Software Adoption and Culture Change: Getting the Balance Right

Mark Barlow, AppLearn CEOCulture2018 04 06
Software Adoption and Culture Change: Getting the Balance Right
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Changing the culture in an organization is no easy feat. There will be a cultural path worn deep from years of the same management, core values and beliefs, and the workforce will have gotten used to the same technologies and processes that they have always used.

People get stuck in their ways and respond defensively to sudden events of change. So when a digital-transformation project needs to happen, it can come at a hefty price — even if your organizational culture doesn’t appear to be problematic or seems like it won’t be rattled by change. There could be a lot of problems you’re not aware of, and your organization’s culture could still be resistant to or afraid of a challenge. As Bryan Walker and Sarah A. Soule wrote in Harvard Business Review, “For organizations seeking to become more adaptive and innovative, culture change is often the most challenging part of the transformation.”

Successful cultural change in a digital-transformation project cannot be achieved through superiors sending an email and expecting the workforce to just go with it. Culture change must live in the collective hearts and minds of your workforce. Someone with a senior-level title can give commands, but they can’t drive conviction, passion or adoption. So how can you drive collective user adoption and cultural change in your organization?

Start by Understanding Your Workplace Culture

Before you embark on an organization-wide change project, you need to understand how your current workplace culture works. You must become an impartial observer of your culture in action. As Susan M. Heathfield wrote at The Balance, “Look at the employees and their interaction in your organization with the eye of an outsider. Pretend you are an anthropologist observing a group that you have never seen before.” How do your managers interact with employees? How do your senior managers lead?

Observe how emotions play out in the workplace. Is there tension between employees? How do employees react to positive and negative feedback? Are employees away from their desks a lot, or do they seem engrossed in their work? Emotions can be your key indicators of workplace culture, and there’s a lot to learn from them.

Look at the workspaces your individual teams have created and the personality that they hold. Is there much color, light, family photographs, plants or artwork? Or does the environment feel more sterile? You can pick up a lot about workplace culture from what you observe around the working environment, and from what you can’t see.

Create Your Vision of Change

Your organization must decide on its next strategic direction. What does the ideal organizational culture look like that supports your digital-transformation initiatives? What vision does the organization have for the future, and what does a successful future look like? How must the culture change to support this vision? If your employees aren’t persuaded by your vision of change you can’t expect your culture to change anytime soon.

The change vision and strategy give the organization a picture of what the future looks like after the change is implemented. It tells organizational stakeholders why they should let go of the past, sacrifice and work hard in the present, and follow senior leadership into the future. It creates a sensible and appealing picture of the future, and it provides guidance for organizational decision making. “Sensible” and “appealing” are important parts of that equation.

Managers and employees especially will want to know that the proposed change is feasible and desirable. If either is missing, they won’t embrace the change — it’s not in the interest of managers or employees to make sacrifices for a future that’s worse than the present. Senior leadership and the guiding coalition must develop a compelling message that will tell managers and employees that the future is a desirable place to go.

Getting Your Organization to Accept Change

It’s always more difficult to change the culture of an existing organization than to create a culture in a fresh organization or team. When an organizational culture is already established, employees must unlearn their old values, assumptions and behaviors before they can open their hearts and minds to something new.

You need to win over your workforce, and that isn’t easy. But with the right executive support and training — the two most important elements for creating organizational culture change — you will find success.

Needless to say, executive support must come from your senior executives. They must support the cultural change, and in ways that go beyond words. Executives must lead by changing their own behaviors if they’re going to expect changes from their workforce. It’s extremely important for executives to consistently support the change, as this will send the right message down through the organization and across individual project teams and employees.

Perhaps the hardest step of all is getting your employees to the level at which they can accept change and the needed new processes and systems. Your employees will need consistent support and training to help them. The ADOPT platform, built by AppLearn, supports culture-change initiatives by up-skilling users with on-demand support content.

Training can be very useful in communicating expectations and in teaching new behaviors. Mentoring and effective communication will also help employees learn and change. Culture change depends on behavior change. Members of the organization must clearly understand what’s expected of them and must know how to execute the new behaviors once they have been decided.

This article was provided by one of our UNLEASH sponsors.

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