Monday, 08 August 2011 12:16

Implementing Change

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Evolution is key to the survival of any species. This isn’t a revolutionary concept; it has been around since man moved from eating raw meat to finding his first source of heat and energy. In business, the same is true. Those still using caveman techniques in a world evolving around them are likely to become extinct like the dodo.

There is clearly a need to constantly adapt, to realize that if one approach doesn’t work that it isn’t the end but rather the beginning. There is a need to recognize that you do not know all the answers, but collectively, those around you may.  This ability to adapt, to change tack at will and collaborate with others is what distinguishes the business analyst profession.

I have sat in many meetings listening to stakeholders who are convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that their approach is right, that what they have been doing for the last 10, 20 or 50 years is right. That no outsider could, or should, tell them otherwise or even propose that another way is feasible or better. I have also sat in meetings where the stakeholders love the new approach, some even raving about it, while their ash-faced colleagues look on, knowing full well the work required of them and the difficulty involved in implementing such a change.  The change-experienced business analyst is willing to assist them through this process, and help both the stakeholders and the users adjust to (and even celebrate) the change.

Yes, business analysts are great at changing, at adapting. We can go into an industry, ranging from publishing to banking, airline industries to petroleum, adapting our approach to the content as necessary.

 What we business analysts often forget is that our clients and stakeholders are not always ready for such change, especially in the timelines expected of them. 

“Change management” is becoming more and more of a buzzword. The adoption of a word by industries somehow seems to devalue its meaning, perhaps as a result of its frequency of use, or use in the wrong contexts. Whatever the reason, phrases like “synergy,” “business model” and “thinking outside of the box” all end their days unappreciated, undervalued and disused in the cemetery of boardroom blabber. And if they haven’t yet, they should.

 A project is only as successful as the change embedded by it. A solution that meets 80% of requirements but is 100% embedded is by far a better outcome than a solution that meets 100% of requirements but is only 20% embedded. Implementing change in small to medium organizations or multinational conglomerates should be pursued with the same amount of vigour, conviction and creativity.

Asking people to change the way they function is no easy task, nor should it be viewed as such. The scale may change, but ultimately people are reluctant to change, particularly when they do not see anything wrong with their approach. Often, they will simply ask why? Unfortunately, this is a question that remains unanswered in most failed change management attempts.

Based on my interactions with change management, there are 6 key concepts that should be kept in mind:

  1. Answer the unspoken question first: “Why is this change being made?”
  2. Ensure that everyone is reassured, e.g., “This change is not being made as a result of you, but rather to improve our overall approach.”
  3. Remember that not everyone enjoys change. Make sure the approach taken is creative, innovative and engages all stakeholders. As a business analyst on the ground and interacting with a variety of different stakeholders from different sections of the business, your role may be more important than you realize.  
  4. Involve as many formal and informal influencers as possible. Observe team/group interactions:  there will be indicators of who to engage with.
  5. People will often only do what they are measured on, so to ensure a sustainable change is created, it is important to introduce reasonable measures reflecting target behaviours.
  6. Be patient and communicate. The change cannot be implemented or accepted overnight. Implement regular reminders of why the change is being made, and why each individual involvement is crucial.

Change and the management thereof is a key part of evolution, and without it we will stagnate. Without sufficient change management, people will covertly continue to do as they have always done, or will accept the change with barely contained contempt. Remember, unless shown otherwise, people will prefer to do things as they’ve always done.  After all, “why fix it if it’s not broken?”

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Catherine Perks is a London-based business analyst working for BSG (UK). She looks at what make a solution work, including the technical and interpersonal effects of implementing the solution. 

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