Change is the Only Constant in Life

Change is the Only Constant in Life

It’s a wise person who said “change is the only constant in life.”  In fact, Heraclitus, to whom this quote is attributed, is the same person who said “no person ever steps into the same river twice.”  It’s all true and yet why are most of us so afraid of change? More specifically, why are most of us afraid of change in our workplace technology?  Clients usually don’t bring me in when they’re satisfied with their current business processes or technology, and yet there’s usually a heavy reluctance to update out-of-date applications or streamline practices.   

There are a variety of reasons many companies are unable, or unwilling, to make necessary changes to their technology or business processes.  Many times this boils down to customized software applications or processes that are heavily dependent on a few people or the “holy grail” of spreadsheets to manage crucial business functions.  When looking at these types of scenarios, I’m always reminded of the eternal triangle of system implementations:  “people, process, technology.”  It can be relatively easy to change technology, in and of itself.  Changing business processes and how people work in a new environment is typically the bigger challenge.  And yet any new system implementation or upgrade is bound to struggle when all three points of the triangle aren’t well managed.

Learning to manage change is one of the most difficult things for many people, in general, and more so in the workplace, in particular.  Years ago I remember working on a company-wide technology roll-out. There were huge challenges with training hundreds of people, in multiple locations, on how to use a completely new software application. In addition, we were also trying to manage the impact the new application would have on how they would manage their work from that point onward. The HR department passed out copies of “Who Moved My Cheese?” by Spencer Johnson, an allegorical tale of how to manage change, and essentially said “just deal with it or look for another job.”  Probably not the best way to manage change.  There were a lot of jokes from then on about people having their cheese moved.  Not a lot of change was managed; many people struggled in their new roles; the technology roll-out took much longer than anticipated and more than a few people left the company in frustration.

Back then, I doubt there were many consulting firms specializing in change management; if there were, they were probably struggling for respect and endorsements.  These days there are any number of change management firms specializing in business process improvement and technology implementation work.  The work these firms do is highly specific to facilitating change in the workplace and within the workforce.  Understanding various personality types and how they react to change is key to helping manage a successful technology transformation. Just as there are seven different types of learning styles, there are sixteen different personality types.  Understanding how to convey changing business processes and teaching people how to use new systems is truly an art form. 

Change management consultants don’t just help to enable change in the workplace for technology implementations, they can also facilitate change when companies grow, merge, downsize, relocate and more.  The role of change management professionals is very different than that of human resource specialists.  Change management professionals support and enable a smooth transition into a new working environment, be it new technology, new location, new work environment, etc.  They don’t tend to get involved in day to day policies and procedures in the workplace, except as it may relate to a change in business processes or applications.  But they can make all the difference in the success or failure of any type of business innovation.   

If your company is planning to invest in a business process or technology transformation, the key to a successful project lies within how your business manages change.  If you don’t have the internal tools to successfully convey how these changes will impact your employees, your customers and your business there are readily available consulting professionals whose sole purpose it is to do exactly that.  Enabling your employees to effectively do their jobs in a new technology landscape is the biggest key to your success.  Partnering with a change management consultant or consulting team can have a far reaching, positive impact on your project, your business processes and even the success of your company. Change is inevitable.  Give yourself and your business the keys to success; you can’t solve today’s problems with yesterday’s tools.  

I’ll leave you with this food for thought from William Pollard:  “Without change there is no innovation, creativity, or incentive for improvement.  Those who initiate change will have a better opportunity to manage the change that is inevitable.” 

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