Thursday, February 23, 2006

Managing Obstacles to Change Management

In a magazine for the Quest Users Group, it was cited that a recent study of more than 300 companies involved in technological changes showed that failure most often resulted from a lack of change management . From my experience in working with many of America's best marketing organizations and some that were not so good, the same obstacle persists within marketing departments. We seem unable to get better, to adopt new best practices, to implement CRM or marketing automation because there is built-in resistance to changing the way we have always done marketing.

This is especially tragic, given that marketplace dynamics and customer demand is running us into a head-on collision with a new reality.

The research cited employee resistance, productivity loss, turnover, schedule delays and cost overruns. The common thread was that IS management focused exclusively on the technology and did not factor in the people or business they should have been serving.

Getting total team alignment is mandatory but seldom exercised.

Here's how I attack the problem: I start with listening and researching the situation. From this I put forward a "strawdog" document and presentation deck. I physically carry these documents around to various decision makers to get reaction and to unearth the objections or desires. These are all catalogued. Typically, different managers will have totally different ideas or beliefs than other managers. These areas of conflict are identified and more meetings ensue ... this time with a focus on the differing opinions. Note that I keep these meetings small and focused, in a divide and conquer strategy ... otherwise the entire process can skid out of control.

Once there is a substantial swell of support, then I open the process to a much wider audience. The goal is to do more listening and to identify new solutions or process improvements, and to maintain momentum for the alignment process. The center of attention is always on the barriers to forward movement ... get them all to the surface for open debate. Replace the barriers with positive statements that will benefit the organization and the people who are most impacted by the new process. Then prepare the final process document with the names of all contributors on Page One. Get on board, or get off the bus.

Skip this alignment process, or one similar, at your own risk.

And for a big project, a complex process, a change that impacts lots of people ... this is easily a 3 to 6-month process. But do not look at it as a delay in implementation. Do this part right and the entire project will get done faster, with an aligned team committed to making it work right.

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