In an industry that moves as rapidly as field service often does, it is important to have a firm grasp on the nuanced skill of change management. However, getting to the heart of what makes change work lies in an all too familiar acronym writes Martin Summerhayes...
If you read the title of this article and made the presumption that change is related to a PowerPoint slide, it is not. Let me explain. Change is happening at a faster and faster rate in today’s business world more than ever before. The drive to compete, reduce costs, bring new offerings to the market, to pivot your company to a new way of working, means that change programmes are often run back to back and sometimes, one is not even finished before the next one starts.
Nearly every change programme occurring normally is based on leveraging some sort of new technology platform; whether it is an IT Service Management tool, some new hardware platform or some new application in support of the change agenda. What then follows is the development and deployment of key features and the presumption that deploying the technology is going to enable changes to work processes, which will mean changes to the peoples’ working practices and the programme benefits will be realised.
Taking this approach is almost guaranteed to fail. In fact, research carried out by Harvard Business School and Strativity1 found that participants of their survey ranked poor communication (62%), insufficient leadership and support (54%), organizational politics (50%), lack of understanding of the purpose of the change (50%), lack of user buy-in (42%) and lack of collaboration (40%) as the most critical issues to change programmes succeeding. These are all human problems. Hence the first ‘P’ in PPTX.
Every service-focused organisation relies on colleagues, staff and external partners that it uses to deliver the service to its end-user and customers. Whether it is IT Service Desks, Field Service, site-based services or remote support - 99% of the interactions involve people.
"Sending out an email or PowerPoint slide is not communicating..."
So that is why, the very first aspect of any change programme should include these people related questions:
• How does this impact the people?
• How will we engage with our people?
• How will we inform and provide understanding on the changes that are needed?
• How do we provide the skills and capabilities to adopt the change?
• How do we support the people on the change journey?
• How do we enable the people to succeed?
I could have added a number of further questions, but I think you get the drift. The people involved - both directly and also indirectly - need to feel as if they are supported through the changes and not “done to by the changes”.
Sending out an email or PowerPoint slide is not communicating. Talking to people, engaging with them, asking them for input and feedback and them adapting the changes based on this is also key. As Tom Peters says in his book Excellence Dividend Hard is soft. Soft is hard2: “Hard” (the plans, numbers and org charts) is “soft”. “Soft” (people, relationship, culture) is “hard”. Peters notes that “an organization is nothing more and nothing less than people (your employees) serving people (your customers and communities)”. So what comes next?
Do you have a clear understanding of the current processes and what future processes you want to have in place? Are you trying to simplify the processes? Make them more reflective of the customer experience, the customer journey that occurs throughout the service lifecycle? Are there issues reported through your customer event, satisfaction, or relationship surveys that are reflected in the “as is” processes today that you are seeking to eliminate?
"If you are serious about change in your organisation, you need to have a group that supports the changes across the organisation..."
More importantly, have you taken an “outside in” approach to the service experience that the customer is having? Have you tried to raise a service request? Been out with a field engineer? Sat on the service desk or contact centre or listened in on customer calls? This is where you will begin to understand what it feels like to experience the service lifecycle and what processes can be improved, changed or stopped. This will then leads into the next phase.
Once you understand the key workflow processes, the service lifecycle processes and how customers interact with you, you can then decide where technology can help you. But for goodness’ sake, don’t just think that tech is going to be the be all and end all of it! I recall when an organisation decided it wanted a new workflow IT service management tool.
They went through the scoping exercise, the ROI and benefits investment case and then started the implementation. That all seems obvious, except, in the process, they decided to “adapt” the solution to meet their key business processes and “adapted” the software 98% away from the standard model.
This meant when it came to upgrades, it was so costly, it never happened. Within two years, they were back where they had started from. Where tech has worked, think about adapting the processes and people practices to leverage the tech.
Knitting it all together and if you are serious about change in your organisation, you need to have a group that supports the changes across the organisation. It needs to have input into the longer-term strategies and plans, as well as how the changes are going to be delivered “in year”.
Finally, the “X” factor
You need to think about how communication is going to occur. What training and development needs to happen, how you celebrate success, how you learn from every change and to ensure that those plans, activities and outcomes that contributed to its success are repeated and those things that contributed to failure are prevented from occurring again. As Henry Ford might have said, “If you keep on doing what you’ve always done, you will keep getting what you’ve always gotten.”
I leave you with the following quote which really made me smile: “The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.” ― Albert Einstein.