A change manager was struggling to gain support for change management activities because the project was deemed a “no-brainer.” In other words, the project owners felt that the new system was such an improvement over the current way of doing things that no one could possibly have a problem with it. It was assumed that all that was needed was a little bit of training and communication, and voilà, everything will be fine, even though the project affected everyone in the organization, and changed how some groups did most of their job.
Change management, of course, is more than training and communication. It involves understanding who is affected by the change and how they will be impacted. It involves anticipating resistance and finding ways to mitigate it, and also designing change to not cause resistance. It involves preparing managers to support their employees during and after implementation. It involves identifying new ways of working that are necessary to sustain the change.
The following are some of the problems that occur when implementing a “piece of cake” change project without proper change management:
Loss of Expertise
People who are experts on the old way of doing things may feel like they’ve lost some value to the organization since they are novices in the new system. This may cause feelings of inadequacy and shame, especially if the new system is not easy for everyone to learn. People have a vested interest in preserving systems in which they are successful and may revolt.
If the old system is so bad, surely people have created ways to make it work. Those who helped develop these work-arounds may feel like their time and energy was wasted or not appreciated. If overlooked, these work-arounds have a habit of sticking around and complicating things even after the new system is implemented. Taking away these work-arounds may cause unforeseen impacts to other parts of the organization who rely on them.
Loss of Control
Even if the new system is obviously better, people may feel like it is suddenly thrust upon them. They may resent being excluded from the selection and design of the new system. Left unprepared, managers may lean on their authority to force people to adopt the change. People who feel like they’ve lost control of their situation will find reasons to slow things down so they can gain back some control.
Even an easy project takes time, attention, and energy. It’s one more thing people have to deal with, which may cause overload. Left unaddressed, there may be more absenteeism, turnover, and important things slipping through the cracks.
Some projects are truly a no-brainer because they are small changes that don’t impact a lot of people. But if a change is going to impact a large swath of the organization or change a good portion of someone’s job, then change management is a crucial part of ensuring results. Don’t create victims of what seems like a simple change. Involve change managers from the beginning to analyze and prepare the organization for change. Doing the work up front will reduce surprise headaches during implementation that may derail the project.