Peer to Peer Magazine

September 2011

The quarterly publication of the International Legal Technology Association

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Page 56 of 107

Leading Your People Through Planned Upheaval W hat sets the technology leaders apart from the systems folk? Mainly, it's a matter of knowing how to lead change from within. EXAMINE YOUR ASSUMPTIONS Imagine you're preparing for a major firmwide technology upgrade. When you think of a technology transition, do you picture it as a home improvement project — updating the plumbing and electricity, maybe move a few light switches around? Maybe the need for the upgrade is so evident to you that you don't even bother to explain the reasons behind the decision to your end users. If you assume that the changes you're making are an improvement, you might be surprised when users react negatively to the upgrade. You might find it difficult to understand why users perceive it as a radical — and horrible — transformation. Remember that humans, especially adults, hate having change imposed on them; we are creatures of habit. For many users, the old method might seem preferable, simply because it's familiar. So don't assume that "newer" will always be perceived as "better." THINK LIKE AN END USER Imagine a technology change as an involuntary mass migration: You're moving your entire user population to a strange new country where they don't speak the language, don't know how to get food and have no idea where they're going to sleep at night. Yet they still need to get work done. No wonder they might feel a little bit panicky. What can you do to help? Make sure that users have the right tools to be productive on day one. Help them distinguish between essential tools and "add-ins," remembering that the one person who uses a particularly arcane tool might perceive it as essential and be frustrated if she's told that it's not a top priority. TELL USERS WHAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN TO THEM AND WHY If a mass emigration is the experience you're preparing for, there is a lot you can do in advance: You might consider 58 Peer to Peer by Ruth Halpern, President of Halpern & Associates giving language lessons, explaining the trip itinerary so people have time to pack and prepare themselves and having plenty of tour guides on hand. Rather than trying to make the change seem invisible, which leads to the sensation of surprise and a perception of "no one asked ME about this," find ways to partner with your users so they feel included in the planning process — or at least understand the reasoning behind it. Hold brown-bag luncheons, offer brief demos, make information available on the intranet and on flyers in the lunchroom. Create a buzz. There will always be people who are too busy to listen to your message, who later claim that nobody told them that change was coming. To deal with this, use all available media options to communicate your announcements — email, posters, newsletters, etc. Most important, identify the key influencers in your organization, and explain the changes to them so clearly that they can tell your story to their colleagues. This is often the very best way to spread the word. COMMUNICATE THROUGHOUT THE PROCESS If you can find an analogy for your technological change, you can use that image to help you communicate more effectively with your non-IT co-workers. Not in the sense of doing a "sales job" on them, but in the sense of using your understanding of their needs and the system's parameters to ensure that they are fully informed about what's coming and how it will affect them. In addition, engage in a dialog with your end users, and give them an opportunity to ask questions, raise concerns, and give feedback before the system goes live. ASK FOR FEEDBACK AFTER ANY MAJOR CHANGE Your end users should provide feedback not only about the functionality and usability of the system, but about the process. What worked well? What could have worked better? How was the communication — too much, too little or just right? Electronic surveys are efficient and undemanding, but the response rate is often very low. A quick chat in the hallway or lunchroom can also offer terrific opportunities to solicit honest feedback.

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