Change Management for Association Systems

Nobody wants change imposed upon them.  Things that we decide to change ourselves are fine.  It’s the things that are surprising, that we have no control over, and that seem to be pushed onto us that create resistance.

If we see organizational change management as primarily a communication process, we are missing a key aspect in that we are providing no room for ownership, no true method for feedback.  A communication process means that the solution has already been identified.  It’s much better for the final outcome if instead we look to gather and include the wisdom of the entire organization in solving the issue.

So how do you truly make organizational change work and stick?  If you are selecting a new AMS and you have already planned for requirements gathering, demonstrations, implementation and roll-out, what else do you need to consider?

1. Involve Large Groups.
While a core implementation team will be doing most of the work of a system selection, the more people outside of that team that you can gather input from, the better the final outcome will be.   This goes beyond detailed requirements gathering, though that is also necessary.  But as a first step, gathering a large group together to envisage the future with better technology in place, will allow you to determine the really key outcomes.  Keep asking “why” – why do we need that, why do we want to do that, why is that important.  And then ask “If all those outcomes are accomplished, in one sentence, what will be different in your world?”.  This will allow you to generate a purpose statement that reflects the real reasons for the project.

2. Get Commitment.
During World War II, the government was concerned that there would be a shortage of protein in the US as most of the meat was being shipped overseas to solders.  A solution would be for Americans to eat more organ meat, such as hearts, kidneys, brains, stomachs, and intestines.  The government held lectures to convince American ‘housewives’ that these meats were palatable by showing them how to prepare them.  But these demonstration lectures were not very successful until the format was changed to one of discussion-decision.  In that format, the women didn’t just listen but also contributed to the discussion on how to prepare the meats.  And then at the end, they were asked to raise their hands if they planned to try organ meats at home.  That public commitment when they raised their hands lead to a much greater adoption of the practice of serving organ meats.

Similarly, if your selection process includes an opportunity for staff to discuss the new system and publicly raise their hands to commit to it, they will be more likely to feel ownership and adopt the system once implemented.

3. Be Serious about Training
In one association, staff who used the membership database received training on the technical aspects, but not on the more practical aspects.  There was no generally known operating procedure for how to handle duplicate records.  So staff who saw two records and were worried they might screw up the renewal process, tended to create another record!  This really poor habit could have been avoided by providing information on how to deal with data issues to everyone who accessed the system.  One CIO wouldn’t let staff into the system in the first place until they had passed a stringent test in both the technical and practical usage of the system.

Communicating the reasons for a new system, keeping them informed on the progress, and highlighting the benefits, are all good aspects of change management communications.  But true change management harnesses the power of groups, and includes the wisdom of staff in the project from the beginning to the end.

Thanks to Rene Shonerd, Brian Alexander, and Michael O’Brien for the interesting conversations which sparked this blog posting.

Photo credit: quapan / Foter / CC BY

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