Field research over the last thirty years indicates approximately 70% of major systems installations fail to achieve on time and on budget the benefits they promised their organizations. In over 85% of those failures technological integrity is not the issue. Ultimately, whether timely or not, the technology will do what it is supposed to do. The problem lies not in the quality and elegance of the technical solution, but rather in the process of integrating the human beings with the technology, by gaining acceptance and building commitment to its optimal utilization.
Maximum Return on Investment in technology is gained by understanding the process of creating Readiness and determining, well before the end of the Design phase, that investing in that readiness is, long term, the more economically viable option. Making that decision after “Go Live” is too late.
The AIM Readiness Model
In the AIM Change Management Methodology there are 5 elements of organizational readiness:
- Information - This Information must give Targets the context for the change and answer the question, "What does this change mean to me?"
- Willingness - Targets will not automatically adopt the new processes or the new technology. What Reinforcements are going to be put in place to make individuals feel like it is better to move to the future than it is to stay in the present?
- Ability - Individuals need to be given the skills to be successful in the future state. Training should be performance based, meaning it is designed based on the specific skills and knowledge learners need to do their jobs. It should provide ample practice opportunities, immediately followed by feedback on performance of those skills.
- Confidence - Just because people have been through training doesn't automatically mean they will use the skills they learned back on the job. It's just human nature for people to only try out new things when they are confident, they will be successful. This confidence is gained by giving people lots of practice opportunities, immediately followed by feedback on their performance.
- Control - If you want to generate the maximum amount of resistance, just tell people what they have to do and how they need to do it! Remember the 3 I’s of Influence, Input and Involvement. Giving Targets a sense of control is key if you want your change to be implemented with less resistance and at speed.
Creating Readiness: The Leadership Responsibility
Sponsorship remains the single most important factor in ensuring successful Implementation. So, before putting all the blame on the end users, or even the project team for sub-optimization of new technology, it is in fact Sponsorship, which is the communication, reinforcement and resource commitment of people in power and authority, that is the single greatest determinant of how quickly an organization achieves Return on Investment. Creating Readiness, however, is not solely the purview of IT executives, but must be transferred to Business Sponsors as the Implementation progresses from Design to Planning and Implementation.
Ownership for systems Implementation ultimately must shift from IT/IS ownership to being driven by business leadership. The sooner this is done in the life cycle in relation to “Go Live”, the higher the likelihood the organization can minimize cost and increasing the speed of Implementation. Sponsorship, however, is not “ownership’ from a passive perspective. Sponsorship is a very active condition requiring business leaders to express their commitment to the new system, by demonstrating the importance of the project by changing their own behavior to reflect its importance, and by applying rewards and penalties for system optimization (not installation).
Readiness vs Resistance: It’s Your Choice
Resistance to new systems is not a function of either liking or even understanding the technology: it is a function of the disruptions to the current methods, processes and behaviors. Resistance is, in fact, inevitable and unavoidable. Traditional organizational responses such as communication and training will have only a limited impact on the strength and durability of the resistance generated by any one system installation. Beware the external consultant whose sole strategies for building readiness in your organization are limited to a Training Plan and a Communication Plan. These, alone, will not create system adaptation and acceptance in your organization: these activities will generate more resistance if not matched to a comprehensive Readiness strategy.
You have a choice on how you can allocate resources: “Pay Me Now” for system optimization, or “Pay me Later” for sub-optimized systems. You are always somewhere along a continuum between allocating scarce resources to create and build readiness or allocating more resources long term to manage resistance and retro-fit people to the system: a choice between the goal of Implementation, or remaining at the end state of Installation.
Resistance increases the cost of Implementation and reduces the speed of implantation, subsequently reducing Return of Investment on time and on budget. If you choose not to deal with the inevitable resistance at all you will pay long term for system sub-optimization. It’s your choice.