It’s Not Just the New Technology You Have to Manage
Pierre Frigon is a seasoned expert with a number of companies in lab automation solutions empowered by technologies and methodologies including lab as a service (LaaS) and DevOps. In this M2M blog installment, Pierre shares his insights on an element of LaaS and DevOps solution adoption too often overlooked: facilitating productive change in a team culture.
Leadership approach to culture change: The right vision, communication, perseverance, and support. One aspect of change management is something too often neglected: expressing the right vision. A lot of companies will approach a change management effort with an authoritarian approach: “You shall do this. This is what we’re going to do.” This is a recipe for absolute disaster. Failure of implementing successful cultural change is not necessarily the team’s fault. It boils down to leadership not knowing how to properly bring about productive change. Not having that skillset is quite common. The leadership responsible for implementing change will benefit from formal change management training. In the following sections we will explore in more detail how the right vision, communication, perseverance, and support are essential factors for leadership to achieve a successful outcome.
The criticality of setting the stage for change. Adopting a LaaS solution, and incorporating DevOps and agile principles to facilitate continuous delivery (CD) to contend with the challenges of digital disruption and digital transformation is much easier said than done. Realizing this objective involves an engaged orchestration of people, process, and technology in a unique and customized way for each adopting organization. The most conspicuous aspect these solutions usually represent is the new technology: the latest and greatest features and capabilities that promise accelerated time to market, empowered productivity, cost savings, and enhanced resource management. Yet the seismic impact of new processes on teams can represent the make-or-break prospects of success for a new solution. Sweating the details on the people and process factors is a critical key to solution success. Without it, you’ve got an expensive white elephant in the room. Addressing the challenges of culture change early, with a smart plan and sustained commitment, is crucial.
The vision statement and perseverance. Successful navigation through the challenges of a complex solution adoption is not guaranteed. Some efforts died on the vine because of lack of effort, persistence, and perseverance. Once executives start to get pushback, some will simply drop the ball because they don't want to deal with or face adversity. A root cause of this failure is the lack of vision on management’s part. Having a very clear vision of where the organization is going with the solution, what the short- and long-term solution goals are, along with the anticipated small- and large-scale benefits, is fundamental to success. This vision will act as the engine behind the change. If change sponsors are unable to articulate that vision and express it effectively to the organization they're trying to change, they will fail. Perseverance, driven by clear vision, are two essential factors for success. Change sponsors articulating a clear vision repeatedly to the organization, throughout the lifecycle of the change, is part of the equation for success. When teams see this consistently expressed vision from their leadership, it will help remind the team where the organization is going with the change and it will make for a much easier transition. As Simon Sinek explains in his book “Start With Why,” success is possible only when the people in the organization believe what you believe. Ensuring the change is managed, communicated, and articulated consistently, in a way that aligns with the people and the organization, is critical for success.
Answer the question: “What’s in it for me?” When striving to implement change, framing the prospect of the solution’s benefits in terms of how it empowers the people and the organization is really important. Looking at it from their point of view and communicating an understanding of how this change will help the people responsible for adopting the change is a key to getting their support and understanding. Ensuring this precept is maintained during the lifecycle of the adoption helps nurture everyone’s expectations on the anticipated advantages, which will be delivered only after a sustained and complex implementation process.
When implementing a significant change for the various teams, the theory of “Diffusion of Innovations,” by Everett Rogers, divides the population of a social system into five groups of people that change sponsors must take into account:
These two groups consist of people who like the shiny new objects. They see something new, they want to try it, because they can see how this can benefit them very early on. As an organization considers adopting a complex solution, these are the people who should be on the front lines for your company, often part of the initial trial, or proof of concept (PoC) phase, proving a solution’s value in an organization. These early adopters are the internal doorway of acceptance into an organization as they prove out your solution’s validity and facilitate an early win. The vision of the leadership is typically enough to attract the innovators and the early adopters. Trusting their intuition, this group will do what they need to do to make the vision become a reality. Having an early success to demonstrate to other teams that this change is achievable and works as planned is critical. It promotes organic forward movement within the organization. These early adopters will also acquire invaluable native solution knowledge, tailored to the organization’s needs, which can be passed along to the groups next in line for adoption transition.
The early majority group is usually a much larger collection of people who are waiting for the solution to be proven out, to make sure it works. They don’t want to waste their time on an unproven initiative. Once the early adopters demonstrate the solution works, that it is proven and validated, a larger group of people will jump in. They'll follow the early adopters, and you'll start rolling that change out on a wider scale. Then, the change will start to become more entrenched and approach institutionalization. Once you’ve reached a critical mass, with a majority of this group adopting the change, that’s when the tipping point of the adoption is reached, and the rest of the organization’s alignment to change will become much easier. The rest of this group is often very eager to get on board to be in sync and benefit from the advantages of change. Once the tipping point is reached, the late majority of adopters will soon follow as they see the necessity, and as they respond to increasing social pressure.
These people are traditionalists and the last to adopt an innovation. They'll always find fault and reasons why the solution is a bad idea. They simply resist adopting change. It’s not an uncommon occurrence. Where the vast majority of the organization has changed, whoever is left behind and resists change represents a factor the organization must assess holistically. One consideration is whether these people are still a right fit for the goals and emerging practices in the era of continuous digital disruption. From the perspective of the change adoption, once the laggards are identified and given ample resources and opportunities to change, if they remain intractable, unwilling to change, then no more time should be spent with them. They may feel their traditionalist and old school mentality represents a quality of stability, yet their inability or unwillingness to see the wider picture and respond accordingly defines the level of their usefulness in this context. Think how well Blockbuster Video’s traditional thinking helped them face the challenge of their upstart competitor Netflix. These are not people you want to spend too much time worrying about during your change process.
Final thoughts on staging successful change. As an organization implements a LaaS solution, they’re making a significant change on a number of levels within the organization. A cultural transformation occurs. People’s way of working changes, the way they interact together will change. The culture is definitely impacted. For some members of the organization, when the changes take hold, they may not feel it’s the culture they want to be working in. This is the nature of business today, where organizations must adapt to the challenges of digital disruption and shrinking time to market. The key to adoption success is really about facilitating the early adopters to embrace the change, and then getting the critical mass group to follow behind, gaining momentum past the tipping point, to ensure long-term confidence of solution success.
The Months to Minutes blog series highlights how continuous testing, driven by test and lab automation, optimizes the validation of an organization’s networks and business offerings amidst the growing challenges of digital disruption. The result: taking testing processes which too often take months to perform, and deliver improvements where it can all be achieved in minutes – with increased efficiencies and capabilities.
In the next Months to Minutes blog, will explore The J-Curve Effect in Solution Adoptions. To learn more, please visit Spirent’s Automation Platform Technologies.