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In this article I will discuss how online collaboration tools can be used to continue and even accelerate your change management programme, when your project team and target audience are working remotely.

I won’t go into the reasons why change management is so vital for any project of change, but let me know in the comments if you would like an article to demystify change management, showing how it can be fun, engaging and instrumental to achieving real change on the ground.

My own use of collaboration tools and remote techniques has been at the heart of launching new HR systems, processes and operating models – but the approach can be equally applied for IT, Finance and many other business transformation programs. 

So here we are, it is April 2020 and the world has changed. Adaptation is our middle name, and we have found new ways of looking after loved ones, socialising, living and getting work done. It may appear predictable to write about the pandemic, but it serves an important point: We should aim to take the best of technology, whether we last used it in our personal lives or our working lives, and apply the best of it to make a positive impact. Additionally, many of us will have transformation or change projects on hold or slowed down because of the global pandemic. This article sets out practical methods for restarting these projects with pace.

So how can we take the best of technology and apply it to our current change management projects? How can we restart our projects when team members, stakeholders, sponsors and country teams are working remotely?

I recommend using these techniques not only as a stopgap, compelled by remote working, but in spite of it – these are engaging methods to achieve desired change, at any time:

1.         Design for the end user: Use feedback gained through your change management project to influence your “change”. For example, let’s assume you know that a particular process for your HR system is overly complex. Your change management will be more successful if you can influence the technical project team and arrive at a more user friendly, simple process. This is classic design thinking that will usually form part of a system implementation, but as a change manager there is always opportunity to provide feedback and improve the experience for the end user, so be aware of this, always.

2.         Plan your project scope carefully: Choosing your scope carefully and agreeing it with your sponsors is vital. Be clear about what “the change” is and then set about planning your project around one goal – achieving successful change around that scope. Be aware of time and resource constraints to ensure the scope is achievable

3.         Choose the right methods: There are a few methods at your disposal as a change manager (e.g change impact analysis, stakeholder mapping, change readiness survey and many more). Ensure each method has a clear reason for being used. Don’t feel you need to use every method at your disposal when just three or four well-chosen methods will accomplish what is required. Think about which tools can be easily transferred online, and which truly require face to face involvement (more on this in point 7).

4.         Choose your tools wisely: Not all software offers the same functionality, so think carefully about how you will use each platform. A good example is video conferencing. I find it invaluable being able to read an audience and gauge their engagement during a meeting. Zoom allows you to view all participants in equally sized windows, at the same time, whereas Microsoft Teams does not (although at the time of writing, Microsoft is reviewing this and it may be added in a future update).

5.         Engage your sponsor, build your Change team: You will need a change management team who are happy to work remotely using online collaboration. Make sure your sponsor is fully aware and supportive of your approach as much as the change itself. Your sponsor will be instrumental in building excitement, setting expectations, and helping you recruit an engaged project team.

6.         Make it fun, build excitement: So important! Building a sense of excitement around not just the change itself but also the change management journey is going to make the project enjoyable and easier to achieve. For some, their involvement can be seen as an opportunity for career development, so be sure to promote the project as such!

7.         The power, reach and speed of remote: Bringing a project team together in the same room is engaging and powerful. It is a tried and tested approach that works, but it takes time, not to mention travel. Many change management activities and methods can work very well indeed using online collaboration tools; in truth I believe some are better and faster if completed using remote working. Here are just a few examples:

a.         Video conferencing (e.g Zoom, Webex, MS Teams): Use polls, use the chat functionality, build excitement with large dispersed groups. Get to hear input from the quieter members of a group. Diversify your attendees – not only those who are in your building. Split larger topics and tasks into smaller working groups or different sessions – there are so many ways to use video calls to get work done in a speedy way. Even short workshops can be done remotely, although longer workshops do present a challenge if delivering remotely.

b.         Collaboration tools: Keeping your project team up to date on progress, crowd-sourcing feedback on the fly, collaborating and voting on key themes for your communication plans, sharing documents for online editing – these are all so much quicker and better than traditional methods, and again – progress can be rapid with an engaged group!

c.         Use of Video: Why limit your training to face to face training sessions? What about new joiners, or line managers who cannot attend? Executive communication about “the change” can be delivered far and wide by using video and replayed when necessary. The important point here is to make videos snappy, bitesize and accessible to encourage as many views as possible. Use your comms team if possible, to add subtitles and to edit videos to achieve a professional result that is easily digested by as many colleagues as possible.

d.         Augmented Intelligence, Automation, Analytics: Consider automating your reporting and analytics to track how your change is taking hold. Put in place surveys with sentiment analysis to understand your audience and end users. Use data visualisation tools to make it simple to bring data into your discussions with business leaders and truly quantify your results and the impact that your project is having.

8.         Communications and campaign launch: This is where the engagement of your wider audience comes into play. If by the point of launch, your organisation is attuned to online meetings as the norm, then your communications campaign can go online also. If your target audience is widely dispersed and is back working physically in the workplace, then simply use your change champions and key leadership & stakeholders to deliver your campaign messages locally. Language will be a consideration of course, so ensure materials are available in local language where necessary.

9.         Levers & Pulleys: Your change project shouldn’t be a fleeting flash of activity that peters out, but a sustainable change – part of the fabric of your organisational culture and ways of working. To achieve this, consider all the levers, tools, and mechanisms you can put in place:

a.         Use annual objectives to influence behaviours

b.         Use analytics to provide insight on how the change is taking hold 

c.         Close old methods and processes to ensure the new change takes hold

d.         Schedule governance meetings with leadership to track progress

e.         Continually review training materials to ensure they are up to date

Change management is essential, exciting and powerful. I hope you are enthused by the ideas above and keen to continue your change management, whether on site or online. Please keep an eye out for my next HR Transformation articles either here on www.honeycombhr.net or on my LinkedIn page. Please contact me, Nat Backhouse, to find out more.

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