"If I can change, and you can change..."
"...Everybody can change (management)!" -Rocky Balboa
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Joke Meme of the Day
Change management is a core skill we should all invest more time in improving.
Understanding how change management works will transform the way you help your business communicate, how initiatives are prioritized, and how you coordinate multiple departments and agendas within the organization. It is what will help you grow with the business as the business inevitably evolves.
One of my favorite topics related to this product life we love is centered around change management. Regardless of your role or industry, your company has rolled out some new process or technology at some point, and more than likely, you and your coworkers HATED the change. Although there are a million reasons why you all hate the difference, the problem created by the change is that the team responsible for delivering may not have dug deep enough to understand what it would take to get most of your coworkers to buy in.
So how can we, as product people, help use our skills to combat disruptions and build a culture promoting change management?
1. Re-establish the WIIFM in every discussion around the change.
When we are talking about pushing changes to our users, we want to ensure that they’re both aware of when the change is coming and clearly understand the benefit of the change. If you have a more significant or complex change, you may consider having a longer runway and building up until the change happens.
Whether you’re interacting with your stakeholders, customers, or anyone else in the equation - one idea to ensure that the benefits are solidly stored in their brains is to revisit what is in it for them in each conversation - or the WIIFM.
I think that the more often they can be reminded of the benefit, the more time they have to marinate on what is coming, and the more likely they are to buy into the value created by the change.
2. Consider pilots and soft launches to collect feedback before going wider.
In the old days (2000s? before?), the only way to release technology seemed to be for everyone to get the change at once. Although the comradery created by everyone hating the new tech at the same time is an excellent story from a team work perspective, you do not want this experience to happen as a PM/dev team. So how might we mitigate this?
Consider running a pilot group where only a smaller group receives access to the tech.
As you start conversing about rolling out changes to your users, plant the seed that you want to pilot the changes early. I think a very effective move to couple with the pilot recommendation is the plan to move from pilot into total production. You don’t have to include timelines (unless…you do because of how your org rolls).
Included with the pilot plan and the transition to the entire production plan, you should also consider sharing the game plan to receive and process feedback from this pilot team. Just rolling out to a small group with an incomplete plan could cause chaos, so spend the extra time to at least put your plan on paper so you can socialize it.
3. Always establish your change champions early in the process.
We all have those coworkers who we know are fantastic at their job regardless of the role. They are the rock stars, and they set the bar for execution. More than likely, you’re watching them from a distance and trying to learn how they work so you can incorporate them and make yourself more successful. So what does this have to do with change management?
As you learn your change management skills, you should read up on the concept of incorporating change champions. In the coworker scenario, you want to find more people like the rock stars to become a part of the process because of how influential they can be..sometimes without even trying.
You won’t be able to pluck any high-performer. You need to be able to find someone who wants to help make the company and/or their team successful just by providing some feedback at first. Start to share with them early on what’s going on, collect their feedback, and incorporate what makes sense.
As you get closer to launching, please bring them back into the equation. If they can see their impact on the change and are excited, ask them to promote the changes to their team post go live. You’ll be amazed how quickly the other coworkers surrounding will put some effort into using it.
Don’t forget to check back with your champions after the launch to see what kind of feedback they have and what they’ve heard. If you cultivate this relationship, you may even be able to create a built-in UX research component for the future.
Listen of the day
Changing an organization’s culture and behaviors is one of the most difficult leadership challenges. Lindsey Agness and Theresa Moulton will explore why it is a challenge and how to take practical steps to shift behavior.
Have any change management experiences to share? Click the button to leave a comment. Let’s go!
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