So you made it through a go-live. Congrats! Whether this is your first or fifth, each go-live is never the same and always a huge accomplishment. I’ve heard implementations are like piloting a plane that is being built in mid-air. Now that you’ve landed safely at your destination, it’s important to keep up the momentum during post-software implementation. Believe it or not, your journey has just begun.
Now that the plane is built and it’s passed its test flight, the real journey begins. Many more scenarios will appear during post-software implementation: Scenarios that you would have never thought of during implementation. Users may feel nervous flying for the first time and need moral support. What was once familiar functionality during training now feels distant and confusing. In hindsight, you wish you took better notes, had screen shots and paid for more documentation. It’s true, the focus and energy was all put to the project, and not into the aftermath. Here are some strategies to help you and your crew take-off and land seamlessly with each task and help you get through any unexpected turbulence along the way.
What is your Transition Plan?
Now that the new system is here, a transition is occurring from operating in the “legacy” system to the new system. Staff now need to know what the plan is. Preferably, this transition plan is developed closer to the end of the project. The transition plan needs to outline when staff will receive information, training and support. They also need to be provided with their role in the transition process.
Refresh the Vision
The transition plan needs to include elements that will help stakeholders embrace and adapt to the new system. Everyone in the organization needs to expect change. The vision that led to the project should be re-introduced and refreshed to your organization. The picture of the future state is here (or on its way). Draw your staff’s attention to the elements of the picture that has been achieved and keep that picture as clear as possible. Create measurements that indicate that the vision is being achieved. Perhaps your vision is to have on time reporting. Count how many reports are on time since go-live. Count how many issues there have been since go-live and how long it took to resolve the issue. Now is the time to fulfill the vision and promote its fulfillment. Note that the vision may not be completely fulfilled at go-live as there is still much to learn and adopt from the system. Take the time to find examples of parts of the vision that are being fulfilled and what the plan is to reach the vision in its entirety over the next year at most.
Remember, “Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.” – Warren G. Bennis
Ways to refresh and promote your vision
Maintain the urgency that was generated for go-live. This sense of urgency will be needed to keep this change off the ground. People need to be reminded why the change was important to begin with and that their efforts are not in vain. They need to be commended for the accomplishment of go-live and not underestimate their role in the process of this change. Now that the system is in place and operational, everyone (even those not in leadership) have a key role in creating a positive experience of moving to the new system and learning it inside and out.
How to create urgency:
Communication is important in all areas of our lives, but most important during a change process. Two-way communication is even more vital. Employees need to feel that there is an open and transparent environment where they are being heard. To promote positive change, success stories of how a user or group of users have used the system to their advantage must be communicated to encourage all users that the new system is meeting their needs. Anecdotes presented at regular team meetings, on the organization’s intranet and around the water cooler are forums in which these stories can be infused into the culture. Any negative stories need to be acknowledged and addressed with next steps as to how the issue is being handled. Eliciting user feedback on the system should be handled with care so that it’s not counter-productive to the change process. I like to have an anonymous box where users can provide feedback on index cards so they feel free to voice their feedback. I also used online survey tools like “Survey Monkey” to gather such feedback electronically. It helped identify where the weak points of the system are, as well as what topics needed to be addressed in the next communication piece. Mechanisms like this able you to keep a pulse on the change process in the organization.
How can you communicate a message that “sticks”?
Rather than defaulting to the email or office memo, become creative with your communication tools. Tailoring specific information to smaller groups of audiences can go a long way into gaining their “buy-in”. Providing more surprising methods of communicating your message will grab attention as well as retain memory of what was said. Short-term meaningful wins need to be promoted to all. They need to be visible and undeniable. The whole user community needs to know about them to encourage them that their efforts will reap rewards for them too.
It will take users more time to complete a task in a new system than one they have used for years. Giving them time to learn and not rush will show empathy and leave users feeling valued. By helping to prioritize tasks, this helps to reduce stress and encourages the learning process.
With your transition plan in place, it’s time for you to focus on your user circle. Stay tuned for the next instalment to help you identify and leverage a user circle.