No pain, no gain

I’m one of those people who quite likes technology. People at my office would laugh at that statement, but it’s true. I just have trouble getting from one way of working to a new way of working.

Part of the problem for me, and I suspect for many people like me, is that the day job is all consuming. We are busy, and our way of working to date works for us. We view changes to that way of working with suspicion and a vague sense that any change is going to be too painful, and may not deliver the promised improvements.

I’m from the generation which used to do everything by landline and letter, so obviously I’ve experienced huge amounts of change over the last 30 years. The latest change within our business relates to our desire to remove as much as possible email communication from our toolkit. We have developed a secure client portal to communicate with our clients and it is also a wonderful task management tool.

I’ve watched in awe and with no small amount of pride as our growing business developed and implemented these changes, helping our client firms to use much safer and more secure processes to manage their own and, crucially, their client’s money.

And I loved it even more because, as BD Director, I didn’t need to use it myself! By the time I finished communication with a client prospect, all via phone and email and meetings, I then passed the client into our transition process, and they put in place the portal for the new client.

Our guys are well versed these days in training clients to use the portal as part of their process. Clients love it. It saves them time. They can monitor activity via the dashboard we give them. And they know that communication is much more secure. All good. Wonderful.

And then….it was decided the portal was such a great task manager and communication tool that we would use it for all our own internal communication. Horror! Suddenly it was on me, and a few others.

I’ll skip ahead to the fact that I’m now using the portal happily. It’s part of my daily routine and I love it. It gives me a clear sight of what I have to do, and is fantastic for allowing people to share information (documents and comments).

The bit in between was the pain. It was like one of those psychology papers- stages of acceptance. Starts with anger and disbelief. Denial. “It won’t work for me!” Then there’s the training, and fitting that training in amongst an otherwise busy work schedule. Then finally there’s an acceptance that there is no use trying to avoid it- it’s going to happen.

At that point, you enter a zen-like state where you just want the pain over, and you hungrily consume the training to get back fully operational.

And now here we are. I’ll be sharing a draft of this in the office via the portal. Easily, and I will tick off the task as complete.

But there are lessons to learn, not just by me as the luddite who needed dragging into line, but also within organisations imposing new technologies and systems and ways of working.

  • Understand that change is feared, often without foundation, but appreciate that concern, and focus time on an internal ‘sell’ of the benefits of the new way of working
  • Have a project team (or individual) in place who can provide ready support and guidance
  • Listen to those being trained. If there are recurring issues of a similar nature, maybe there is in fact a small problem which needs ironing out?
  • When training has been done, don’t leave it several months before fully implementing, because by then the knowledge may well have gone and it will be very costly to bring system consultants back in to do the training again.

It’s a cliché, but the only certain thing is that we will face increasing change and uncertainty. Businesses that learn how to implement change in a way which is smooth and speedy will reap the benefits. Those that don’t will, I fear, go the way of the dodo.

Alex Holt