Canadian Contractor

Regina Gadacz   

Managing change: The people behind the machines

Renovation Contractor

Part 4 of a 5-part series of articles to help small and medium-sized businesses manage their tech resources and grow their business.

If the previous articles in this series established the need for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) to be technology-driven and how this can be done, this article focuses on the other side of the story – the people behind the technology. The people driving the change. The people using the newly implemented information technology (IT), understanding it, and working with it towards achieving common goals.

The previous article explored the critical steps for evaluating and selecting the right software products, vendors, and other technology implementation partners. Now, let’s talk about the people who are going to facilitate the transformation and make it happen – your employees.

Moving beyond project management towards change management

We need to think beyond numbers, goals, and facts, and look at the human beings facilitating the technological changes. Do they get it? Do they buy into it? Have you invited their feedback, their opinions, and suggestions into account? And have they embraced the change and committed to it? Because this ship will only sail if they are all on board. This focus on the people side of things is change management – not to be confused with the CM associated with change orders – and it is critical for any technological change to succeed.


Let’s take a look at how companies can handle change management.

Survival of the IT-fittest

Technology drives today’s economy. And technology will play an increasingly bigger role in the company. Only the adaptable will survive, and this means change is not a one-time push, but a culture of continuous evolution.

With the right program in place, business leaders can create a culture that not only manages the disruptive impact of change for its employees but also invites employees to contribute their insights and ingenuity to technology projects.

Customer-centric trends in technology

Customer service. Customer experience. Customer-driven products and services. Innovation begins with the customer. Companies are elevating their customer experience with technology. Naturally, your ability to be customer-centric will be rooted in technology as well.

Here are some of the trends that will change the construction industry:

  • Internet of Things (IoT): Worksites instrumented with IoT sensors can send data to a central company platform to build a comprehensive view of the field project in real time. For example, companies use sensors in concrete to determine cure times and strength. Contractors can save energy costs by optimizing fuel, create site and worker safety, and reduce construction time.
  • Cognitive Learning, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning or Deep Learning: An increasing number of SMBs will see the value of incorporating AI into their deployments to manage all the data coming in. Machines can “learn” to speak, plan, reason, and solve problems.
  • Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR): AR is a live view of a real-world physical environment. VR is a computer-generated view that simulates a real experience.
  • 5G Wireless: 5th Generation mobile networks build on 4G and prior cellular networks, achieving faster data rates and faster response (lower latency). These high rates will open up more opportunities in the near future to roll out capabilities like IoT, AR, and VR.
  • Drones: These crewless aerial vehicles are already being used to collect data, providing information and reports related to progress, inspections, and health and safety audits.

The industry leader on how to plan change

As digital technology plays a more significant role in the economy, businesses that want to succeed will need to find ways to encourage adoption. This is because people resist change. Dr. John Kotter, former professor of leadership at the Harvard Business School, developed an eight-step process that has become the leading strategy for handling change. Build these into every technology project so that change is no longer a threat and, instead, becomes part of the technology culture.

  1. Create a sense of urgency: The project leader needs to convey the purpose of change clearly so that people understand and are inspired to change.
  2. Form a powerful coalition: One person cannot shoulder the change alone. Collect key people (change agents) to help enable the change.
  3. Create a vision for the change: Make the vision short, clear, relevant, and easy to understand by the people who will be impacted by the change.
  4. Communicate the vision: Don’t just talk the talk, but demonstrate real change throughout the project.
  5. Remove obstacles: As you implement change, you will meet physical and emotional roadblocks. Help people overcome these blocks by listening to their concerns and seeking their input.
  6. Create short-term wins: By demonstrating the benefits of change early in the process, you’re more likely to get buy-in and expedite the process.
  7. Build on the change: Project leaders shouldn’t assume they’re done with change once they’ve worked through a round of Kotter’s steps. Users sometimes appear to be on board with a project and then panic just before rollout. Be prepared to repeat the steps for a while to let the change settle in.
  8. Anchor the change: Finally, make the change stick by embedding it in the organizational procedures, operating models, and people’s day-to-day work.

Reactions to change: From storming to performing

People react differently to change. The reactions could vary depending on the type of change, the personality of the individual and the level of knowledge and skills they possess to embrace the change confidently.

People are more likely to accept something if they feel they are truly a part of it, and if they are allowed to provide inputs, give feedback, and contribute early in the process of change implementation.

Understanding the characteristics of each phase of change will help you recognize times when you need to take action (from the American Society of Training and Development):

Phase 1: Thrusting into the unknown: People prefer the familiarity of their current state despite knowing there are better options. Understanding the cause for resistance can help in effectively managing their transition from rejection to acceptance and, finally, getting to a point where they embrace the change.

Phase 2: Searching for normalcy: Even when you communicate and engage users, the ‘Searching for normalcy’ phase can be difficult and long-lasting. Your role as a change manager is to give them a lifeline of support actions to get them past a frozen state.

Phase 3: Learning new behaviours: There is relief and lesser anxiety as they understand roles and begin to support and optimize the team process.

Phase 4: Feeling surefooted: Teams begin to demonstrate interdependence and have the ability and commitment to perform well, without a lot of oversight.

Phase 5: Arriving back to normal: A healthy new system evolves.

Phase 6: Enhancing performance: Once settled into their new reality, their performance begins to improve.

Project resources need to be increasingly informed and engaged in order to manage the change process effectively. Continuous disruption, done well, can become a culture of continuous improvement.

A people-focused checklist for successful change

Ticking all the right boxes of change management ensures that the basic human needs of autonomy, competence, and belonging are met while driving business innovation forward.

  • Communicate the need for change, early and often.
  • Engage the culture by creating channels for employee input and involvement.
  • Transform the culture by investing in training, coaching, and counselling.
  • Monitor the impact of change on employees. Gather and analyze data about their reaction to changing processes.
  • Make ongoing adjustments to the change strategy as needed.
  • Align HR processes and practices to the new culture: Recruitment, rewards, training, etc.
  • Respond to feedback at all times.
  • Make sure everyone – from leaders and subject matter experts to project champions – is aligned.

The right technology can make your company grow in leaps and bounds. The right kind of people with the right attitude can keep your company well-grounded. Our goal is to make both happen.

Claudia Mamros, Founder & CEO, iCinfo


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