This article is the final one in a trilogy focussed on enacting change. The previous instalments were as follows:
The first two pieces covered generating enthusiasm for change in advance of enacting it and then the role that professional training has in repositioning behaviours. I left off with the first training event having been a success. I will pick up the story from this point and seek to answer the question: how do you sustain initial success over the medium term?
Before starting to discuss some approaches that worked for me in this area, I should remind readers of the context. This was delivering a new BI system in a European insurance organisation with the explicit aim of enacting a cultural transformation; in this case making top-quality management information part of the corporate DNA.
It is part of human nature to sometimes rest on your laurels. Having worked hard to make sure than something goes well, it is tempting to sit back and admire what you have done. Unfortunately gains are not always permanent and indeed may be quickly eroded. It is a useful to recall the adage that you are only as good as your last performance. As in a sporting contest, when you have made a good start, it is then the time to press home your advantage.
After our first successful training session, we had several other waves of training for our first report family – in fact we trained over 300 people in this first activity, 150 more than we had anticipated, such was the demand that we had generated and the positive feedback from people who had attended. But at this stage we had only won the first battle, the outcome of the war remained in the balance. We had made a good start, but it was important that the team realised that there was still a lot of work to be done. In this final article I want to talk about some of the ways in which we sustained our focus on the system and managed to embed its use in day-to-day activities.
Using new functionality to reinforce training
By the time the training team had come to the end of its first phase, the development team had produced its second report family. This was aimed at a slightly narrower group of people, so training was a less extensive task. Also we were showing new BI functionality to people who were already users, or at least had attended the training. The training for the second release was just a half day, but we asked people to book out a whole day. The extra time was spent in attending either a refresher course (for people who had not been confident enough to use the system much after initial training) or a master-class (for those who had taken to it like a duck to water). We also offered these two options to people who were not recipients of the second report family.
Inevitably there were initially some people who were not 100% converts to the new system at first; crucially less than half of users fell into this category. Over time both the enthusiasm of their peers and the fact that early adopters could present information that was not generally available at internal and external meetings began to exert pressure on even the most sceptical of people.
Travelling to the users
With later report families, which were again aimed at the mass market, we change our approach and travelled to give training in different countries. This helped to tailor our training to local needs and prevented anyone becoming isolated by language issues. Again when we travelled we would go for two days and have two half-day formal classes. The other half days were taken up with refresher courses, master classes or – something that started to become more and more requested – one-on-one sessions. These are in many ways ideal as the user can go at their own pace and focus can be on compiling and saving reports that are directly pertinent to them – classroom work has of its very nature to be more general.
Sadly we did not have unlimited funds to travel round Europe, so these one-on-one sessions morphed into using the telephone and network facilities with the trainer “taking over” the PC of the delegate to work together. This approach has also been very successful on our Help Desk.
The importance of the Help Desk
Speaking of the Help Desk – because the BU systems was very business-focussed people tended to raise business-focussed questions (as opposed to “when I click on this button, the system locks up”). This meant that the Help Desk needed to understand both the technology and the business and we used our business analysts and trainers to staff it – this is high-end resource to apply, but they were just as proud of the system as the extended team and wanted to help people to get the best of it.
So, we were relentless. We didn’t really ever lower the intensity we had established when launching the system; business adoption and retention both reflected this. Even once our cultural change had been mostly achieved and BI had become as much part of everyday life as the ‘phone or e-mail, the team continued to put just as much effort into new releases. The contributions of professional training and a business-focussed Help Desk functions were both indispensable in sustaining our success.