Ask 100 people to define Change Management, and you'll get 100 different definitions. At the end of the day, the definition is just semantics. What really matters is whether you can implement a Change Management program in a practical way that allows you to support your organization in successfully achieving its goals. Whether you're a Change Manager, a consultant, or the tech. guy who was told to "figure out some Change Management stuff," this blog will help address common issues and topics you're likely to run into along the way.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Danger of Smiling Faces: Fostering Two-Way Communication

There is an on-going debate over how to measure success in Change Management.  Whether your focus is on user adoption, communications, or training, there is a constant stream of "new and improved" methods for determining if your Change program is a success.

Regardless of the formal method used, I've found that the overwhelming majority of people have one fundamental measure for Change Management success: The more people who are happy, the more successful the Change program.  Sometimes we see this explicitly, as with the "Smile Sheets" that so many trainers distribute after each training course.  These surveys ask people whether they liked the course, whether they thought the trainer was good at his job, and whether they thought they learned something.  What the surveys don't do is tell the trainer whether or not he was actually successful in training the end users on a new skill.  I'm not saying these surveys are bad - I use them myself.  They are not, however, a reliable measure of training success.

While Smile Sheets very explicitly show the correlation most people see between happy end users and successful Change Management, the gut-level belief that most people have in this correlation is more often implied.  How often have you heard (or said) these lines?
  • I just got out of a meeting where everyone was really negative about the project.  We'd better change our Change Management approach.
  • I was talking to some people in the lunch room and they weren't happy about the change.  Why isn't the Change program working?
  • I'm getting a ton of calls from people who want don't like the decisions we're making.  You'd better figure out how to make them realize this project is great.
All of these statements imply that because stakeholders are unhappy with the changes you're implementing, the Change Management program is failing and in immediate need of re-work.  Assuming that these statements are coming during the life of the project, however, and not at Go-live or later, I would argue that statements of unhappiness, requests to discuss project decisions, and expressions of annoyance are a sign of success.

What they demonstrate is that people are engaged.  The first stop on the Change Curve is Awareness, and it's not possible to be unhappy with a change unless people are first aware of the change.  Unhappy stakeholders?  Congratulations!  You've successfully reached Awareness. 

The second stop on the Change Curve is Understanding.  People yelling that they don't like how the changes you're making will impact them?  Congratulations!  Your stakeholders understand the change, and you've successfully reached the second step to achieving change.

When I get half-way through a project and all I see are happy, smiling faces, I get worried.  100% happiness tells me that I'm failing miserably at Change Management because one of three things is happening:
  1. People don't know a change is coming, which means my communications aren't reaching their intended audience.
  2. People don't realize how they will be impacted by the change, which means they don't understand the communications I'm sending.
  3. People are pretending to be happy, which means I haven't fostered good two-way communications.
For today, let's focus on the third option and look at:

Practical Tips for Building Two-Way Communications
  1. Make it Easy - People are busy.  If you make it difficult to communicate with you or the project team, noone will bother.  If you have an e-mail address, make it easy to remember.  If you want people to respond via a web site, remember to include the link so that all they have to do is click.  The easier it is for people to tell you what's on their minds, the more likely they are to communicate.
  2. Make it Confidential - How often have you sat in a meeting where noone offers an opinion, but as soon as you leave everyone hurries to someone else's office where they suddenly have lots to say?  Many people are more comfortable sharing their thoughts in a one-on-one setting than they are in a group.  Even more people are likely to communicate if they know that what they tell you will be anonymous when it's shared with others.  This not only requires that you provide people a safe, confidential forum for communicating, it also requires that they trust you to maintain the confidentiality.  Change Management often falls in the HR department for a reason.  Even if it doesn't, you should practice the same level of discretion as an HR professional.
  3. Make it Matter - If you want people to communicate with you on an on-going basis, you have to demonstrate that what they tell you matters.  This means that you pay attention to what they say, take appropriate action based on the conversation, then follow-up to let them know the outcome.  Did they ask you a question?  Make sure you get back to them with the answer.  Did they make a suggestion?  Even if you can't guarantee that their suggestion will be implemented, let them know that it will be considered and tell them when they can expect to hear more.  Did they just want to vent?  Remember that even if you don't agree, everyone is entitled to have an opinion.  One of my major rules of communications: Never ask people for input if you have no intention of seriously considering it and taking appropriate action.

