Everyone knows change is hard. Humans are, after all, creatures of habit. It helps us to have stability in a chaotic world. Generally speaking having good habits can be beneficial, allowing us to be productive.
However with the rapid explosion of technology, the pace of change is increasing, and we have to change at ever-increasing rates to stay competitive .
This can cause a problem in the workplace where systems are being introduced at breakneck speed to modernize and grow 21st-century companies and markets.
A True Enough Story
We’ve all been there before—someone (maybe you, but we’ll call him Todd Jones) is tasked by the VP to find a solution to a business problem. Todd goes out and does thorough research about the solution set. He vets four different products on usability, price, other user reviews, and even talks to consultants and salespeople. He makes the best decision he can with the information at hand. The tool is purchased and implemented at the company. Todd thinks his job is done. He got the best solution for the best price and everyone should be treating him like a hero.
But, that’s not exactly how our story ends. A few weeks into the tool being introduced, the teams are grumbling about how hard it is to use, the increased workload of learning a new tool, the time required to use it, and that the tool itself is riddled with problems that the old system didn’t have.
Todd isn’t being lauded as a hero. In fact, he’s getting heat not only from his team about the new system but from his boss because the results the VP was looking for aren’t materializing.
Todd’s future at the company isn’t looking that great.
The Next Chapter: Changing Behavior by Changing Habits
We last left Todd in a hard spot. He’s not the most popular guy at his company at the moment, and he’s not sure what to do. So he talks to his mother—a prominent organizational psychologist (lucky Todd).
She tells him that he has a user-adoption problem, and that his job is far from over. He needs to get in there and work with his team to build new habits and increase adoption. Luckily she has some tried and true methods to help him pull out of the technology-implementation-death-spiral!
She shares five techniques for him to help his team get onboard with the new system (and probably save Todd’s career).
1. Find a champion(s)
On any team there are a spectrum of personalities, go find the people who are genuinely excited about the new system. Sit with them. Ask them what they like about it. See how they are using the system beneficially. Document it. Start sharing that information with the rest of the team in the forum(s) that are the most efficient.
If that person doesn’t exist, become that person. Recruit more champions to help you recruit more champions. Also, make sure you get a senior person as a champion early on.
2. Carrots and Sticks
People like rewards. It is one of the best ways to change behavior. In the beginning, set-up a metric that will illuminate system usage. Define a prize for the person or people who reach or supersede those goals. As more people use the system, switch the reward from one based on system usage to one based on desired results for the team.
While rewards are good enough to change behavior most of the time, sometimes pairing a reward with an undesired consequence is enough to get people moving in the right direction. Making the new behavior something people are evaluated on for merit-based compensation or for a promotion can work as well.
3. Make it About Them
One of the best ways to get people using a new system is to personalize the benefits for them. Think a little about how this is going to help Joe Thompson and Jane Smith on your team. What specifically will he or she gain from it? Will Jane gain extra hours in the day? Will Joe face decreased resistance from another department? Will this be a transferable skill that will help them grow their careers? Helping people see their individual upside AND acknowledging them for it will go a long way towards building new organizational habits.
4. Training and Support
It might sound trite, but you can’t blame people for not learning a system they have never been trained on. It would be like getting mad at a child for not knowing his or her ABCs if no one ever took the time to teach them. Hopefully, when you were vetting the product you selected, you took the time to see if the company had a good reputation for ongoing support and if the aforementioned company had tools in place for learning, training, and/or certification.
Build time into your team’s schedule for them to learn and train on the new system. If you don’t do this step, your team will more than likely not create new, successful habits. A little upfront investment of time will pay dividends in the end.
Use the product company’s support system. If they are worth their salt, they will build a relationship with you and help you embed the technology into your business and process.
5. Don’t Settle For What The Box Says
Just because a brownie box doesn’t tell you to use pretzels and peanut butter with the mix doesn’t mean that those accoutrements aren’t an amazing improvement to the original product.
Continually, find ways to make things better, more fun, easier, and less intrusive to workflow. There are businesses and whole industries popping up around how to make work easier all the time. Find them, try them.
The Moral of the Story
Luckily this story has a happy ending. Todd listened to the wisdom of his mother and got to work on the five steps above. He worked with his team over a 30 to a 90-day time period (the time period most psychologists say you need to create a new habit) to get the new system adopted.
And although nothing is ever perfect or all-positive, his team got on board with the new system, began using it, and began getting results. The old system has been retired and the VP is pleased with Todd’s moxie.
The next time Todd is tasked with implementing a new business solution he’ll plan for the human aspect of the implementation. He’ll build the time into his plan upfront to get a group of super-users off and running, to train and support his team, and not consider his job done until the new habit has been molded and begins to take off.
But what Todd really learned is that although all of us are busy and would like to be able to insert the newest technology into our work and move forward like nothing has changed, humans aren’t wired that way.
No matter how intuitive a technology solution might be everyone needs a little encouragement, a little tough love, a little training and support, and a little ego boost to create a new habit and be successful.
Here are some more resources for ideas about how to manage organizational change:
The Power Of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life And Business, Charles Duhigg
"Ten Ways To Get People To Change", Harvard Business Review
The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make A Big Difference, Malcolm Gladwell