“Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall.”- Stephen Covey
Are your ladders leaning against the right walls?
Once a project team has committed to the technology rollout, change management steps will facilitate ascent up the ladder. It is helpful to adhere to a change management process that takes organizations through a series of major stages including: alignment, preparation, adoption, training and return on investment (ROI). The top leadership must guide this process so it stays on course and does not lose momentum or direction.
- Alignment: Alignment entails arranging objects—or people—in straight or parallel lines so everyone is going in the same direction. A good leader will gather input to create a strategy, define the stakeholders and gain their commitment so there is consensus. Stakeholders are ultimately accountable to leadership for showing steadfast commitment to see the project come to fruition. A two-way dialogue between leaders and stakeholders is essential so the accountability is mutual and both sides feel a sense of ownership of the project. It needs to be perceived as a “win-win” proposition.
IP leaders must understand how to motivate people to undertake change, depending on their unique perspective and “pain points.” For example, the priorities of IP lawyers will be different from those of support staff, which will be different still from those of IT. Because of these variables, it is crucial to break complex processes down into simple, clear components that everyone can understand. Stakeholders want technology to deliver accurate and straightforward answers to complex IP processes, but the system must be easy for them to learn and use. To get stakeholders to buy in to the idea of adopting new software, a leader must demonstrate that the technology initiative will help them achieve their goals.
- Adoption: The best technology is wasted if it is not properly used. Adoption requires the leader to exert influence by expressing to stakeholders why the software was chosen, when the rollout is happening, when it is going to be accomplished and that they will be expected to learn and use it.
It is important to present the rollout as a positive move that will benefit people by saving them time and headaches. Easing the team into the software adoption gradually by only showing them a few features at a time helps relieve worry for those that seem initially overwhelmed by or suspicious of the unfamiliar technology. Also, people need to be reassured that they will be adequately trained on the new systems so they will be able to maintain productivity despite the learning curve.
- Training: There are several key ingredients for successful training, including good communication and a desire on the part of leadership to listen to team members’ concerns or worries. Leaders must recognize that there will be different factions, including early adopters who will be eager to learn and use the system, naysayers who will resist and complain about the change, power users who will learn quickly and be able to help teach others, and a larger standard group that will agree, perhaps grudgingly, to learn the software to the extent needed by their job, but not beyond.
A good leader identifies a few key champions early on and will encourage these players to rally laggards during the training process. The more supporters show their enthusiasm and help the leader engage others, the more effective training will be.