The first time I heard about the concept of the sociology of change in the workplace I was convinced that the lecturer presenting the topic had taken leave of his senses. Subsequently I have been able to apply his teaching to some of my workplaces and it has helped me understand the importance of getting people involved and keeping them involved.
Change these days seems to be inevitable…
…and where the changes are far reaching as with the deployment of a new ERP system, these can be quite unsettling to a large proportion of the workforce. There is often the feeling with an ERP implementation that such projects are IT projects and that IT will “inflict” their new system upon the organisation come what may; but that should not be the case. A better approach is to enlist help from the business and form a team of experts in the day to day running of the organisation to work towards a new solution that everyone can play a part in shaping. A positive feeling from a project team from the outset will make “selling” the concept to the rest of the staff later on much easier.
In selecting the team it is important not to pick people based on seniority but based on their experience of the company and the goods and services that the company offer and what they can bring to the team. Also it needs to be representative of the whole organisation. Obviously there will be a number of IT professionals included but they should be taking their lead from the business and project stake holders.
Word of mouth is powerful and can do damage if there is a negative feeling. Having an engaged and involved team whose opinions are sought and valued will generate positive feedback that will serve the organisation well in the tricky transition from an old ERP solution to a new one. Communication should come from the management teams too on a regular basis so that staff are aware of what is going on and how such changes might change their daily routine. Most of us are creatures of habit to an extent and anything that changes around us can feel unsettling. People should be encouraged throughout the organisation to share details of what is coming so that it is welcomed rather than dreaded.
When it comes to training consider the phrase “if you think education is expensive, try ignorance”. All staff need to be thoroughly trained and the best team for that task are probably not the IT folk. The project team that have been involved throughout the project life-cycle are best positioned to guide their teams to understand the new processes that the implementation will bring about. This in turn validates the project team members themselves and will pave the way for a smoother transition.
There is the risk that staff may feel that a new system will put them out of work or that they are being de-skilled in some way. Communication and being given the opportunity of engaging with the project or project team will help allay some of these fears. Of course sometimes job losses are necessary, but it is important that the project team feel “safe” so that they commit fully and are more likely to remain after the implementation performing the role of subject matter experts.
Implementing a new system…
…is always a risky time for any company as there is generally a cut-over period where unforeseen problems show up and these need to be solved quickly so as to keep the business running, but also to keep the staff engaged and behind the new solution. If the new system ends up experiencing downtime in the first few days after go-live, this can have a very negative impact on all concerned and can be costly to a business if this brings production to a halt.
So to summarise managing people and getting them on board comes down to involving them early in the provision of the solution and maintaining their interest with frequent well formulated communication and understanding.