Enterprise Change Management (ECM)
Figure 2. Typical Stakeholder Gut Reactions to Change Initiatives
In their book titled: “The Heart of Change,” John P. Kotter, a world-renowned speaker on leadership and the Konosuke Matsushita Professor of Leadership, Emeritus at the Harvard Business School, and co-author and consultant Dan S. Cohen, view the core pattern associated with successful change as “See-Feel-Change.” To move stakeholders from the type of negative thoughts and feelings depicted in the image above, an ECM program must communicate a vision of the change that is compelling enough to not simply overcome negative preconceptions but also motivate positive participation.
Project and executive managers tend to treat those who will be impacted by software initiatives as if they were Vulcans, not humans. Of course, stakeholders are more like Kirk than Spock. Humans don’t coldly and rationally evaluate information and form impressions based solely upon logic. Instead of withholding judgment on an impending change such as a new software initiative, people tend to make gut-level intuitive leaps that are often negative in nature, and resistant to new evidence to the contrary. This assumes, of course, that those impacted are even cognizant of upcoming changes.
In “Switch: How To Change Things When Change is Hard,” Authors Chip and Dan Heath use the metaphor of “Rider, Elephant and Path” to describe three primary areas that must be addressed in change management.
The Rider is our inner Spock. A stakeholder cannot support a change until he or she can understand its purpose and the concrete changes that will likely occur. The type of 50 page technical documents and 100 element flowcharts that developers often create under a “waterfall” approach must be translated into clear, high-level infographics for non-technical stakeholders.
The Elephant represents our subconscious and emotional levels. ECM influences the elephant through communication that creates positive feelings and mitigates negative emotions such as mistrust, anxiety and anger. For instance, messaging may focus on how the change will solve an existing problem that vexes stakeholders.
The Path addresses the environment within which the change occurs, including changes to the physical environment such as the arrangement of office space, and processes or procedures such as kanban.
There are a number of formalized ECM models that have been developed to standardize change management within organizations, with processes and practices that support the entire lifecycle of a change initiative. The principles and activities described in this article can be adapted to any existing corporate ECM infrastructure. They can also be applied within organizations that do not yet have an established ECM process in place.