Is your organisation embarking on a change journey? Perhaps you’re looking to better engage employees or to enable better and faster collaboration across teams.

Taking a phased approach to change helps you to set and prioritise clear goals for each phase and, crucially, bring people along with you so change isn’t suddenly forced on the organisation unannounced. It should also make the undertaking less daunting and more manageable for all involved.

What are you trying to achieve?

Your first phase should focus on the overall change you’re trying to bring about and how you’ll make it happen. Are you looking to better engage all employees? Have you just acquired another company and are looking to successfully merge this new company into existing operations? This change is also likely to be supported by technology: the rolling out of localised technologies to the global business, perhaps; the purchase of completely new technology; the consolidation of existing technologies or the determination of what tools should be used for what purpose.

None of the above can take place without clarity on what it is you’re trying to achieve. Having a clear vision for change that has been developed with the appropriate stakeholders (and ideally as many employees as possible) is your essential first step, and all proceeding activities flow from this. The most successful transformations I’ve supported during my time at Yammer, Microsoft and Betterworking have got this first step right, and I’ve witnessed organisations failing to bring about meaningful change because they purposefully avoided this step.

To secure employee involvement in these early (and indeed later) stages of change, look to ESNs such as Jive or Yammer, or social change management tools like Pinipa, particularly if you are a larger organisation looking to garner opinion from a larger audience.

How will employees work in the new world?

Next you’ll want to understand what each part of the business is looking to achieve or what challenges they’re seeking to overcome – this exercise requires dialogue with business and team leaders, as well as employees, to determine high level use cases that are wholly anchored in business goals and processes. These use cases will quite literally equate to how employees will behave and make use of technology to achieve business goals. It’s essential to keep the following in mind when developing use cases: we’re trying to overcome challenges and achieve business goals through enabling new working practices supported by new technology – we are not launching technology and then finding ways for employees to use it to get our value for money.

Once the organisation has completed the above, you’re in a position to make decisions about technology – whether this is the reinvigoration of existing technology that’s not being used to its full potential or the purchase of new platforms. Having a vision and use cases will help you to determine what technology is best suited for the business and carrying out a robust assessment of your current technology landscape will most definitely inform decision making on whether to consolidate and reinvigorate existing technologies versus the purchase of new platforms.

Don’t tackle everything at once

Be mindful to keep scope in check at this stage. The exponential growth of easy to access and use technologies, built to meet the enterprise’s every need, can mean that change projects end up taking on too much. Your vision and use cases will assist in this exercise: for example, if your vision is to dramatically improve employee engagement across the entire organisation, you’re likely to want to purchase and roll out an enterprise social platform, such as Socialcast; if you want to enable your field and frontline workers to be able to communicate as efficiently as possible in order to better serve customers, you may want to investigate the latest mobile messaging capabilities for the enterprise, such as Cotap. A project that looks to achieve all of this in one go could be in danger of dramatically slowing – if not halting – before it’s even got off the ground. To avoid this, keep focussed, acknowledge that change will take place in phases and garner as many allies and helpers across the organisation to assist in bringing about this change.

Make change happen

Your second phase will likely have the most visible impact on the business, but its success is very much dependent on the ground work carried out in the preceding phase. At this stage we’re focussed on making change happen – this is where you ramp up the engagement of end users in the process of change, communicate what’s happening, nominate change champions, get the new technology into employees’ hands and help them to use it to get their work done.

A useful way to approach this phase is to organise your activities into those focussed on generating business value, those helping to effectively manage the change and those focussed on getting the technology deployed and into the hands of end users.

‘Business value’ activities will include the development of use cases with owners and end users and the actual putting into practice of the use case from ‘launch’ stage. ‘Change’ activities will include your communications, end user education and the engagement of end users through the development of champions communities. Any ‘launch’ activities you’re looking to undertake to mark the change (whether with a big bang or a longer campaign) will also fit into this category. Your ‘technology’ activities will include getting the technology effectively deployed to end users, as well as setting up or aligning to existing processes for supporting the platform/s on a long term basis.

Ensure change is continuous

Your third phase is perhaps the most significant for the following reason: launching new technology does not act as an end in itself when we’re trying to bring about significant business change. This is merely the start of the journey. A third phase ensures you continue to focus on engaging end users in new ways of working, and it gives you a chance to review the success of use cases implemented to date, as well as a chance to implement the more complex use cases that you did not prioritise at launch. This phase could be seen as long-term, or for the more bold out there, continuous.

At this stage you also have the opportunity to branch beyond your initial scope, if required – perhaps you launched an ESN to all employees in your preceding phase but are now looking for more advanced file storage and collaboration capabilities to complement this platform. Perhaps you’ve purchased Office 365, started by rolling out a Yammer network and are now looking to deploy SharePoint Online, OneDrive for Business and Lync/Skype for Business. You can take the lessons learned from your ESN launch to apply to the deployment of these additional capabilities and you can use your ESN to garner champions for these new capabilities and to set up help and discussion communities to support the change. ABB successfully pioneered this approach with its Yammer & O365 rollout.

Taking a phased approach to change helps to break down significant transformation into manageable tasks, while ensuring that the necessary foundations are in place from the start and that employees are brought along with the change right from the beginning. Please reach out to me if you have any questions on this approach and check out how Betterworking has supported its customers at each of these stages of change.

Author: Nina Pattinson

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