Change Management is a field of study that has been around for over sixty years. Yet most people outside of corporate executive roles at large companies have never heard of it.
Managing change is hard. Let's get that point out of the way right now. This is why government is so easy to screw up: you're involving and affecting a lot of people, and in most cases the decision makers don't even know what they're deciding. Not completely. There are always unintended consequences.
Let me give you an example from the corporate world. We'll do this through a peek into a late night conversation with a European client.
Change Management And Unintended Consequences
Imagine we have an old school financial firm that is making the jump to having its data online.
Until now, customers have received paper statements mailed at the end of the month. If they see a potential issue, they call customer service.
Customer service reps haven't had instant access to the data, either; and even if they did, they get a time gap here.
"Thanks for your call," they've been saying to the customer; "We'll look into this and get back to you."
And they do. They are good problem solvers. Look at the tone of the interaction: polite, a response to a friendly inquiry, with time to figure it out.
Now the company is moving to a self-service model. The data is going online, and customers have access to their up-to-date account information. Some customer service reps have been reassigned or let go. What happens next?
The customer sees the same data the rep does. They observe what they believe is a problem, and it's their money we're talking about here. They get mad!
Now they call customer service, and their tone is different than before the change. They're upset! And does the customer service rep have the time to dig into the problem and figure out what to do, like they used to? No!
They're expected to have an instant solution.
This is completely unexpected, both to the front line reps and the executives in charge of managing the change.
The surviving customer service reps may not even fully understand what is going on. "We got hit with all these upset customer calls!" they say. Some may even leave—why should they put up with the abuse?
The fact is the customer service reps need an entirely different skill set because of the change in tone resulting from the instant access to information brought on by the well-meaning change.
The tone of the calls has changed from inquiry to confrontation.
More training on "the system" is not what will help here, yet that is what many managers would prescribe.
Are you starting to see the challenge with making change?
Why it's so easy to make mistakes when making change?
How Experienced Suppliers Can Help With Client Change Management Initiatives
This is precisely the situation where an experienced solution provider can step in with their experience. If the customer allows them, they can share the benefit of their experience. "We've been through this twenty times," the supplier can tell the customer, who is going through it their first and perhaps only time. "Let us tell you about typical issues we've encountered."
Contrast with the Gung-Ho, "We're Perfect" sales approach of most pushy solution providers.
Will the mature and helpful supplier catch every possible thing that could go wrong with a change initiative? Of course not. The map is not the territory. But they can advise the customer, and get the customer into the mindset that the unexpected will be encountered.
How can you apply this mindset in your own organization?