Date: April 3, 2003
To: Bruno Bellweather, HR Director, Technotic
From: William Slater, IT Staff Consultant, Technotic
Subject: Answers to Your Questions Regarding the Planned Announcement on the Transition to the Cranberry Computer System
Thank you for bringing your questions and concerns about Mr. Technotic’s Cranberry Computer System announcement memo to my attention. I understand and share your concerns.
To be blunt, it would seem, that by his own admission, Mr. Technotic’s zeal and subsequent haste in this decision is strongly influenced by the fact that his brother-in-law is the founder of Cranberry Computer Systems. He also proudly disclosed the fact that they made this mass migration decision together, apparently without input from other Technotic employees. So this memo, as written, will no doubt create, in the minds of Technotic employees, the image of a CEO who seems to think more of business deals he can arrange with a family member, than being concerned about possible hardships of forcing rapid change on his own employees. All in all, not a good thing.
The possible impacts of this rapid migration on morale alone could be very strongly negative. And if this project were to go as the memo suggests, the company will pay a heavy cost because of the loss in workforce productivity as employees have to overcome the product learning curve of the new machine and the new word processor, and because of the loss in productivity for the conversion of the previous documents that are in MS Word format.
Yet, as I ponder the circumstances of the situation of this announcement memo from Mr. Technotic, I am reminded of the famous lines from Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s poem, “The Charge of the Light Brigade”, which dramatically, and poetically chronicled the suicidal charge of a brigade of light cavalry of British soldiers during the Crimean War in 1854 (Tennyson, 1864):
`Forward the Light Brigade!'
Was there a man dismay'd?
Not tho' the soldier knew
Some one had blunder'd:
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do & die,
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
These lines are often quoted when a leader laments about the hopelessness of a situation. However, if you remember, that during our very recent five-week course in Change Management Training, we learned some important concepts about managing change in an organization. Let’s examine some of the ones that probably apply to this situation (Robbins, 2002):
Resistance to Change
Examples of Individual Resistance to Change
Habit -- People having to change their work routines
Security -- Resistance when security needs are threatened
Economic -- Having their salaries threatened
Fear of the Unknown -- Fearing what they don’t know or understand.
Selective Information Processing -- To keep their perceptions intact
Examples of Organizational Resistance to Change
· Structural Inertia
· Limited Focus or Change
· Group Inertia
· Threat to Expertise
· Threat to Established Role
· Threat to Established Power Relationships
· Threat to Established Resource Allocations
Some Proven Methods for Overcoming Resistance to Change
· Education and Communication
· Facilitation and Support
· Survey Feedback -- Employee feedback is important
· Process Consultation – having a consultant perceive processes and events
· Team Building – using group activities to create strong teams
Another set of ideas to consider about leadership and change is shown below from a collection of articles in a book titled, Skyhooks for Leadership, edited by John A. Shtogren. James O’Toole, author of Leading Change, published by Jossey-Bass, Inc.1996, is the original author of this excerpt:
“…leaders fail when they have the inappropriate attitude and philosophy about their relationship between themselves and their followers. Those who do not respect and trust their leaders cannot follow them, Conversely, those who succeed at bringing about effective and moral change believe in and act on the inherent dignity of those they lead – in particular, in their natural human capacity to reason. In bringing about change, these leaders of leaders always include the people affected in the change process. ” (Shtogren, [Ed.] 1999).
Based on many of the ideas listed above, the high risks and costs associated with this migration notwithstanding, if had a chance at managing this project, I would take the following steps:
1. Have a serious talk with Mr. Technotic, telling him that it is essential to the success of the project that he rethinks his current plans. And then I would ask that he empower me to lead this project. During this talk, I would emphasize the need for some well-thought out steps to introduce this migration.
2. Ask for two weeks to assess the impacts as much as possible, both in terms of lost employee productivity and the cost to the company for converting the format of thousands of electronic documents. These need to be quantified as much as possible before proceeding. In addition, we need to determine the impacts of losing access to other programs that may not be available in the target Cranberry environment. For example, what about the employees’ databases, spreadsheets, presentation software, and especially their e-mail? Does the Cranberry system have programs to handle these essential functions that our employees need and use daily?
