There are a few industries known to be somewhat change averse. In healthcare, for example, the way we receive medical treatment today isn’t that different from the way it was delivered 50 years ago. For acute medical care, you either go to a small office where you meet with a nurse and a doctor or to a large hospital with lots of nurses and lots of doctors. The basic technology within those buildings may have been periodically updated, but the overall structure of patient care delivery has not.
Similarly, the legal industry suffers from this problem. Lawyers tend to be rigorous, detail-oriented individuals with high expectations for themselves and others. In some ways, this is their job. They’ve been trained to pay close attention to the minute details housed within expansive, convoluted legal documents. Like with the medical profession, the type of work and expected standards tends to result in a staff that has become set in their ways.
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Change is hard
This is not to say that change is easy for everyone outside of these fields of work. Change is hard across the board. However, there are a few things your team can do to make sure the way you’re managing organizational change results in the smoothest possible transition. There are so many benefits of change management, but to see results, there is one thing you’ll need. The initial, most important step for managing organizational change is planning how you will create buy-in across your company.
What is change management process
Change management is a focus on the people side of change. It's the process of ensuring that employees are willing to remain engaged and adopt new technologies, processes, staffing structures, etc. There are two primary change management methodologies used by most organizations: Kotter’s 8 Steps to Change and Prosci’s Change Management Methodology. Both plans show helpful change management examples and outline the most important change management steps. An argument can be made for the merits of each plan, but they both stand on one main tenet: Good, lasting change doesn’t happen overnight. It requires careful planning to be executed successfully.
Managing organizational change
When you consider the current trends impacting the legal industry today, technology is the first thing that comes to mind. The legal industry has historically been very paper-based. Today, there’s a real struggle to adopt technology even though it would save time and improve efficiency. In the case of technological adoptions, staff may worry software is too expensive or insecure. Of course, these are valid concerns that should be addressed. Chances are, your leadership team took the time to address these concerns before sharing changes with staff. It’s easy to turn valid concerns into excuses for failing to adopt.
To combat these excuses, you have to come prepared. You need to identify champions and advocates for your change.
Create buy-in for your change
Without buy-in for your change, getting it to stick will be very difficult. As with most things, you’ll likely have a few early adopters. That’s great! DO NOT overlook the people already in your corner. These employees can be cultivated into champions for your change and outweigh negative feedback coming from anyone who is not on board.
Now, you’re probably thinking, “Well, I’m not worried about the advocates. How do I deal with the skeptics?”
Here are the tips you need to come prepared to convert the questioners.
1. Create a foundation for your change.
You’re going to have a hard time getting people to adopt your change if you don’t have a solid reason for why it’s happening. Create a presentation that clearly lays out the problem your change will solve.
2. Tell a story.
If you’re adopting new technology, for example, include a narrative testimonial from another, similar organization. If your change is widespread and will affect several departments within your organization, take the time to curate a specific story for different groups. A story where another team addressed a persistent problem plaguing each department is sure to resonate with staff and create converts.
3. Give ‘em the facts.
Stories are great to create an emotional response around your change, but you’ll still want to ensure you’ve got some cold, hard facts on your side. Numbers are easily shared and will help buy-in spread like wildfire. Show the decrease in hours spent on certain tasks or the amount of money saved each quarter. Show how this time and money could be reinvested in the organization for long-term improvements.
Pro-tip: Once you’ve cultivated a few advocates, make sure they have a strong understanding of the numbers or stories around your change. This will ensure they have the talking points they need help affect change.
4. Be prepared to address questions.
People are going to find holes in your plan and create excuses as to why they are unwilling or unable to adopt your changes. When questions, comments, or complaints arise, you want to be prepared. Spend some time brainstorming what may come up. You’ll want to address some of these areas in your conversations and presentations, but not all of them. Leave the answers to some of the higher-level questions out of your presentation to ignite and encourage discussion.
5. Keep things transparent.
Understand that you’re not going to be able to address everything, and there will be hurdles as you work towards complete adoption of your change. It's important to share the barriers to adoption with your team, openly address questions, and communicate your progress to help your staff remain invested. Plus, you’ll want feedback from your staff to help this change stick and to improve how you manage change in the future.
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