Even the most tech-savvy organizations can fail to execute on major digital transformation projects by neglecting to prepare the workforce to adjust to upcoming changes.
When transformation projects flop, it's largely due to lack of management support and change management programing, said Olga Nissen, managing director at Accenture Strategy, at the TBM Conference 2020 on Tuesday.
Change management is an all-encompassing term describing the processes and approaches to implementing long-lasting change throughout an organization. For some companies, this may apply solely to the technical aspects of a new project, but others underscore efforts to integrate change into workplace values.
Too often, leadership prioritizes technical capabilities over business capabilities when taking on new spending methodology projects, according to Nissen.
Using technology business management (TBM) as an example, Nissen said most businesses spend the majority of their efforts on the data, tools and insights behind the project and not on the business process adaptations that stem from change management principles.
Management of the new system can suffer if employee culture lacks preparedness.
"On the people side, it's very important that you define clear ownership and accountability over all the tasks related to the project," Nissen said.
Training, proper process implementation and value capture designed around change management principles ensures ownership and accountability standards are met, according to Nissen.
Nissen's approach relies on five cultural principles to lead change management: align, act, adjust, adopt and adapt.
Align: engage stakeholders
Aligning the organization for change management relies on crafting a narrative around the value of the change, getting leadership onboard and better understanding how it will affect stakeholders, according to Nissen. This first step sets the foundation for incoming change by structuring the storyline early on and getting the team on board.
"Align everyone on a journey, ensure that you have a very powerful change story to convince people that change is needed," Nissen said. The story behind the change makes or breaks many transformation projects as a crucial step to helping the workforce understand motivations, according to Nissen.
The stakeholder analysis includes a study of what impact the change will have on each individual role and how to engage each stakeholder along the way.
Act and adjust: communicate and put the plan in action
Acting on and adjusting to change relies on an overlapping set of steps that may occur together. By creating a change impact assessment, setting up communication channels about the change and developing metrics, leaders can set themselves up for success.
Communication about upcoming changes should take place through every channel available, according to Nissen. Through company newsletters, town halls and other efforts, more styles of communication will engage a great number of people.
"Make sure that people who are involved in the program really understand what's going to happen and what impact the change will have on the day to day job," Nissen said.
Creating an impact assessment further communicates to employees how their roles will be impacted by a digital transformation effort, according to Nissen. The assessment looks at how change will impact particular roles throughout the organization on a daily basis.
With these efforts in place, businesses can then build metrics to measure success and help with assessment down the line. Metrics provide teams the ability to adjust over time by providing a baseline for what change is expected and how it plays out.
Adopt: training for change
Hands-on learning and role-based training help employees adjust to the change communicated to them in prior steps.
Thorough training on new roles and other changes may be trickier in the remote work environment, but Nissen recommends using video training and other creative outlets to keep employees engaged and prepared.
Teams must also consider changing organizational structure to better accommodate the transformation efforts. Structural changes are "especially important in organizations that have silos and you need to ensure that the network or cross-functional stakeholders drive the change across the organization," Nissen said.
Adapt: prepare for long-term adjustments
With the team prepared and the transformation in place, effective change management requires continuous adaptations to best sustain the project.
A sustainment plan lays out any organizational structure changes, new roles, procedures and processes necessary to endure transformation over time, according to Nissen. The plan sets sights on long-term implementation with room to adapt as things continue changing.
Nissen recommended building a value scorecard dashboard to report on the change and its benefits over time based on the metrics determined earlier. A dashboard provides visibility into the efforts to adapt as needed.