Posted by: Heather Coleman | July 28, 2009

A Change is Gonna Come

Photo courtesy of emmajeann - Creative Commons license

Photo courtesy of emmajeann - Creative Commons license

Seems like I’ve had change on the brain lately.  I’m feeling as though I’m ready for a big life change, but I recognize that real change happens from small incremental steps over time.  I recently attended a presentation hosted by the DC chapter of the American Society for Training and Development, titled Change Management 2.0: Maximizing IT User Adoption & ROI, and presented by Jason Whitehead, President of Tri Tuns, LLC.  One of the major takeaways from that presentation was that often times IT projects really “fail” because they only take into consideration technical success and not business success.  Those implementing the system often consider the project complete once it’s been launched and the users trained, but that’s actually when the real work begins–measuring and increasing user adoption, addressing data issues, and sharing best practices.  The real return on investment is seen when a system is used and used well. 

How do we get users to change?  Sometimes it seems like management’s answer to this is…”force them”.  Change is announced in lengthy e-mails and memos with little to no notice before the change is going to occur.  The decisions have been made and money has been already been invested.  But according to Jason Whitehead “behavior cannot be mandated by others, it is up to each individual to change their own behavior.  Therefore, you need to actively engage individuals in the change process.” Given that I make my living in the world of communications, I believe this is the area where engagement needs to begin.   I would like to see management start a conversation and open the channels of communication with end users.  Identify thought leaders that can help contribute ideas about the implementation process and what success will look like.  There are even more channels of communication available to us today–use them, but don’t abuse them.  Solicit feedback on specific areas of the system change, but only if you are willing to listen, follow up, and show that you’ve responded. If that seems too scary a prospect, you can always fall back one the old standard of “forcing them”.  At the very least follow-up once the system has been implemented, identify best practices that show the system works for the user, and share them to support greater user adoption.

Last week CNN aired the special, “Black in America 2” which featured a project lead by Malaak Compton-Rock (wife of Chris Rock). The project is called Journey for Change: Empowering Youth Through Global Service and she selected 30 kids from Bushwick, Brooklyn to travel to Johannesburg, South Africa as part of a volunteer project.   It seemed like the key to making this project a success was taking the kids out of their element, giving them an important role to play, and showing them that depsite their humble origins they had the power to make a difference.  I cried my eyes out watching this segment, especially the journey for14 year-old Latoya Massie, who shed her own tears at the prospect of not being able to get the people everything that they needed.  Sometimes change is overwhelming, but at least the seeds have been planted.  The kids that journeyed to South Africa went through a lot of change, the tough part once you get home is to make the change last.

Often times we start out with the best of intentions for making a change in our lives or a critical event causes us to change. But, you can’t change everything all at once. The key to making a change that can last is to focus on the little things, the details, and then always keep your end goal in the back of your mind.  Make one little change today. Then add to it another little change, then another.  Soon those little changes will add up, and a whole new world will open up for you. Oh yes, a change is gonna come.

“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.” ~ Maria Robinson 



  1. Insightful post. Change can be hard for people and organizations, but something we must do to continue growth. You really have me thinking now about the things I have been nervous to change, but know in the long run will be for the best. Thanks!

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