Home Articles INFLUENCE: Managing change and maximising adoption

INFLUENCE: Managing change and maximising adoption


The importance of transformation management should never be underestimated; what is the point of investing a substantial sum of money in a system that is designed to address all your current business pains if your staff never invest themselves fully in it? What happens is that your fancy new system sits in its shiny new box and never gets used?

We have seen this countless times when implementing new systems. This can be very hard for a business owner to understand, especially when the system has been brought in to address an issue the staff themselves have identified. Systems of today can do so much for a company; they make life so much easier, save time and money – so why don’t people want to use them?

Fear of the unknown causes stress, anxiety and insecurity, even when the current situation is impossible – better the devil you know … Staff will resist for a variety of reasons; they may be highly invested in the current way of doing things, they may have had a hand in creating the systems being replaced, they could expect more work as a result of the changes, or have excelled as things are, being recognised and rewarded. Broken down this way, why they might be resistant is suddenly not quite so confusing.

Every moment of the implementation of new systems should be designed with all of this in mind; you could choose the best system in the world that will change the lives of all involved for the better, making jobs easier and less stressful and making more money for everyone, but if you do not go about it in the right way it will become the bane of your existence.

Yes, the reality is that for any business to survive it has to constantly re-invent itself by being more efficient, increasing revenue, customer satisfaction and at the same time reducing costs; but how you go about it will make the bottom-line difference.

Let’s use an example to illustrate our point. One of the departments in your company manages a fleet of 15 high-end Mercedes-Benzes that are used to drive your clients around as well as being used as a perk for employees in transporting them to and from work and client meetings. After much debate in upper management, it is decided that although they do not want to scrap this department completely, they do need to trade in the petrol-heavy Mercs for fuel efficient people carriers that can transport a number of people at once, bringing the fleet from 15 sedans to 5 people carriers.

It is important to be clear on the business case for the change of systems; everyone needs to understand and clearly see the current problems, the need for change and the different potential outcomes of the change.

With petrol prices skyrocketing on a monthly basis, running 15 of these specific cars daily on multiple trips has become prohibitively expensive. There are three options available – dismantle the department, downsize on staff in order to be able to afford to keep the fleet intact, or find economical alternatives to keep the department and the staff active. Deciding to go with the people carriers seems like a win-win to management – they will still be able to provide transport services to clients and staff while saving substantial sums of money, which means they can keep the staff they have.

The potential outcome of this change might be that the clients feel less ‘special’, the staff that makes use of the service will not have exclusive use of the vehicles and may need to begin using their own transportation again, and some of the drivers of the vehicles will need to be redeployed elsewhere in the company or be moved over to shift work.

In order for the system implementation to be fully embraced by the new users, the organisation should review the operating model of the process or function that the system impacts, in other words how things are working in that department now. This will identify the expected fit of the new system with current processes, gaps that may need to be filled, and potential opportunity to optimise efficiencies in current practices and policies.

The operating model of the transport fleet was 15 cars and 15 drivers used to transport clients and employees when needed. For example, if a client was flying in for business a car would be sent to collect them from the airport or if a meeting was being held offsite, a car would collect the client and bring them to the meeting location. In the case of employees, if they had meetings with clients away from the office the cars would take them to the meetings, and as an additional perk, the cars would transport staff to and from work on a roster.

The new cars would still allow pick up and drop off of clients as a priority, and if they are available would still be able to transport employees to and from meetings. Because there is a much smaller fleet, there would need to be a way of reserving cars for meetings and potentially a hierarchy of importance. Furthermore, a car would not transport a single employee to and from work; a schedule would be in place for certain areas and should the employee not need their own transport for out of office excursions, they would be able to utilise this service.

Gaps that would need to be addressed would be an increase in petrol costs of employees, potential in-fighting with regard to who could utilise the cars and when, and the reallocation of drivers who would no longer be needed for the cars. Setting schedules and hierarchies for ways in which the cars are to be used should be seen as a potential way in which to optimise the current situation.

During a system implementation, it is important that the organisation review the affected job roles and profiles. This should include a review of the roles-accountabilities-consulted-informed (RACI) model matrix to determine any updates or changes to job profiles in terms of roles and accountabilities related to the new system implementation. The outcome of this exercise would then flow into the review and amendment of KPAs (key performance areas) and criteria for bonus entitlement, as well as allowing you to spot potential resistant staff members.

