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Change Management 101 (a.k.a. How Not to Get Cussed Out by a Student)

Thursday, March 22, 2018 11:39 AM | Kevin Smith (Administrator)

Change Management 101 (a.k.a. How Not to Get Cussed Out by a Student)
By Steve Klubertanz

Consider this scenario: You are at a client site preparing to teach a new application or process that users must know for an upcoming implementation. You greet the participants as they enter and get settled in. The class starts and each student introduces themselves. All is going well . . . until a stern-looking student introduces himself by saying “Why do we have to learn this ‘@#$%^& thing?!”

Yes, that happened to me years ago, and I presume most trainers have a similar nightmare story. Fortunately, I quickly and gently diffused the situation and the class ended smoothly.

That “cussing guy” always crosses my mind when thinking about change management. Too often, organizations believe that training is the answer to any business change. They say “Just train the people, and they will be ready for the change, right?”  Wrong.

For any business change to be successful, here is a simple five-step process to consider:

  1. The business must communicate and support the change. This means clearly explaining why the change is necessary and how it aligns with the strategic direction of the organization. It is imperative that senior leaders actively and visibly support the change. If people observe their senior leaders being indifferent or silent about the change, they are much less likely to support it.
  2. Those impacted by the change must decide on their level of support. Maybe they like the change and get on board right away.  Maybe they are ambivalent. Maybe they hate it. Maybe they realize they need to just accept it and move forward. The level of acceptance or resistance can vary widely.
  3. Learning is the next step. Only when people support or accept the change will they be receptive to any learning provided. NOTE: This is likely the reason why “cussing guy” resisted in my class. He was probably told to go to training without an explanation of why the change was needed. (Big “ah-ha” moment for me!)
  4. After the learning, people must have time to apply their new knowledge to better prepare for the change when it occurs.
  5. After the change, support mechanisms must be in place to reinforce the change and ensure the people do not revert back to the old way of doing things.

So, as a change management specialist, what do I do a

s it relates to this five-step process? And how can you do it, too?

5 Best Practices to Supporting the 5 Step Change Process:

  1. Work with senior leaders, key stakeholders to identify all impacted groups and examine how their specific job role will change.
  2. Gauge the level of acceptance or resistance and develop communication plans to address all areas of concern.
  3. Conduct a learning needs assessment and work with the learning resource on any training deliverables.
  4. Ensure mechanisms are in place to support the learning after it has occurred.
  5. Gather feedback through surveys, interviews, or additional communication to gauge user acceptance and adoption of the new way of doing things.

My role in change management has been eye-opening. It has expanded my paradigm of how user adoption to change really happens. I look much more holistically at the learning function and how it aligns with the entire change process. People are more prepared and ready to learn when they fully understand how the learning impacts themselves, their team, their department, and the business.

The best news since applying effective change management? No student has cussed me out since.


Steve Klubertanz is a Senior Change Management Specialist at TDS, Inc.  He is part of a team responsible for Enterprise-wide IT change initiatives. Steve has over twenty years of experience in training, education, and change management.  With a Bachelor of Science in Business Education from UW-Whitewater, he has had past roles in technical support, training manager, and senior training specialist. He has also presented at several regional and national conferences on various change management practices and methodology.

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