How to Make Change Less Painful for Everyone

TPS Report and Change Management, Part II

In the last installation of “Process This!” we examined the infamous TPS cover report incident from the movie "Office Space" as an example of poor change management and faulty communication in implementing a new company policy.

In this post I'm going to offer some strategies for success in introducing workplace changes.

A fellow process-evangelist and esteemed colleague of mine, Lisa Shaughnessy, wrote a great blog post about how to successfully communicate business change (read Lisa's post here). In this piece, she breaks down the change planning and implementation into 4 distinct phases, outlines the actions for managers to take.

Phase 1. Awareness

Let people know what you’re doing and why: the goal is to give people enough time and information to understand what the change will be, why you’re making it, how and when the transition will happen, and how it will affect them. This should be done between 6 – 8 weeks prior to the change, depending on the scope. A change that’s more complex or that will affect people to a greater degree will require a longer lead time.

Phase 2. Reminder

Halfway between the completion of the awareness phase and full change implementation, send reminder messages reiterating why you’re making the change, how you’ll make the transition, and what it means for them. The reminder messages should also add two new pieces of information: steps they’ll need to take if applicable, and where they can find answers or ask questions.

Phase 3. Change is Here

Implement the change and let everyone who is affected know each step as it’s happening. The duration and nature of the roll-out depends on how complex the change is. You may need to hold an all-team training, demonstration, or questions and answer session. Make sure everyone has access to all instructions and resources needed to follow the new process.

Phase 4. Post-change

Keep the lines of communication open after the changes take place for follow up and support. Post FAQs and make sure people know who to contact for technical assistance or troubleshooting. Remember that people learn in different ways and some are better at adapting to change than others. You may need to find a few different ways to provide the information to ensure that everyone retains and adopts the new process. You can also send a follow up email 2 – 4 weeks after implementation to ask how things are going for those affected. This is also a good time to ask for feedback!

How I Would Have Handled the TPS Report

Using the TPS report scenario from Office Space as an example, here are some additional tips and actions Initech could have taken for a more successful roll-out of the new cover page policy (and in which phase the tip would be most effective):

  • Management could have held a meeting or teleconference to introduce the memo, explain the rationale behind the new cover page, and answer any questions or concerns for all Initech team members affected by the change (Phase 1).
  • To make sure the cover page was easy to use, the new process didn’t cause any unintended consequences for TPS Report distribution, and that all training and instructional resources were clear and effective, management could have convened a small group to beta test the new process. Once the feedback from the beta testers was incorporated into the materials, this group could serve as trainers to show the rest of the team how to use new cover pages (Phases 1 and 3).
  • To make adoption of the new cover page as easy as possible, Initech could have developed a template for the new cover page, and provided an example of a correctly completed cover page in the company shared drive (Phases 1, 2, and 3).
  • If the new cover page was replacing an older version, Initech should have made sure that only the new version of the policy is available on the shared drive, and removed the old version (Phases 3 and 4).
  • Initech leadership should have made sure that all company managers adopted the cover page immediately; if leadership doesn't follow the new instructions, no one else will (Phases 3 and 4).

While these phases and tips may not make the adoption of the new cover page any more fun, they will at least convey that the change is not futile. Think of how different Office Space would have turned out if Peter's managers had been more proactive and engaging in implement TPS report reforms!

How will you ensure a seamless introduction for your next office policy change?

Photo by Don Myers, Tps report, added text by A. Suchman, CC BY-SA 3.0