Stages of Change #1: Getting People to Think About Change

August 12, 2016 Marcus Varner

In this four-part Q&A series, we asked software solution architect Kayla Lamoreaux to reveal her secrets to managing organizational change. Lamoreaux specializes in user adoption and change management. She works directly with clients to understand their business practices and customize a Workfront implementation.  First up: how to get individuals and teams to start thinking about meaningful change.

1. What are the most common factors that cause organizations to start seeking a change in how they manage their work?

change management specialist Kayla Lamoreaux

Lamoreaux: There are many factors. Probably the most common is frustration. Organizations work with a process that works until the company grows and the process doesn’t scale. We see this with spreadsheets and tools that require people to manually input data. As the company grows and demands more work with the same people, organizations look to technology for solutions.

With Workfront, we have multiple ways to alleviate the pain customers feel around work – whether its death by meetings, improving collaboration, streamlining digital workflows, we can help.

Many customers come to us with multiple tools being used in many different departments. We work to understand their business processes and how they can consolidate and create a central work repository, giving everyone visibility into their work they didn’t have before.

We also deepen our partnerships with customers year after year as they grow in maturity through the use of Workfront. For example, an organization may save a lot of time using our digital proofing solution, and their next step to value is creating a workflow to safely store completed images in a way that preserves approvals and versions.

Other companies may see a reduction in meetings just by using the collaboration in Workfront, and their next step to value is managing their resources in a way that allows them to make smarter decisions when assigning work.


2. What are the common cultural barriers can exist within organizations that make them resistant to even positive changes?

Lamoreaux: It’s interesting – a few I see most often:

  • Resistance to Changing the Status Quo: Sometimes the people most impacted by the change don’t see the need to change. They like the way things are. So even if someone in authority is moving the change forward, there can be cultural resistance. 
  • Rushing or Not Taking The Time: Often organizations are implementing change to help save time and yet it is difficult for them to find the time to make the change while business is running as usual. Making time for the change – to communicate, to slow down and architect a great framework, helping educate everyone involved –  taking time for all of this is key to success.
  • Communication: Sometimes organizations will push a change initiative out without a lot of communication or explanation. This leads to people feeling forced, out of the loop, etc. Communication (both given and creating opportunities for feedback) is critical when leading a change effort. A lack of communication can lead to people holding out, gathering political allies just to defeat the change.

When I do change assessments for organizations particularly challenged with resistance, I often find the people who are the most resistant are those who are most passionate about their work. Even more important, they have valid points to be considered in the change effort. I’ve often found by simply listening and then finding a way to support their needs in the change turns those individuals into huge champions for the change. Don’t get me wrong, you will still have people who just refuse to change, which often require executive sponsors to deal with effectively. However, most of the time your pockets of resistance are often the best places to gather allies in your change effort.

The bottom line with resistance is that it can really hurt a company’s bottom line. Just a few small efforts to help employees deal with the change as you work through it can pay off huge in the long run. When change is not run successfully, you are not only dealing with the costs of failed change, but also with all the productivity lost in the employee’s resistance to change.


3. What can companies do on an ongoing basis to create a culture that invites rather than fears innovation and change?

Lamoreaux: I believe it’s all about the culture you create. Do people feel like they are important to the change? Are lines of communication open so people always know where they fit and can see how things will change for their role and work? Is the culture supportive of feedback, even when it isn’t what they want to hear?

Creating a culture that takes change on, celebrates change, and helps create the vision for where people are going is key. I believe that organizations that make their people feel a valued asset and partner in any change they are creating are the most successful.

4. Can you share any examples of situations where you’ve seen individuals successfully plant the seeds that change is needed...and get others on board over time?

Lamoreaux: We see it happen time and time again with our customers. One group, such as a marketing team, will implement Workfront and work the solution. They show up to meetings with different real-time reports than their counterparts as well as answers and visibility to what is truly happening with their work—and they get noticed. Pretty soon it’s like a bandwagon. Another team wants to jump on, and another. As each group starts managing their work, they realize further opportunities for collaboration,  and the groups begin to collaborate on work together in the tool.

Honestly it’s really about saying, “I see we can do something different here, and I’m going to lead by example.” I’ve watched Workfront champions grow their careers as they’ve strategically run iterative change efforts to bring value to their organization.


5. Do you have any favorite quotes about change management that can help inspire companies to be more open to change?

“You must embrace change before change erases you.”
—Rob Liano

“The art of life is a constant readjustment to our surroundings.”
—Kakuzo Okakaura

“Adaptability is about the powerful difference between adapting to cope and adapting to win.”
—Max McKeown


About the Author

Marcus Varner

Marcus is a content strategist and producer who loves helping brands craft content that improves customers' lives, builds brand credibility, and demands to be shared. For the last 10 years, Marcus has worked in every type of content—from writing to video production to design—and is currently a senior content marketing manager at Workfront, where he oversees all corporate- and awareness-level level content. When he's not producing content, he's consuming it, in the form of books, movies, and podcasts.

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