Change management in the digital age may mean different things to different people, but digital transformation doesn’t. Existing workforces don’t resist transformation as much as they fear change in their organization.
Most of us do understand that transformation is simply a process of utilizing existing and emerging technologies to profoundly change your business. Everyone is aware that the future lies in it. But, when it comes to change management in automation, the threat of job loss lingers. Adopting automation technologies is often associated with the fear of job loss through the replacement of human workforce with a digital workforce.
It is thus very crucial to address such issues through a core automation strategy. Essentially, an automation project should begin by establishing the most important factors required for overall success – trust and belief in the automation roadmap within the team. This ensures that all employees understand what management is actually bringing to the table, and how it impacts the employees’ own daily tasks.
8 tenets of change management
In the diagram below, you see eight tenets of change management. These tenets of change management – I prefer to call them ‘transformation spokes’ – are actually derived from “Kotter’s eight step change management”. The explanations below the illustration show how each of these spokes strengthens the organization’s automation wheel and helps with a smooth ride on the automation journey:
1. Inculcating urgency
Before a vision is even shared with the team, it is important that management creates an effective business case for automation, detailing why automation is required. Management should describe the problem supported by statistics of what automation will bring, such as increased cycle time, huge average handling time, number of complaints, huge manual work, customer satisfaction results, internal employees, pain points, etc. Ensure that the gravity of the situation is clearly emphasized; this eventually should inspire employees to provide necessary support during the automation journey.
2. Powerful coalition
The key stakeholders in the organization must be identified, and they should then act as ‘transformation leaders’ who can effectively:
- Communicate – explain what’s behind the automation change requirements
- Collaborate – bring the team together for implementation of automation
- Commit – devote more time to establish belief within teams
This transformation team will understand the bigger picture and will be approachable by all employees for any queries linked to the roadmap, and to what lies ahead in their career path.
3. Simplified vision
A clear, simple and understandable vision statement is an anchor point of the automation roadmap journey. The vision statement must support the strategic objective and clearly state the focus areas for automation to attain any business value. A worthy vision statement will never point to any threat such as the reduction of full-time employees. Any reduction in operating expenses (OpEx) and capital expenditure (CapEx), rather motivates everyone to contribute towards transformation journey.
4. Communicate effectively
Any communication prior to the strategy must make purposeful business sense and support the long-term interests of employees. The transformation leaders must not simply share the vision in an email, but rather demonstrate the vision in a creative manner. Any communication must not confuse and disorient the employees. A lack of proper communication can manifest in the form of non-cooperation and support from employees.
5. Remove barriers
The automation journey isn’t easy. There are always a few roadblocks due to the fear of role changes, newer responsibilities, advanced integration models and uncertainty about work value to an organization. Delegating big manual tasks to software bots always take away some roles and responsibilities from employees, thus creating resistance and disagreement among various teams. The key to removing such barriers is to evaluate impact and identify any alternatives. For example – any non-cooperation from employees during the process change can be addressed through effective communication – empathizing on the fear of job loss, understanding employees’ aspirations and then charting out a career path based on new roles and responsibilities, etc.
6. Short-term wins
There are always so called low-hanging fruits, such as simple use cases that can be implemented and demonstrated quickly. It is very important to demonstrate the effectiveness and benefits of the automation solution across relevant departments in an organization. It’s a great idea to reward various teams for their support during the automation journey. This boosts morale and brings positive impact on the overall automation journey – especially before implementation of complex use cases. Overall, short-term wins help to build momentum and reinvigorate the team’s efforts in planned or ongoing automation projects.
7. Build on change
Automation is an ongoing journey – starting from one focus area and spreading out to other areas. The notion of transformation using automation is not limited to one cycle of change, but continuously evolves, applying new/necessary best practices each time. Make sure that every new setup sustains and supports the next big automation wave.
8. Institute automation
Ensure to bring automation into each and every aspect of organization. It is important that all existing and emerging business, plus operating models, imbibe automation factors within them.
This is very crucial to not simply survive, but thrive in the digital transforming age.