How to Reframe Your Approach to Change Management: We Are Family

Dave Coriale | 04.22.15
Topics: Association Management - Leadership

When implementing new technology, it’s rarely the new system itself that’s the challenge for project managers and IT staff. Rather, it’s your colleagues – the people who must work with the new system. People don’t like change.

René Shonerd, Managing Director of Technology Initiatives at the American Industrial Hygiene Association, found a way to understand, prepare for, and respond to staff resistance to change. She uses a 4-frame model developed by Lee Bolman and Terrence Deal, authors of Reframing Organizations.

In my last post, I described how René uses the first of the 4 frames, the Structural frame, to understand how a new project affects the infrastructure or framework of an organization.

Change creates ambiguity and distrust

The second frame, the Human frame, views the organization as an extended family. With this change management lens, you focus on people – their perceptions, emotions, and behavior. With the introduction of new technology and the resulting structural changes in policies, processes, and procedures, people aren’t quite sure yet what is expected of them or what to expect from others.

16280490590_f90cde20bc_zIn the face of this change, people believe their “old” knowledge and skills are being devalued. They don’t yet have the skills required for their new role or for new processes, and many don’t have the desire to acquire them. Their confidence and ego are shaken. As a result, they resist change, hoping others will see that the old way is the best way.

Provide comfort in the hopes of joy

In these scenarios, project managers and IT staff must provide support, or arrange for it to be provided. People need to feel heard. They need to feel secure in their status. You might have to act as a counselor, listening to them and helping them work through the anxiety they’re feeling.

“Counselor” isn’t a role most IT professionals are used to, but this support must be provided. René said, “If you’re not the best person to provide support, ask for the help of someone who can, perhaps human resources staff or a project champion on staff who has the aptitude for this type of role.”

A story from the association front line

A benefit of new technology is that it often frees up staff time to focus on more mission-critical work. But this change can be alarming to staff whose jobs are affected by that implementation. After a shift to e-commerce at René’s former association, the number of orders placed by phone and mail decreased, and along with it the need for data entry by call center staff.

“As we were moving to online ordering, the president set a goal to increase membership,” said René. “We worked with HR to draft new position descriptions for 2 of the call center staff because we shifted their focus from entering orders to entering membership prospect data. The way we handled this transition helped the call center staff deal with change because they knew their jobs weren’t going away.”

René warns that staff who are experts on an old system or process may feel anxious about learning a new system or process because they’ll no longer be perceived as the expert. She recommends including them in demonstrations, user acceptance testing, and formal training so they regain confidence and become more invested in the new system.

The Human frame helps you turn what could be a threatening and stressful time of change for your fellow staff into a more humane experience that will help them ease into transition with their dignity and ego intact.

Up next: the Political frame

Flickr photo by DaveBleasdale

About Dave Coriale

Dave wears many hats—president and professor among them. Author of DelCor's IT Maturity Model, he speaks, blogs, and even teaches on a range of strategic technology topics.

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