Implementing a new system can positively impact a business, providing a foundation for development and improvement.
Alternatively, it can harm an organisation, making the business inward facing whilst issues are resolved. The change process should be smooth and the impact of the change minimal or it can be painful and disruptive.
All of us have experienced both scenarios, but how can we more consistently deliver the former?
Training has a key role to play in delivering successful implementations, as the way people are introduced to any new system and how they learn to use it may be the main contact they have with the programme. Delivering training that engages people, motivates them to embrace change and encourages improvement is the key.
Our experience shows that there are a number of important considerations for the successful delivery of a systems change programme and the achievement of business benefit:
- understanding where the business is coming from
- communicate, communicate, communicate
- train the job, not the system
- rehearsal time
The management of business change is central to successful delivery, but if you also get the training right, you have a good chance of delivering a positive outcome on the project - i.e. one that delivers business benefit, easily.
Where is the business coming from?
Assessing your organisation’s readiness for change is an important part of pitching the training correctly. Sometimes you are pushing at an open door, other times the business is very change-averse.
If this is the case, find out why. It may be experience of previous projects. It may be a concern about the effects on jobs. It may even be that middle management is unconvinced about the need for change.
Once this is established, accentuate the positive aspects of the project and emphasise differences in the solution or the approach to the previous project.
It is also important that you identify who are the supporters and opinion formers within your organisation. These employees can be a vital support in promoting the system and the changes it will entail.
But do not ignore the detractors and the unconvinced; persuade the programme team to involve these people in the development of the solution and give them opportunities to learn about and support the project.
Your training solution must also reflect the culture of the business. Are courses the only acceptable solution? Is e-learning an option? Can you include testing or should you focus only on self assessment? Must you cascade the training through the management hierarchy?
Communicate, communicate, communicate
An effective communication programme is a core part of any training solution. If you do not inform people of the change, the reasons for it and its impact, then the first training course you run will be overtaken by questions from your delegates expressing concerns about the entire project.
Also, many companies say that they will only communicate when they have ‘something to say’. This should not be an option. If you give up control of information about the project to the rumour mill and the cynics, it will take twice as much effort to steer opinions back onto a positive path.
Our experience is that you must be clear on the messages - both positive and negative about the programme and inform people clearly and regularly. Be consistent, be honest, be timely and make sure you think about the change and communication from the perspective of the recipients.
We also advise you cascade information through fully informed management onto their teams.
Train the job, not the system
Too many times we see that a system has not been adopted effectively or the team are not delivering the much vaunted benefits of the system.
Often this is because they have been trained on the new system, but not in the new ways of using it. People will try to fit the system into the way they used to do their jobs, ignoring the purpose for which the system is designed. Or their managers still want to work as they used to, for example seeing information in the format they are used to, not the new way.
Either way people end up doing more work and not seeing the benefits of the new system.
The two key principles to adopt are:
- Training people to do the tasks they need to do as they will do in ‘real life’; i.e. involving the new system not just about the new system.
- Training people as relevant to their job; for example, a manager needs to understand what the team is doing differently to be able to manage them and understand what they can expect to see differently from the team.
People need time to rehearse or practice their new way of working to understand what the system looks like and how they will perform new tasks each day, week, month, quarter and year.
Using a scenario-based approach to this rehearsal or practice time will ensure people feel that day one of go-live is not the first time they have done each task.
Build time into the training schedule to enable people to practice, and this means doing something more structured than allowing people to ‘play’ with the new system! Build a bank of role - and time-specific scenarios for them to work on and complete.
Careful planning and briefing of the teams on what to do on day one and throughout week one is key to a smooth transition. Feedback on how the first few days have gone is equally important.
Trainers will need to be on hand to provide guidance and help, but most importantly to provide reassurance that what each person is doing is right. We have all seen people concerned about the first key stroke or menu selection. They are mainly right in what they plan to do, but need to be reassured it is correct and that help is on hand if they need it.
Change is difficult, because people in your business are learning about the new ways of working, whilst managing their day-to-day activities in the ‘old’ way.
By clearly explaining the change - what impact this will have, training them in the new job (and not just the new system), allowing time to rehearse for the future and finally, supporting the first few days of the new environment - you can get the commercial benefits your organisation needs and the smooth transition your teams hope for.
It is important to remember that this isn’t nirvana, it is achievable. In projects we have been involved in, we have seen the slow realisation at how smoothly the new system and processes have been adopted and the recognition of the importance of each of the stages outlined in delivering this success.