“If you want to build a ship, don’t gather people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather, teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.” Saint-Exupery
Ok – so I don’t get out on the water that often, and I’m a cyclist so I tend to write about that. As a cyclist, there are a variety of things I’m always thinking about. I’m thinking about my weight a bit too often, I think about how my bike is working, I think about my form on the bike, and of course, how fit I am. These are all things that I work on constantly. Each component makes me a better rider if I can have small improvements in any area. There is a joy to riding well, but that’s not really why I ride. Climbing up Mt Tam in the bay area north of San Francisco, there is a descent off the back side that goes towards Stinson beach (Panoramic if any of you are in the Bay Area). You start the descent in the trees, and it’s one of those nice, curvy, fast descents. There is a point however that only lasts for 2 seconds when you break through the trees, and a scene of 180 degree views of Pacific Ocean opens up in front of you. You have Stinson Beach below, blue sky above, and one of the most breathtaking views in the world. Without all the little components of fitness, great bikes, etc, you can’t really do this ride. But the ride is not about the component parts – it’s about that 2 seconds of pure joy. We build things in order to increase our achievement and experience. If all I did was work on my bike to get fit, I’d have been out of cycling years ago. I spend hundreds of hours on the bike just for those 2 seconds.
When we deploy anything in HR (or really anywhere in our businesses), we do a fantastic job of crafting communications and training programs. We are amazing at making sure people know what is going on and what to do. We last think we are great about behavioral change – getting people to not only know what is going on and what to do, but actually wanting do it repetitively over time. This is where we are wrong. I’m not sure we are at all any good at behavioral change. Changing behaviors has nothing to do with pounding people over the head with information, and forcing them to do new activities because the old way of doing things has been completely removed. Yeah, we can get people to do a task or process by edict, but 100% compliance to the change does not actually mean you had 100% adoption or engagement.
What we often forget is the importance of audience analysis. “What’s in it for me” changes not only with every population type, but with every person. I’m not advocating that you go through and figure out what every manager in your organization wants when you deploy a new manager self service application, but it’s probably worth the time to spend extra time here segmenting the population to gain greater understanding. Let’s face it, we are always rolling out processes and technologies saying that there will be a dramatic improvement of efficiency or effectiveness for our business. We know intuitively that these outcomes only happen if our audience adopts and engages.
4 things you can do differently to improve your audience analysis:
- Don’t wait until you have a major process or technology implementation to figure out your people: Chances are that you will roll out processes and technologies to your populations repetitively over the year(s). What drives a population really is not going to change that much over the short and mid term. Why not do the work up front and use the basic drivers every project? Then all you have to do is connect those drivers to the specific project you’re deploying. The first part of budget to get cut is the strategic change management stuff, so why not do that up front so it’s not part of any specific project’s budget?
- Increase the segmentation of your populations: I hope you don’t think that managers are managers the world over. There may be significant differences in wants and needs based on countries, business units, age, and any other number of dimensions. Figure out dimensions drive difference in your organization and focus on those areas for each population.
- Don’t forget to tie into the business strategy: How often do we connect the projects to the benefits, but we then forget to connect those benefits to the department, unit or business strategy? Assuming that your employees are engaged to the business goal, this is easy low hanging fruit to exploit. “It will make the transaction faster for you to process” is all good, but if you don’t point out how/why the manager is driving business outcomes, you’ve failed to maximize the change impact.
- Figure out who your evangelists are: We’re pretty good at putting together focus groups of managers who can help us spread the word. We use these people as advisors and they help us test. But we don’t really have that much success with having them evangelize for us. We’re afraid they won’t have time to get on a training webinar to talk about their experience (they can record a video and only do it once, you know) or we simply don’t plan far enough in advance to lever them during the deployment. The truth is, employees and managers don’t really care what we in HR have to say – the 5 minutes one of their peers takes to talk to them is 100 times more valuable.
- Nope – I really don’t expect that any of our change management activities will convert any business process into 2 seconds of joy, but we’re not even close to that. For many of us, our change management activities are the pre-ride check of putting air in the tires and making sure the gear shifters work. We’re not actually even riding the bike yet. There’s a lot of improvement to be made.