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.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Looking for Bright Spots: A Case Study

Welcome back to Practical Change Management's Virtual Book Club (VBC).  The discussion question I posed in my last post was:

The Question
Beginning on page 27, Chip and Dan use the story of fighting malnutrition in Vietnam to highlight the concept of bright spots, defined as "successful efforts worth emulating."  How would you use "bright spots" in a difficult situation or project to help bring about change?

My Answer

I promised you a real-life case study from one of my past projects.  To protect the innocent (and myself), I have changed all names and will not be disclosing any details that might identify the client.

The Situation
Many years ago, I was working on a software implementation at a large company.  Over the years, this company had acquired smaller companies that they now considered "business units."  Each business unit (BU) kept it's unique software, business processes, and culture.  Perhaps just as important, each BU kept its own budget, and the parent company was not in the habit of telling them how to spend their money, or forcing changes on them.

The project I was on was implementing new software across seven of the BUs.  Because each BU was so unique, we had set up Change teams at each BU made up of employees who could help us navigate the culture and implement the change.  It quickly became apparent, however, that not all of the BUs were equally committed to the change.  Their commitment ranged from full, enthusiastic support to grudging participation.  Because they had so much independence in deciding whether to participate in and provide budget to the project, we had to find a way to get and keep everyone on board.

What We Did
We appealed to their riders: One of the first things we did was an analysis of how the new system would impact each BU.  What we found was that some BUs were getting a huge benefit from the implementation, while some were breaking even and others were actually losing some functionality and autonomy.  Using this information, we created charts and graphs, did some data analysis, and basically explained that the organization as a whole would see a net gain in benefits, even if some BUs were feeling a bit of a loss.

We appealed to their elephants: In an effort to build some positive peer pressure and appeal to everyone's competitive nature, we set up a competition.  Each BU could earn points by implementing Change activities and by sharing success stories that could be scaled and used to help other BUs achieve success.

We cleared the path: We recognized that many people weren't sure how to support a change effort, so we produced a monthly toolkit that explained what needed to be done that month, provided step-by-step directions on how to do it, and included any necessary templates.

Doing It Differently with Bright Spots
While all of our efforts certainly helped drive the change, we still found ourselves faced with a BU that really resisted the implementation.  Looking back, I would have spent less time focusing on why that BU was so negative about the change (they told us on a regular basis - it wasn't a secret), and spent more time focusing on why one of the BUs was so positive and so proactive in supporting the change.  This BU was our bright spot.  I think that if we had better understood why our main change agent there was putting so much effort into driving the change, and understood how he was in turn spreading this positive attitude throughout his BU, we could have used this information to help turn around our resistor.

As it was, despite the success of our change program, I think I missed an opportunity to learn from this bright spot and gain a better understanding of why some people support change.  This understanding could have informed all of my future change programs.

Let Me Know:  In the comments section, tell me about a time that you were able to identify a bright spot and use it to improve your change program.  Or, if your story is more like mine, tell me how you would better harness the power of bright spots if you could do it again.

Next Discussion Question:  On page 36, Chip and Dan discuss solutions-focused therapy and begin to talk about the Miracle Question: "Suppose that you go to bed tonight and sleep well.  Sometime, in the middle of the night, while you are sleeping, a miracle happens and all the troubles that brought you here are resolved.  When you wake up in the morning, what's the first small sign you'd see that would make you think, 'Well, something must have happened - the problem is gone!'?"  How can the Miracle Question be used to improve overall projects and Change Management programs?

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