Have you ever been through a project that held great expectations but ended up being painful for all involved and didn’t deliver the expected results? Of course you have! If you want to improve your chances on your next big change, read on.
I was trained in Change Management (CM) by Prosci® many years ago. It has proven to be one of the most valuable things I ever did in my career. Many of our clients benefit from applying CM concepts in their projects as they pursue new technology and associated process, organization and metrics changes.
But don’t just listen to me! I reached out to Tim Creasey, Chief Innovation Officer at Prosci, a leader in CM solutions, training, tools, and best practices, to share his thoughts on CM for contact center professionals. This article will weave together my experience with CM in contact center projects and Tim’s expertise in CM applied to our world. (See Table 1.)
Defining Change Management
Change Management has come a long way in the last 10 years. I often find clients have a methodology and some staff who are trained in CM. Maybe they have applied CM at some level in their projects. But it is not yet a universal practice like project management. Let’s make sure everyone understands what we mean when we say CM.
BOCKLUND: Tim, what’s your “elevator story” answer to the question, “What is Change Management?”
CREASEY: Our technical definition of Change Management is “the application of a structured process and set of tools for leading the people side of change to achieve a desired business outcome.” At Prosci, we emphasize it is both a process and a competency. Change Management is how we prepare, equip and support our people on their own successful change journey so that our projects deliver the people-dependent return on investment.
BOCKLUND: Can you share a bit more about the process and competency messages?
CREASEY: The process part is about applying structure and intent on initiatives to move the people side of change forward, similar to what people use with project management to move the technical side of the change forward. The competency part means that each individual in the organization, whether a change practitioner or a line manager or a CIO, can grow their own personal skillset at driving change from wherever they sit.
Related Video: “What is Change Management?”
My Favorite CM Concepts
I am an engineer by training and like to solve problems and drive projects to tangible outcomes. Jeff Hiatt, who founded Prosci and created the Prosci ADKAR® Model, was similarly trained in engineering. As he looked at why projects failed or fell short of expectations, he recognized it wasn’t the technology or the processes, it was the people not adapting to and embracing the changes being introduced. So, he studied the problem and created practical tools, based on a lot of research. Tim and the rest of the Prosci team have continued that legacy.
Three concepts Prosci created are invaluable to any project:
1. The Prosci ADKAR Model
The ADKAR Model (see Figure 1, below) is perhaps the most powerful tool in the CM arsenal. Everyone “gets it” and can quickly apply it to individual change scenarios. Read the book ADKAR (a fun and easy read!) or take advantage of some of Prosci’s website resources to learn the concepts (see sidebar, below). I always tell people: ADKAR will provide great insights when it comes to understanding why your family members or coworkers don’t always behave like you want them to! Bonus: It helps you understand your own approach to changes, as well.
Uses of ADKAR
ADKAR® can be used in multiple ways on change initiatives:
- Guide Change Management approach and plans
- Measure change progress
- Diagnose gaps and develop corrective actions
- Engage people managers and senior leaders
- Adopt a common language for everyone involved in the change
BOCKLUND: Tim, can you provide some insight on what makes the ADKAR model resonate for so many people? What’s the “secret sauce” in this relatively simple concept that has such staying power?
CREASEY: I would highlight two pieces. First, we all experience change and know it can be difficult. ADKAR provides a key to addressing that very familiar challenge. Second, while there are many approaches available, ADKAR makes progress accessible. I like to say it lets you “name it to tame it”—as you understand the blocks of successful change you can unlock change challenges. It is a simple yet powerful tool that people can immediately grasp, and it gets more powerful the deeper you get into it.
If you want to do some deeper learning about ADKAR, here are two great resources:
2. The Five Levers
The practical application of CM in projects means executing tasks that address the need for change and help people make changes and stick with them. Prosci’s five levers are great examples of tools and processes that help people do the right things to pursue change. Prosci provides guidance on the levers in training, toolkits and publications. I find they are a great way to push people on projects to do more than the basics like training right before a change and a memo or email going out explaining the project.
