Some time ago, I worked in an implementation team of a company-wide project. The project was supposed to be a joint effort between HR and IT, but in reality, the process was driven by the IT team according to their needs, expertise and resources. The HR team found frustrating that the human factor was not fully considered when the plan was designed or executed. The project didn’t fail, in the sense that it was actually implemented, but the conflict and tension it generated within the implementation team and across the company, were major. Recovering from the damage in employee morale came at a high cost. The remedies we had to apply were many and diverse, so it would hardly qualify it as a success.
One of the biggest issues was the communication with the people involved. Both teams were informed separately that the goal was to do “the best for the company”, without clarifying what does that mean and how to get there. From an HR perspective, doing the best meant to consider every division’s current needs, future needs, resources and the global trends. For IT it meant to utilise the module they had already implemented in one of the larger divisions of the company and optimize the resources by just adapting the implementation plan they used about 3 years ago. The board of directors did not seem to have considered that the needs of the HR teams, the culture or their processes could be different in each division and that a successful plan should have considered the human factor.
Years later, I see that Change Management is mostly limited to IT project management, when a real change in an organization requires that people are convinced that the change is necessary, that their input is important and that the needs of all teams are considered. That doesn’t mean that everyone is leading the project, but it means that the value of the human capital goes beyond a poster in a meeting room, that we understand that along with the pair of hands there is a brain working for us and that each person will be able to bring unique points of view that should be considered.
Frequently, facilitators seem to believe that an invitation to participate is enough to engage people in major change processes, when in reality, a safe environment that welcomes all voices is what is needed. Sometimes there is a superficial sense of community, if people didn’t express openly their concerns or disagreements, inexperienced facilitators may believe that everything is going right, however, in a safe environment people would express their concerns and they may be able to be resolved.
Companies often forget that changes happen not only because they are announced, the need for change should be real and compelling, and people need to be (and feel) safe during it. If we add the factor of meeting people’s needs, we will have a group of people engaged, committed and interested in making the change happen for everyone’s benefit.