As mentioned, this would be one of the key change areas for this department. Moving from 15 full time drivers to 5 full-time or 10 part-time drivers will mean reviewing the employees’ roles. Is there scope to move these employees into other areas of the company? Which employees would you move? How will this affect their roles, accountabilities, goals, salaries, etc?

The ability to effectively communicate the change of implementing a new system relies on a robust communications plan. The communications plan should identify who will be receiving the message (the drivers, the clients, the employees) and who the ideal communicators of the message should be. Best practice implies that employees affected by the system implementation want to hear firstly from the CEO of the organisation and then their line manager directly.

It should clarify key messages for each of the various groups (drivers: your employment is safe although there may be changes along with new opportunities; clients: we are revamping our fleet to be more economical and environmentally friendly, transport will still be available in our top-of-the-range people carriers; employees: you will still have access to transport and where this is not possible, you will be reimbursed for petrol costs) and the timing of the communication on each level. It should also determine how the message should be packaged and delivered and the frequency thereof.

Your communications plan should be prepared and presented to the project team, the primary sponsor and critical stakeholders.

By primary sponsor, we mean a single person strategically responsible and accountable for the successful implementation of the new system. In this case, it would possibly be a general manager who has used the car service himself and who will be using the new service and championing the fuel efficiency, convenience and minimal negative change of the project.

The sponsor needs to show active and visible participation throughout the project, be able to build a coalition of sponsorship with peers and managers, and be able to communicate directly with employees. They would also need to develop sponsor assessment, indicating individuals in the organogram that are supportive or indifferent or opposed to the change and develop a strategy for mitigating the risks identified in the assessment.

Alongside the sponsor the line managers of the organisation are critical to a successful system implementation. The line managers in our examples would be the department heads, including the head of the effected transport department.

Line managers are critical to any system implementation as they are trusted and close to the employees, they have proven and demonstrable influence with employees, they are able to identify and mitigate resistance in the ranks and are able to build support for the project and reinforce the change. A project or change management team can develop the plans but managers and supervisors do much of the change management work.

As part of the system implementation, it is critical to ensure a training plan is in place that identifies different audiences that require training; conducts a needs assessment and gap analysis and documents requirements for the learning and development department.

This would include the drivers being trained on the new vehicles. But a common mistake is only providing technical training on how to use the new system, when there is potentially a further need for business acumen training relating to the new system; in this case perhaps training the staff in how to prioritise their meetings, how to reserve transport for either meetings or, in general, how to track and claim back petrol costs incurred when using their own vehicles.

There are three tactics for resistance management — resistance prevention, proactive resistance management and reactive resistance management. There are various tools and tactical strategies for managing resistance under each of these categories.

Resistance is a natural human reaction to change; it should be expected and planned for in any system implementation. Often the ‘comfort’ factor of the current system, which isn’t meeting the needs of the organisation, is a powerful obstacle to overcome in a systems implementation.

Resistance in the case of our example might result in nobody making use of the new cars, in which case the department might as well have been scrapped; whether this resistance is due to dissatisfaction with the limitations of not having full access to transport or more superficial resistance in feeling that the new cars are not smart enough to use for clients or client meetings.

Change management aims to increase project success, manage employee resistance to change, build change competency in an organisation, connect the outcomes to business results, mitigate negative consequences and translate the project into financial performance. Change management uses methodologies such as Prosci® and related tools such as ADKAR®.

An effective coaching plan is the component often missed during a system implementation due to time and/or budgetary constraints; however it is the only tool that increases ADKAR™ on all five levels, namely Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability and Reinforcement.

An effective coaching plan should build Awareness of how the change impacts any employee; create Desire through personal interaction with employees and the effective management of resistance; develop Knowledge through technical training and on-the-job mentoring; foster Ability by creating the right environment for employees to develop new skills and behaviours, and Reinforce change through recognition and rewards.


There are some amazing systems and tools available to your business that will allow you to stay ahead of your competitors on all fronts; but the only way to ensure that these systems and tools deliver on all the levels they have been designed to, is to have full buy-in from the people who will be operating them. Natural resistance to change and new and different ways of doing things should be expected and prepared for properly and there are clear and logical ways in which to do so.

There has been a growth in the market of Business Transformation Management consultants or specialists and while it may sound a little ‘new age’ to some, there is an intrinsic business value in using their specialised skill set to ensure the smooth adoption of new systems in your business. There is no secret weapon that will address all of your adoption issues; there are however simple ingredients that will allow your organisation to successfully manage new system implementation changes and keep your employees engaged and involved. ❐

Author: Kevin Phillips CA(SA), Managing Director of idu Software, and Shane Budd CA(SA).