BOCKLUND: Tim, it seems a key to success with these levers is that they are not one-time events. They are ongoing, multifaceted activities. Can you share some of Prosci’s key learnings from your research on how they are most effective?
CREASEY: You’re correct, Lori, driving adoption and usage of change does include many facets. Our research shows the greatest success factor is active and visible sponsorship throughout an initiative. People want to hear different messages from different people—the “why” of change from someone at the top, and the “what it means for me” from their direct supervisors. Our research also shows you need to look at what you need to do for the overall organizational change, but you must help individuals with their change journey because everyone experiences change differently. Changes succeed when the individuals involved adapt to and sustain the change. Another key is to build a plan for each lever but also adapt to what is occurring as the project proceeds. We’re dealing with human beings after all, and not everything is predictable!
Tim also emphasizes the link between ADKAR and the levers. ADKAR gives the outcomes desired, and the five levers provide the action required. Table 2 shows these links.
3. The Three Phases
Any given project will have phases such as those shown in Figure 2. Change Management has a set of phases that need to overlay the actual project, and in a perfect world, start early in the pursuit of new technology, or changes in processes, metrics or roles. Prosci defines three phases of CM:
1. Preparing for Change—strategy, resources, and sponsorship
2. Managing Change—plans and their execution to support ADKAR journeys
3. Reinforcing Change—analysis and actions to ensure sustained success
The three phases define where and how a center will invest time and resources to align the people side of the change with the technical solution. The processes in these phases really show that CM can’t be an “in your spare time” job. CM needs committed, trained resources every step of the way.
BOCKLUND: Tim, what type of characteristics do change practitioners have? It seems like project management, analytical, leadership and communication skills would all come in handy.
CREASEY: Yes, those are all good attributes. Business acumen and understanding of the change itself are key as well, and empathy is very important. Change practitioners also act as translators between the technical and people sides of a solution, connecting the solution to the day-to-day impact on agents and how they successfully bring that to life.
Tim indicates that Prosci has seen an increase in jobs and career paths aligned with CM. It’s basically a “hot role” these days as companies recognize the importance of applying CM and having resources with these competencies. If you are interested in pursuing a career in change management, check out this recent “Tim Talk” on Prosci’s YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/ZVg1N9gQOuM
Making the Case for Change Management
When I try to introduce Change Management into client environments, one issue I have had to overcome is getting them to prioritize it and make it an important part of what they do on a project. Prosci has done a lot of research into and writing on the Return on Investment of CM. It seems nobody feels like they must make a case for project management, but we still see people trying to grasp the value of CM and decide if they should make the “investment” in CM tools, processes and trained resources.
BOCKLUND: What are the most salient points you would emphasize to someone who isn’t sure it’s worth the time, investment and resource commitments to include CM as part of their projects?
CREASEY: Prosci research has shown much greater success meeting objectives and achieving “on-time, on budget” when applying CM. The more complete the CM effort, the better the results. Over 3,500 data points show that projects with excellent CM are six times more likely to deliver results than those with poor CM, and you get a threefold bump just by going from poor to fair. The case is very compelling because it is all about outcomes. For any project, leaders should ask themselves, “What percent of this project’s success depends on people proficiently using the solution and adopting the process changes?” That helps people connect CM to the actual change and the results they expect; CM is not something else, it’s capturing the people-dependent portion of what I already hope to achieve.
BOCKLUND: So do you think we are on a path to CM becoming as commonplace as PM?
CREASEY: PM has a 60-year head start, but there are many forces at play supporting the case for CM. In the past, companies made big investments in technology and process changes and didn’t get the user response (and therefore financial benefits) they expected. That history of investing without the return is not an option today. In addition, the velocity of change today is like nothing we have ever experienced, and we only expect bigger and faster change on the horizon. With the reality of more change and greater demand to deliver results, CM is critical. The ability to achieve results depends on how well we prepare, equip and support people in those changes.
The Only Thing Certain Is Change
With so much new technology—and that technology having great impact on the people in centers—there has never been a better time to make CM a part of your projects. Invest a little time in learning and get on a path to making CM a key part of every change your organization pursues.
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