Do you think happy stakeholders is a good way to measure Change Management success?  What other tips do you have for building two-way communication? 

Monday, June 13, 2011

If I Could Have One Wish: Better Documentation

When the first star comes out each evening and I think about what I'd like to wish for, I close my eyes, concentrate really hard, and wish for better documentation on projects.  Unfortunately, many projects don't take the time to develop thorough, consistent documents.  Even worse, some projects don't produce any documentation at all. 

Why do I care?  Change Management is often seen as a separate team working in a little silo of happiness.  At first glance, functional and technical teams can't fathom why a Change Manager would get so upset when she hears that they've decided not to create test scripts or document major project decisions.  Because Change Management is a perpetual "down stream" team, though, almost every action that the project team takes impacts Change Management activities.

Consider these examples:
  • Test scripts are often the foundation for training development.  With poor or non-existent scripts, the training developers are forced to re-create the wheel by either researching customizations to the system, trudging through a series of trial-and-error, or peppering the functional teams with endless questions.  All of these methods require extra time that could have been avoided with detailed scripts from which to work.
  • Major decisions can occur on a daily basis on projects.  The Change Management team is expected to communicate this information both internally to the team and externally to end users.  If decisions are not documented, the communications person is often left to rely on second-hand notes and water-cooler chatter to figure out what message to send.  This can result in messages that are both inaccurate and late.
  • A favorite phrase of many functional leads is, "That's a training issue."  While it very well may be, if there's no place to document issues and risks, the Change team has no way of knowing what concerns they're expected to address.  Three months later when it's time to prepare for Go-live, there's very little chance that all of the teams will remember all of the issues they thought would be handled by Change Management.
If you've never been on a project, or if you're a client who has listened to firms pitch their methodologies, you may be wondering how a lack of documentation could possibly be an issue.  Every firm will tell you about how they have tried and true document templates that will be used throughout the project lifecycle to capture important information about the system and then left behind for the client to reference in the future.  If you've been doing project work for awhile, though, you know that the reality is often very different.  The top 5 excuses I hear for why teams don't want to create documentation:
  1. We don't have time.
  2. We've done this 100 times.  We don't need to document.  We have all of the information in our heads.
  3. The client/end user already understands the system.  We don't need to document it for them.
  4. Documentation's a waste of time.  The system/processes are just going to change anyways.
  5. We're communicating all of the information verbally.
While I'm tempted to jump in and talk about why none of those excuses are valid, instead I give you:

A Practical List of 5 Documents that Should NEVER Be Skipped
  • A Project Work Plan - A project work plan is the backbone of your project.  It ensures that everyone is working toward the same dates, and provides an early warning system if tasks and time lines start to slip.  Without a strong project work plan, teams and individuals cannot properly plan their work and activities.  Many projects don't include Change Management activities in the work plan.  This isn't ideal, but I can live with it.  If a work plan is missing entirely, though, I recommend you pull the emergency cord and halt the project until you can figure out how to put a plan in place.  Whatever the cost of stopping for a week, it will be less than the cost of working for months without a plan, only to discover you're off track.
  • Test Scripts - I addressed this above from a Change Management perspective.  Even without considering training development, though, test scripts are still important.  The client should be involved in testing the system, and it is nearly impossible for them to do this without solid test scripts.  Further, you need detailed test scripts to verify that you have built and tested all of the requirements you gathered.  Finally, if you're implementing a system that needs to be SOX compliant, you'll want to have test scripts in place when the auditors come to call.
  • Issue/Risk Log - I'll keep it short.  Issues and risks that don't get documented typically don't get resolved.  The choice is yours.
  • Decision Log - If you have never sat through a meeting where someone said, "Who made that decision?  I never agreed to that!", and then proceeded to spend the rest of the meeting talking about a decision that was finalized months ago, you're very lucky.  Aside from the benefits a decision log has for the Change team, which are mentioned above, the log assures that everyone has the opportunity to read decisions as they are made.  If they don't agree, they can speak up before work based on that decision proceeds, saving time and money by reducing potential re-work.  They didn't read the log and months later decide they don't like the decision?  Too bad.  The decision log is also extremely helpful when months later people's memories have become fuzzy and disagreement arises about what exactly the decision was. 
  • Training Materials - Despite what college students everywhere like to believe, it really isn't possible to learn through osmosis.  If you want end users to understand and use the system you just spent countless hours and money implementing, you need to train them.  You've come this far.  Don't skimp now.
Is your project documenting?  If so, what benefits have you seen?  If not, why not?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Emily's Favorite...Training Development Tool: User Productivity Kit

