“Nothing is as painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change.” – Mary Shelley British Novelist, Author of Frankenstein
Transformation is hard, but it’s a necessity in these accelerated, innovative times. At the forefront of transformation projects is technology and process change. Rarely does management take a hard look at the human side of transformation and this is often what will delay or even kill a project.
Human transformation takes investment, but is well worth the time and effort. Even with that investment, you can expect to lose an average of 30% of your team, as some will choose not to embrace your new direction. However, corporate knowledge is invaluable and if you can guide your current team through the changes, retaining key resources will always be the best route to success.
True story: At one of my past companies, we were awarded an MPP replacement project by a Fortune 500 organization. After working closely with management on requirements and a final deployment plan, we were asked to lead a project kick-off meeting with the current team that was supporting their Teradata environment. As we started to discuss the use of Cloud services and supporting agile tools for ELT you could feel the frustration rising in the room. One hour into a half-day meeting three of the team members explosively walked out. The project was put on hold for two months as the organization regrouped and took a hard look at the current team, gaps and the changes that needed to be made.
Our lesson as a consulting vendor was to help our clients early on with the human side of transformation. We came up with a few guiding principles that apply to all organizations.
1. Communicate Change Long Before the Project Begins
Assuming the team will just go along with change is the number one problem. Humans work much better with knowledge. Communicate to your teams starting with the ideation phase. Heck, even make them part of that phase through a Design Thinking session. Continue those communications throughout the project and even after deployment.
2. Education is Key
Develop a formal program for the education of your team. Start with basics such as what is driving this change. Not just in your organization, but also in the world. Technical training is key and in these times it means learning additional languages. There should also be an emphasis on agile. Consider “outside of the technical box” training such as Data Storytelling, or even enhanced visualization training. Sit back and watch how appreciative and excited your team is.
3. Promote Armchair Analytics
It is hard to ask your team to give you more than 40 hours, but there are those that thrive on learning new technologies. We made sure each team member had credits from top cloud vendors (usually the first $300 are free) so they could dive into the technology if they wanted to in their spare time. You will be surprised how many folks appreciate this and take advantage.
4. Stand Up Sandboxes with Meaning
We always had special team projects being developed in our Cloud environments that were governed by our management team. Resources were granted hours out of their regular 40 to develop IP for our company while learning new technologies and sharing ideas with their peers.
5. Encourage Mentoring
Inherently, humans want to help humans. Encourage mentoring across teams. We have named our mentoring program “Mentoring 360” to stress that it encourages resources to mentor each other, not just one way.
6. Spend a Bit More Time with Those that Are Struggling
We have seen meltdowns over and over again as innovation is introduced to the organization. There will be those that frustrated and even bitter. As a manager, take extra time for these resources. We have proven that one-on-one coaching can be helpful.
These are just a few recommendations. Of course, formalized change management can’t be ignored but humanizing transformation and implementing the above suggestions will produce results and make for a happier, much more effective team.