Training in the 21st Century

Secrets to Successfully Introducing Change

As we transition from 2011 to 2012, we lay the groundwork that will help us realize our goals and triumph in our challenges during the new year.  Continuous improvement—learning from past experiences while scouting for new possibilities—gives us a solid stance from which to proceed. And with the fast pace of technological change, new opportunities for continuous improvement arise in varied and unexpected ways. But resistance from within our organizations can be one the biggest barriers we face in our efforts to make use of these opportunities.

Those whose work will benefit directly from the implementation of a new technology, a change to a process, or the introduction of new practices generally recognize the value of a proposed change quickly. But the value of the change may not be obvious to organization members whose work and responsibilities are not directly impacted by the change sought, and they may resist, impede, and even prevent the introduction of new ways of doing things.

One important way to gain the support and buy-in of people from all areas of an organization is to identify and communicate the benefits offered by the proposed change. People who are directly affected by, and advocating for, a change may forget that the benefits they see so clearly need to be carefully conveyed to others. Instead, they skip over the benefits and focus their presentations and discussions on features. This approach often results in increased resistance from listeners who have little knowledge of the ways these features will bring benefits: They can see that the proposed change will bring some degree of disruption and initial expense, and they stop listening to the recitation of features that they perceive to be a laundry list of irrelevancies. Continuously tying any discussions/presentations about a proposed change to the benefits it offers the organization is much more likely to gain support and decrease resistance.

Another strategy to keep in mind when proposing new initiatives is to suggest a Proof of Concept/Pilot Project as an initial step. Proof of Concept implementations are much lower risk for an organization, generally requiring lower initial cost and significantly less disruption than a full implementation. In addition, they offer ways to identify and address weaknesses in the planned change while creating solid evidence of ways the change will bring benefits, both of which will smooth acceptance and facilitate the process of full implementation.

I hope these ideas will be helpful to you in 2012. What strategies have helped you gain acceptance of new processes, practices and technologies in your organization? Please share what you’ve found most effective, so that we can all start the new year with a wealth of new ideas to help us continuously improve in our work.

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