How to successfully implement changes

It’s not always easy to initiate change in an organization. That’s why here we give some useful tips and explain how to implement changes successfully. Take a look!

This year, I had the opportunity to participate in the planning, design, and implementation of a major change in the development process of one of our clients. The transition involved the movement from a centralized source control to a decentralized source control tool. Besides the technical details of that change, what I would like to share with you is what I have learned about how to successfully implement such a change. 

Prepare Yourself

If you need to design a change proposal or lead that effort, the first thing to do is prepare yourself and your team as best as you can. If you are not an expert in the subject, you should try to become one. Get and study information from different sources (books, blogs, tutorials, among others), talk with people who have done this in the past, and ask for their advice. 

Also, get your hands dirty, try out how that process may look. If possible, test your solution in a real-life scenario, like running a pilot project. These items will help you understand the challenges and find problems with what you are proposing, which will then allow you to make corrections.

The self-learning and the trials will help you to be prepared for the next step: Show your plan to “your users”.

Content related: DevOps: a cultural change to achieve agility 

Have a feedback loop

Once you are ready, the next step is to present your proposal to the people who will be affected by the changes or who would have an opinion or a stake in the subject. Often, it is not possible (or it might not make sense) to have everyone, so in that case, try to gather a good representation of all the parties. 

The first goal of this step is to get feedback about the changes. In order to accomplish that, be as open minded as possible and avoid being defensive. It is highly possible that people will disagree with what you propose or even criticize you. In such circumstances, try to use your emotional intelligence to not take these opinions personally. Remember that your end objective is to make your proposal stronger. Your audience might be pointing to real factors which could make your proposal fail. Take note of those factors!

The second goal of this step is to convince “your users” to accept the changes. Even when you have the power and authority to move forward with your proposal, at the end of the day, the users are the ones who will work with the new process, so they need to be on board. If not, they could make those changes fail. In order to accept what you are proposing, they need to feel that they were heard and were able to contribute. If they contributed, they will own a piece of the solution, which will move from your solution to our solution. 

However, from the other side, you will not be able to make everyone happy and you probably shouldn’t. You should avoid falling into the design by committee trap.  You, as the part of the team leading the design, should maintain the consistency and integrity of your design. (Side note: If you are interested in this topic, I would like to recommend the book “The Design of Design” by Frederick Brooks). You should only accept changes that will make your solution stronger and do not go against the design principles of your solution. 

Do not miss this reading: 5 tips to build a real and successful innovative team 

Let’s do it!

After you tune your solution with the feedback that you get, prepare the plan to implement the change, including all the necessary tasks and who and when should go ahead with them. Track dependencies. Communicate the plan to everyone with the dates when things will occur. Send those communications with as much time in advance as possible so people are able to prepare themselves. Send reminders after a while and right before the “go live”.

Once the plan starts its execution stage, be as decisive as possible. Your goal here is to make the change happen! If you miss something, try to negotiate to do it later. 

Finally, once the new process is in place, adjustments might be necessary. It is impossible to get it right in the first shot. Check how things are going and once again be open for more feedback from the users. Lastly, if it makes sense, implement the necessary changes. 

Conclusions

Implementing changes is hard. We shouldn’t overlook the human factor, as this is usually the most difficult part. People generally do not like changes. However, if you talk to them, explain why we are making the changes, give them a vision of the future, and be open to their feedback, they will surely get on board with the plan, and consequently, they will play a key role in making your plan succeed.

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