Over the years, I have developed some favorites in the world of Change Management.  I'll occasionally highlight one of them in this blog.

Today, I'll share my favorite training development tool: Oracle's User Productivity Kit (UPK).

About seven years ago, I was on an SAP implementation.  The client was using a training development tool created especially for SAP, but decided to invite a company called Global Knowledge to demonstrate their training development software, OnDemand.  By the end of the demonstration, everyone in the room was drooling over the functionality this software provided, and the potential it had to improve training development.

After I left that project, I went to other clients where we used a number of the standard training development tools: Camtasia, Captivate, and SnagIt, to name a few.  Although they all have their uses, I still longed to get my hands on that OnDemand software.

So imagine my joy when three years ago I joined an Oracle implementation and discovered that Oracle had purchased Global Knowledge Software LLC and was now using the OnDemand software as their standard training development tool.  They had re-branded it, "User Productivity Kit" (UPK), but it was still the software I had dreamed about all those years.

I dove right in and learned everything I could about UPK, then proceeded to develop and teach courses on it, so that others could enjoy using it, too.  Before I embarrass myself with extreme amounts of gushing, though, let's look at:

5 Practical Benefits of UPK
  1. More than a Training Tool - You'll notice that User Productivity Kit does not have the word "training" anywhere in the title.  That's because this is more than just a training development tool.  It is actually designed to be used throughout the project lifecycle.  Teams that are truly dedicated to getting the most out of UPK can begin using it early in the project to create process documentation and test scripts.  Not only does this help enforce consistency in documentation throughout the project, it also directly feeds in to training development efforts, reducing the amount of time required for the training development lifecycle.
  2. One Input, Many Outputs - Training developers often dedicate a lot of time to reformatting the same information into different training tools.  For a single process, they may need to create a training manual, job aid, demonstration, and hands-on activity.  With UPK, you record the process once, then in one step publish the information in all of these formats, plus more.  It is a huge time saver.
  3. Collaboration - UPK comes in two different versions.  The stand alone version sits on your computer, and no one can access the information other than the person working on that computer.  It also comes in a version that sits on a server, however, and this is a huge win for any project with multiple developers and/or a proper review process.  By putting UPK on a server, anyone with access can view and edit any of the training.  This removes the need to print or e-mail copies for review.  UPK also lets you assign people to each training topic and change the status of topics, which allows the project to see who is currently responsible for the topic and how close it is to being complete.  Anyone who has ever undertaken the complex task of running training development and review understands the benefit of having this level of collaboration.
  4. Integration - If you use UPK with an Oracle product, it has an outstanding level of integration.  As you record your actions, it not only captures the steps you're taking, but it also fills in information.  Click on a button, and it will A) enter the name of the button directly into the training, so that the developer doesn't have to type it in later, and B) automatically insert any alternate ways of completing the action.  For example, if I use UPK to record pasting data into a field using the Paste button, UPK will not only enter the phrase, "Click the Paste button.", it will also have an alternative action that states, "Type CTRL-V."  UPK is also able to do this for some non-Oracle products.  They don't advertise it, but UPK works pretty well with other applications, such as the Microsoft suite of products.  The integration isn't as good as it is with Oracle products, but if you already own UPK, it doesn't become obsolete when your Oracle project is complete.
  5. Ease of Use - I taught myself how to use UPK.  If you're not always on speaking terms with your computer, you may want to invest in a training course.  At the end of the day, though, UPK is an easy tool to use.
Have you used UPK?  What are the pros and cons of working with it?