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Change Management and Technological Appropriation

September 13th 2010

Technological Appropriation

Managing change is crucial to the success of any technological project. Given that businesses are constantly evolving by adapting to new corporate visions and strategies, the need to become efficient agents of change and specialists in swift adaptation is critical.

Simply put, organizational change is any modification to an established workplace environment with which employees are familiar. When change occurs, whether planned or not, it will affect our employees' "comfort zone".

Failing to acknowledge the psychological impact change can have within an organization significantly increases the risk of failure when implementing new work methods or impairs learning new technologies. This is why it is a hot topic in today's media and why many universities offer specialized courses on the subject.

However, what is of interest to me in this post is the change in incorporating technology. In other words, the aspects related more specifically to the approach to change management when a new technological tool is being introduced.

I touched on the point above of how change management primarily manages the psychological aspect of the individual who is impacted or who is the target of change. Therefore, the project manager operates a little like a surgeon unblocking an artery, where necessary, to enable change to flow throughout the organization and gradually become part of operations.

The main difference is that while you are asleep on the operating table, the surgeon has the option to perform what is within their power to correct and improve your health. In contrast, if you're fully awake, you can offer some resistance to their actions. In the same vein, refer to "Resistance to Change".

This resistance is generally attributable to fear of the unknown, usually caused by an employee experiencing a loss of sense of direction and feeling disconnected from their role, recognition, and usefulness within the organization.

Since no one wants to feel useless and incompetent, an employee's reactions can extend from innocent, curious questions to unpredictable actions or emotional outbursts. In short, always bear in mind that any reaction, regardless of degree or type, is human and expected in a change situation.

The solution for any proactive manager is to immediately find an anchor point, a reference point for the employee experiencing organizational uncertainty. More specifically, if work methods have changed due to the introduction of new technology, focusing the employee's attention on the positive aspects of the targeted technology is essential. Centre your action on issues that will enable the employee to bolster their contribution to the business because this loss of self-worth is the source of uncertainty and, subsequently, resistance to changing the work environment.

Take, for example, the introduction of a new technology to improve the process of manufacturing an existing product. Here are some tips for a psychological approach that have proven helpful in the workplace:

    1. Emphasize that the result, the end goal, is always the same. If not, it will be improved in terms of delivery time, quality, or quantity produced. The product, the objective, acts here as a known benchmark.
    2. Draw the employee's attention to the fact that it is thanks to the ability to learn a new technology that they will improve the work environment and that the business will perform better. Encouragement to make an effort to "try" conveys a sense of recognition and value within the company in the employee's opinion. They may also improve business performance with the "long-term survival of their job" and "a more enjoyable environment", two winning benefits for them. Motivating them to try is a reminder that you value them as individuals. This positive message relieves anxiety about their role and skills, which naturally reduces resistance.
    3. It is important to bear in mind that motivation alone will not ensure that an employee will necessarily embrace new technology or work methods. In other words, make sure the employee translates thoughts and good intentions into action. This is crucial to ensure change does take place.

    To reduce resistance and speed up the introduction of change, make sure the employee rallies around the project, in other words, that he makes it their own. To help this mindset take hold, create a work environment where the employee can become acquainted with the technological tool and related technical characteristics.

    Therefore, it is crucial that you plan and provide the employee affected with a flexible schedule and a skills development program (specialized training) to adopt the new technology and "master" the new tool.

    Once you achieve this goal, you will realize that not only has the employee recovered their confidence, i.e. a sense of proficiency and contribution to the organization, but they will become a valued ally for training and winning over other members of your team.

    Although many businesses are aware of the challenges that come with managing change, few, unfortunately, approach it effectively when it comes to major projects within their organization. Always be on your guard if you hope to maximize the return on your time and investment.

    I urge you to read the following post, "Change Management", for additional information and, if you have time, take the time to read the bestseller entitled "Leading Change – 8-step process for implementing successful transformations" by John Kotter.

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