mark. no. one.— Doug Mattson (@DougCMattson) April 20, 2017
Not exactly. But does this prolong the implementation dip? Of course it does. This is the precise reason the implementation dip is longer than usual. Traditional learning methods cause productivity to stutter. You will reach desired productivity levels but much, much later than you should.
So, how do we exactly beat the implementation dip and make users embrace change? Like we said earlier, software migration, technological advancement and vendor switching is a key component of change these days. And, that’s where change fails most of the time because users aren’t really trained in using the new software product or interface. If they have to, they look for help manually but that eats up a lot of their time forcing productive work to a crashing halt. If the change isn’t helping them do productive work immediately, they just don’t embrace it. So the key is to ensure that users get productive right from the word go by improved user adoption.
Something like learning while doing or on the job learning? That’s the answer. Modern businesses need a system of on-the-job learning where users are handheld through the new software product or interface and guided on its various aspects and how to go about doing things they are supposed to do. All this while, they get to complete the tasks they have at hand. Below is what we are trying to get.
All that needs to be embedded into the application, right? And it can’t be manual? Exactly. You can’t have an instructor teach each user about a product. What you can have is an in-application guidance system that helps them answer their questions and is engaging all the while without forcing them to seek manual help.
And it helps beat the change management implementation dip? It helps beat the change management implementation dip in multiple ways. First, your users or employees don’t have to spend time, which could otherwise be productive, learning the new software application through tutorials, training classes and so on. Customers simply won’t do that. The implementation dip occurs because you spend a lot of time in teaching and manual onboarding. If you get them to work straightaway, cutting out the offline teaching part, you get to productivity immediately. The interesting part is that customers don’t tolerate implementation dips because change is your problem, not theirs. And with interactive walkthroughs, you hit two targets with one shot. You implement change successfully and user adoption improves without unproductive breaks. And you can track that as well with data.
Does this apply just to organizational software migration or to external users as well? It’s applicable both internally and externally. We have talked about the internal bit. But organizational change can impact customers as well and, in most cases, it will. Change is meant for creating avenues to offer better services to consumers as well. So, they will need onboarding as well.
Any examples? Yes. Let’s say a bank embarks on a digital transformation initiative. One of the end results would be to provide digital banking services to consumers who are used to traditional offline banking. So, they will need to get used to it. And they have to be hand-held, they have to be guided, they have to be engaged. If your consumers don’t embrace the change you are bringing about, it’s all kaput. It’s hard though. With employees, however high in number, there is some level of control that you have. With consumers, it’s far, far more delicate.
So, finally, it’s not just about telling people what the advantages of embracing change would be but also about handholding them and lead them through the change? Precisely. No matter how much evangelism you engage in to show the advantages and results of your proposed change, it’s not going to work well until you guide users through the change. You have to walk them through everything. More so, with new applications.
We’ll have to see how that works plus it could be an expensive affair. It definitely works and it’s an inexpensive step. Look at the big picture. Change itself has a huge price tag stuck to it with a ROI that must be measures in the long term. But have interactive guidance systems have an ROI in the immediate term and also increase the overall ROI of change per se.
Are you looking for interactive walkthrough solutions for your web applications to help with faster user onboarding, training and product adoption? If you are, then get a free personalized demo and see if Whatfix fits your use-case.