Should change management change?

Change management is often a one-way street that ignores a very important part of the equation: the people it affects.

Should change management change? If digital transformation is the goal, then yes.

In too many organizations, everything called “change management” is a kind of one-way street. We bring new technology to employees in a one-size-fits-all way, telling them how to use it and hoping for the best. This ignores a very important part of the equation: Technology changes, but so do the people who use it.

Transformation is inherently human

It’s not just their jobs, workflows and responsibilities that are changing – their thought processes and perceptions of their jobs are changing along with technology. This ‘transformation of people’ – accurate as it is – often takes a backseat to… digital transformation (DX). And if DX projects are prone to failure for many reasons, I’d bet this oversight of human behavior plays an important role.

McKinsey notes that 70% of complex, large-scale change programs fail to achieve their stated goals. The reasons relate to people, not products: lack of employee involvement, poor management support, poor cross-functional collaboration and lack of accountability.

And there’s another story: an inherent fear of change.

Tackling fear, worry and lack of confidence

As humans, we hate change. It is disruptive, takes too much time and undermines our trust. But change is always with us. Given the accelerating pace of competition in every industry, we will have to deal with it regularly, especially the changes brought about by digital transformation. We need to be resilient, but in turn, our business leaders need to meet us halfway and recognize the mindset changes and challenges we all face.

And don’t forget fear, a critical effect of DX. People are afraid that technology will take over their jobs. They fear that they will not adapt quickly enough to new technical solutions. They are concerned about losing access to their legacy solutions. No wonder employees lack enthusiasm for DX projects and retire with them.

In a study conducted by Pure Storage with Bredin IT Research, training and reskilling ranked highly as a success factor for change management in digital transformation. When asked how people and skills changes in their organizations would be addressed:

72% said training and reskilling59% said restructuring their teams35% said using contractors or part-time staff24% said reducing headcount

That’s not an encouraging landscape for workers struggling with change: their options are to hope the education continues, survive restructuring, or maybe lose their job.

Feeling comfortable when you don’t feel comfortable

In the survey stats above, we don’t necessarily know whether the ‘transformation of people’ has been addressed as thoroughly as the digital transformation. We also don’t know whether ‘training and retraining’ includes building empathy for people whose workdays have been turned upside down.

We know it must. “If employees don’t see the value of the transformation, they will reject it, which creates friction and makes the transformation more difficult,” reports The Entrepreneurial Project. “People need to feel comfortable when they’re not comfortable and need help embracing change.”

What can leaders do to engage employees in the change in a way that demonstrates empathy, loyalty and empowerment?

Set the stage for transformation by choosing people-centric technologies designed for them. And the best start is to put straight forward technology at the bottom of the pile.

Make simple things a DX priority

Damon Thomisee of Pure Storage, Area Vice President of Sales, Emerging Technologies, Americas, said: “When we sell FlashBlade, we consider the ‘people’ aspect. Those who build it, those who buy it, and those who experience it.” This ensures that the product and any workflow that depends on it puts people first: their preferences, time and energy.

A storage array is only one piece of the IT puzzle, but it can set the stage for transformation. By making the conscious decision to purchase human-centric technology, teams demonstrate that change doesn’t just happen to them; it happens for them. At Chapman University, who adopted all-flash storage from Pure, the benefits weren’t just for the techies (although there were plenty too, such as database administrators who spend much less time on time-consuming storage management). The university also gives students, faculty, and staff faster access to the data and applications they regularly use, and software development teams can complete their work faster.

Students, teachers and staff have faster access to the data and applications they use regularly; software development teams complete their work faster and database administrators spend much less time on time-consuming storage management.

Four other tips to consider:

Recognize what happens when communicating change. Bring employees along slowly, relying as much on candor as on structure and detail. Don’t forget the why. Don’t let employees read between the lines – explain the reasons and the benefits. If the reasons are compelling and relevant, they can soften a natural resistance to change. Communicate your ultimate vision. It’s part of the why, but it’s also more. It is the connecting factor that can unite you as an organization and motivate individuals to get started themselves. Enable two-way traffic. Back to my original point, implement the channels and capabilities for them to share and you to listen and do it early.

Paolo Juvara

Chief Digital Transformation Officer at Pure Storage

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