What is the People Side of Change

Every Change has two components:

The Technical Component

how effective is the solution

The People Component

the level of adoption and usage of the solution

It is relatively easy to tell if there is a problem with the technical component.  If new machinery or new software doesn’t work then  it needs to be fixed. In a worse case scenario you may need to replace all of the technology. Sometimes a change is almost all technical and impacts a very few people.  Cost savings are easy to measure with this type of change.

Its more complicated to identify issues with the people side of change.  Does the change have a small or large impact on people’s current roles, work systems, and relationships?  How much impact does resistance have on implementation? Does uncertainty about the future create push back in those who must implement, maintain and integrate the change into their daily routines.   In business critical projects the “adoption contribution” or the portion of a project’s benefits that depend on people changing how they do their jobs is commonly in the 80% to 100% range.

Project Management or People Management?

A current trend in many small and mid sized organizations is to depend on the project team implementing a change to handle both the technical and people sides of the change.   Project management provides direction on sequencing milestones, deliverables, activities and resources over the lifecycle of an effort. The Peoples side of change provides employees with the preparation, support and skills they need to succeed in change.

Project managers tend to be control oriented – its a skill that helps them succeed.  This trait supports the technical side of a change but backfires when applied to the people side.  PMs often make the mistake of pushing through resistance instead of resolving it. Push back is ignored and user training focuses only on the technical aspect, how to use the new system, instead of the people issues of how to deal with the stress of relearning and the fear of failure.

Why does the People side of Change matter so much?

How often have you heard of or experienced a change that met the project requirements yet failed to deliver the expected results?  The blame game can point fingers in many directions but the general feeling is that people just failed to “get on board”.

Managing the people side of change ensures that those impacted by a change can deliver on the people-dependent portion of a projects ROI.

The data is clear. Studies by McKinsey Data, Prosci, Harvard and others show that initiatives who do a good job of managing the people side of change are six times more likely to meet objectives than those who do not. Event doing a  “fair,” job increases the likelihood of meeting objectives by three fold.

If Front line staff believe that a change is going to make their day harder, or worse, put their jobs at risk you have a big problem.  The reality is that it doesn’t matter how much people say they are on board – what matters in the end is their actions. How important is it that people’s actions change?  Is that happening?  If not why not?  Once you figure that out how do you turn it around (a hint – more communication on the benefit of change isn’t the answer)

The Huge Risk of the People side of Change.

For every change project there is a potential for failure.  Factor in the percentage that your success depends on people as well as how important the change is to your business to give you as sense of the level of risk. While paying attention to the people side of change will help all projects it is critical in those with high risk.  Failing to plan for and address the people side of change can be costly.

Taking care of your Assets

How many times have you heard, “our employees are our most important asset”? Then, when it comes time for a change to be implemented, employees are sent an email on Monday for training on Tuesday for go-live on Wednesday. That is not the right way to treat people, especially the people that are your most valuable asset. By proactively engaging and supporting people in times of change, we demonstrate in action that we value them.