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Planning a change? Don’t forget to factor in feelings

Whether you're introducing a timesaving digital tool, rolling out software or transforming how an entire company does business, the chances of a successful launch will increase by a third if the people at the centre of your plans are emotionally invested.

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You've pinpointed a problem your organization faces, and now you're ready to start mapping all the actions, managers, dependencies and contingencies to deliver the solution. However, to make any kind of difference, this solution needs to 'stick' – which is far less likely if your plan doesn’t consider the people who have to adapt their working habits and routines to support it.

When McKinsey surveyed more than 3000 executives globally on their experience of transformation projects, they found that only one in three succeeds. They also determined that the chances of success increase by almost a third when the wider organization is involved, engaged and supportive. So once your solution lands on your colleagues' desks they’ll recognize how much easier it makes their lives and use it right away... won't they?

An infographic showing chances of success improving by a third

Before you make any assumptions, cast your mind back to a moment when you've found it frustrating to use a tool or system for the first time, perhaps using an emergency smartphone with a different operating system or setting up a projector in an unfamiliar venue. If you've ever found yourself surprised by the intensity of your emotional response during this sort of scenario, then consider this a tiny glimpse of the reaction you could end up provoking across an entire organization!

To minimise the chances of your proposed solution failing because it's demotivated, puzzled or frustrated the people you want to introduce it to, here are the four considerations to include in your planning:

Telling the whole story can help your audience come to recognize that your project has a mission, and one in which they play a key role.


Share the story behind your plans

If you incorporate just one of these four into your plan, make it this. You've identified the solution for your organization and the next step is telling everyone about how brilliant it is – but if they aren't aware of the problem, the meaning in your message can get lost. Thinking it could be bad for morale, many leaders prefer to keep negative information under wraps; one of the unforeseen consequences of this approach is people perceiving themselves to be mere onlookers.

Telling the whole story – and a transformation plan is just that, following the classic three-stage arc of problem, quest and victory – can help your audience come to recognize that your project has a mission, and one in which they play a key role. Once you've started telling this story, don't stop; your plans should outline the regular points when everyone’s regularly updated on achievements, challenges and next steps. If they might be called upon to take part or help out soon, give a little heads-up – and always convey your gratitude.

Finally, make sure your communications are two way. User insight can help make your eventual solution more effective than you ever thought possible, but if you don't hear back, don't stop reaching out. When everyone feels consulted and listened to, they're much more likely to stick with you on the collective journey.

Leave room to foster new skills

Once your plans include getting everyone on board, the next thing to factor in is how you’re going to keep them there. The first test they'll face on your shared mission will be practical; how they'll use the new tool or follow transformed processes. If they can’t overcome early challenges, they're much less likely to picture themselves adopting your solution permanently.

This is where training and user support can make or break your rollout, so considering it adequately in your plans will save huge headaches down the line. Beyond those initial rollout sessions, identifying and training 'champions' to help their colleagues navigate the technical details will help your solution bed in with them. Remember that everyone learns differently, so planning different formats for support – written, video, spoken – will help the biggest number of people get to grips with it all after launch.

If you sold people the idea of a solution to get buy-in, failing to use it yourselves will damage trust.

Demonstrate the successes

When rollout day comes and you and your project team collapse with relief, it's easy to lose focus on the part that's left for you all to play from here on. People will now be looking to each other's reactions to this new solution to determine what they'll do next; it's just the way our brains are wired. If you sold them that solution to get buy-in, failing to use it yourselves will damage trust – so it's important that you all to remember present a consistently positive example yourselves.

However, this collective mindset also presents an opportunity to strengthen the perceived value of your solution, too. Continue project communications after launch, sharing others' real-life use cases to supply 'social proof' of your solution – so make sure your engagement plans reach beyond delivery, and look out for people who are succeeding with it early on.

Back it all up officially

The final aspect to consider in your project plan won't inspire any positive emotions in the people you’re persuading to adopt change, but it will provide a foundation that underpins all the storytelling, learning and demonstrating you're planning to do. Incorporating your proposed change in official policies, procedures and job descriptions defines what's expected of everyone for the get-go – so including it in your plans will give HR, IT and administrative staff enough time to back your solution up with some simple rules.


Our award-winning Customer Success team are experts at helping organizations secure the widest possible adoption of Chorus, our next-generation digital asset system that’s transforming how creative teams collaborate. If you'd like a deeper dive into change management planning, they've recorded a half-hour webinar with further discussion and detail - click below to watch. And if you have any questions just [email protected] - we're always here to help.


Watch the Change Management webinar


Author: Edie Mullen


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