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We often hear that “Change is the only constant” or during a business transformation, that “The key to success of this transformation will be effective change management”.
Given the degree of leadership focus we see on this topic, it’s unfortunate that most of the times this is just lip service, with neither the thought nor the investment of people and resources being put behind these statements.
The key is in understanding that CHANGE needs ADOPTION to sustain. So you need a framework that drives adoption and interestingly applying key PRODUCT ADOPTION principles for change ADOPTION during transformation actually works.
1. End users adopt “Experiences” not service, product or initiative
If you study services or products that have been adopted rapidly it emerges that end users are attracted not only to the product but to the entire user experience. For example, Apple products provide a unique and seamless experience through the user interface and App ecosystem, allowing for much more pervasive adoption than competitors.
In the context of adopting change, the same logic of focusing on the “experience”, is key. Change is tough, but if leaders focus on breaking down the problem and understanding what stakeholders will undergo as an experience, half the battle has been won.
This is easier said than done, but keeping it simple works well as an approach:
1. Deconstruct what the change means from each stakeholder’s perspective
2. Focus on how the stakeholders will typically experience the change
3. Once you have a clear tested hypothesis on elements to drive a great experience, build your change management plan accordingly
2. Ease of use makes adoption go “viral”:
A product or change initiative that is easy and intuitive to use is more likely to get adopted very quickly and enjoy viral propagation. For example, the App ecosystem of Apple is so easy to use, build on and consume that it has led to viral growth of apps being developed and consumers downloading and paying for them.
Applying this to managing change, the key is how easy you make adopting the change through process, phasing, incentives and tools.
So in the change adoption context:
1. Prioritize and phase the change plan to make it super easy for stakeholders to adopt the change
2. Test that plan with stakeholders to validate what would make it easy for them to adopt the contemplated change and to get their input on the change plan
3. Refine the plan and execution on scope, and phasing. Most importantly focus on the actual execution i.e. the tools, organizational support and communication
3.“Friction” in any form kills adoption:
Unwavering focus on reducing “Friction” in any form, towards change adoption is critical. This friction could come from the organization, customer, technology or human interface, sales & distribution, or organizational processes.
Imagine a product / service that is great, fulfills a critical unmet need, is easy to use but that has other “friction” issues, such as an App crashing frequently or being too slow. In this situation, adoption of the product / service would suffer hugely, even if the first 2 conditions are met fully. In a nutshell, friction in any form kills adoption.
When it comes to change adoption, the same principle applies. Thus, focus on identifying ALL relevant friction issues preventing adoption
1.Classify these friction issues by their criticality into “critical nonstarters”, “key to sustainability” and others
2. Refine or if needed redo the change management plan to eliminate the most critical friction points and then to reduce or eliminate the remaining friction elements
As we applied this to our breadth of experience with managing change, this construct fits perfectly both in successful and unsuccessful change management initiatives. However, we also find that in successful change initiatives, this is usually intuitive and not implemented as a structured process. The risk with not formalizing it, is that it could lead to a change event failing if for instance a “critical nonstarter” was overlooked.
Every change event is unique and complex, but a structured and powerful framework outlined above, in conjunction with a robust change management process & resources, definitely ensures a higher change implementation success rate.
- By Sharad Vishvanath, SVP & Partner, Regional MD Asia Pac, Middle East & Africa, Aon Strategic Advisory. Views expressed are personal.