3. Get an advance copy of two of these Cranberry systems and well as the Cranberry Phrase word processor. Work with our support staff to determine the ramp up time to be able to properly support our employees as they experience problems or require technical support.
4. Ask for a longer window, of perhaps six to eight weeks for the conversion.
5. Based on findings during this two week analysis, create a project plan that would scope out each of the steps required to be successful in this rollout, including support ramp up, demonstration, education, documentation conversions, and implementation of the new Cranberry systems.
6. Search for some kind of effective, but inexpensive training program. Also considered here would be computerized training and perhaps videos on using the system and the Cranberry Phrase word processor. We should buy the absolute best Cranberry Phrase handbook or user’s guide for each employee as well.
7. Identify fast learners who are technically savvy, and work with them to develop a brown-bag lunch training series, to help the employees learn the nuances of the Cranberry system as well as Cranberry Phrase and any other software that will accompany these systems.
8. At the right time, send a company-wide announcement memo that the migration is coming, and accompany this memo along with the timelines for the roll out. The memo, but not the timeline is attached.
9. Execute the project plan, based on the timeline we established.
10. Based on the assessment and understanding of the Cranberry system and Cranberry Phrase, I would create a survey that would be distributed to each of the employees four weeks after the rollout. This survey would attempt to measure six things: 1) their satisfaction with their training; 2) their satisfaction with the Cranberry system; 3) their satisfaction with the Cranberry Phrase software; 4) their satisfaction with the technical support for the new environment; 6) their satisfaction with how the rollout project was conducted, and 7) what difficulties are they experiencing related to the loss of any other programs that they no longer have. Preferably, we would use e-mail for this purpose, sending Cranberry Phrase format documents. Based on this survey, we would be able to determine our success, and if additional training was required.
For your review, I have also written a revised copy of Mr. Technotic’s memo, incorporating the ideas discussed in this memo to you.
William F. Slater, III
One Attachment: Revised Memo to Terry Technotic:
Date: April 3, 2003
To: All ACME Enterprises Employees
From: Terry Technotic, President
Subject: Announcement on the Transition to the Cranberry Computer System
Dear Fellow Employees:
I am delighted to announce that after much analysis and planning, we have determined that it will be in the best interest of our company to migrate our workstation computers to the high quality, high performance Cranberry Computer System. Along with this migration, we will migrate to their revolutionary word processor known as Cranberry Phrase. I have chosen a well qualified, experienced IT professional with over 25 years of experience to lead this very important project. He is our very own staff IT consultant, Mr. William Slater, and I hope you will support him as he works with each of us to make this Cranberry rollout project successful.
To make this transition as smooth as possible, ACME Enterprises will provide training, excellent technical support, as well as a conversion process, to assist in the rapid conversion from your MS Word format documents into the Cranberry Phrase format.
I want to assure you that we understand the concerns that go with making a change of this magnitude, and that we will be as supportive and understanding as possible, as we go though this big change together.
Next Friday, we will kick off this project by beginning our very first brown-bag lunch and learn session on using the Cranberry system and its associated applications, complete with a demonstration Cranberry system loaded with all the applications to show you. It is important that you attend because we will provide a project schedule timeline at this meeting. And in addition to having some great free training materials, an excellent free user’s guide, and a free lunch for each of you, we will also have a fresh loaf of cranberry bread for each of you to take home and enjoy over the weekend.
We want this transition to be an experience that makes us stronger as a company, and we want to emphasize that your embracing this change is essential to our success, both for this project and the future prosperity of ACME Enterprises. Please contact Mr. Slater if you have questions about this project.
Thanks in advance for your support.
Robbins, S. (2002). Organizational Behavior: Concepts, Controversies, and Applications (10th ed.). [UOP special edition], Englewood Cliffs. Prentice Hall.
Shtogren, J.A. (Ed.). (1999). Skyhooks for Leadership. New York: AMA Publications.
Tennyson, A. (1864). “The Charge of the Light Brigade”. Retrieved from the website located at: http://www.nationalcenter.org/ChargeoftheLightBrigade.html