In reality, you could propose the best project management software in existence and still be met with pushback from your team.
There are many why reasons people resist change. As a leader, it's important for you to understand these reasons and learn how to address them. Only then will you have the necessary tools to plan an effective approach.
In this article you'll gain valuable insight into how your employees think about change. You'll also learn proven tactics from leadership experts on how to introduce change. With this, you can confidently approach your team with a careful strategy that will ensure a smooth transition to any project management software.
According to expert business consultant Robert Tanner, ‘Change that is poorly communicated will only stir up organizational resistance’.
You wouldn’t change the way you drink your coffee just because someone told you to. But if someone gave you a solid reason (like the milk you’re using has expired), you’d likely comply. The same principle applies to your employees when approached with change.
If you take away the element of surprise and gently ease your team members into the idea of a new project management platform, you'll find they're much more receptive to adopting it.
The key is to clearly communicate an urgent need for new teamwork software. Maybe it's time to tidy up task management, improve time-tracking, centralise file sharing or simply switch to a software with more robust features. Outline the current problems and support your arguments with statistics or recent examples.
It is equally as important to address possible risks of keeping things as they are. Team members should see that the risks of staying put are greater than those of moving forward.
As a side note, make sure to include how the project management software will benefit them and make their jobs easier. ‘People do not resist change that they believe is in their best interests’, says Tanner.
There's no quicker way to earn pushback from your team than forcing new software upon them. It's the same reaction you'd get if you suddenly asked Microsoft users to switch to Mac.
In a 1948 study ‘Overcoming Resistance to Change’, researchers found that employee participation was essential in ensuring a smooth workflow transition. Researchers introduced a new workflow to various groups of factory workers.
For the first group, they plainly told them they had to change their workflow. The second group met with the managers and were told there was a need for cost reduction. The employees discussed how the workflow could be improved and they all reached a general agreement.
The result? The first group showed a drastic drop in output due to the new workflow. They also displayed hostile behaviours toward management and 17 percent of them quit in the first 40 days.
In contrast, the second group gradually exceeded their previous output rate and showed no signs of anger toward their supervisors None of them quit.
The lesson is clear: To prevent resistance, invite those who will be affected by the change to participate in the decision for change.
In your case, you can ask your employees to describe their ideal workflow. You can also ask which project management tools they would recommend, or have them use the free trial of your chosen software (including the mobile app) to test the waters.
It’s critical to be open to employee feedback before, during and after the transition to a new teamwork software.
Not all employees will feel like they can be completely open and honest when giving feedback to their superiors. In an article discussing methods for encouraging critical feedback from employees for ‘Harvard Business Review’, Ron Carucci recommends ‘asking your employees to push back’.
The idea behind this recommendation is to cultivate a culture where employees can feel comfortable calling you out. To get them into the habit of speaking up, personally ask them for their thoughts on the new project management tool and what they think can be done differently. Let them know their opinions are important and that you’re open to critical feedback.
You can also get honest feedback by sending personal emails, using online surveys, creating a task list just for comments or even casually asking them during their coffee break.
Be mindful of any ‘smile and nod’ employees who seem uninterested in the whole process. You’ll want to fix poor employee engagement before it has a detrimental impact on long-term performance.
In a 2018 Gallup study on how to be an effective leader, researchers explain that leaders should ‘not only inspire their followers with a positive vision for their future’, but also ‘proactively build an organizational culture that fuels a common sense of progress’.
Whether you're introducing simple software like Slack, Samewave and Asana or more intricate solutions like Wrike, Teamwork, Jira and Basecamp, you can help employees view even the biggest change in a more receptive light by enlisting influencers.
First off, train your managers to use the teamwork software. Once they know the ins and outs of the new tool and can attest to the benefits, they’re more likely to become ambassadors. They can also serve as a support team and help collect real-time feedback from struggling employees.
Choosing influential team members to become early adopters is also key to a successful transition. Didier Bonnet, co-author of ‘Leading Digital’, says not to ‘pick the geeks’. Instead, ‘you want people who are able to work horizontally across the organisation and who have good communication and networking skills.’
Change is a social movement as much as it is a technical one, so a friendly, outgoing project manager or co-worker who can lead by example is a powerful agent in motivating the rest of the team to follow suit.
Don’t replace the status quo with a completely new workflow in one fell swoop — you will only send your organisation into chaos.
The safest way to onboard your employees is to start using the teamwork software for small, non-critical tasks. If you don't have any, create a dummy project like ‘clean office coffee pot’ and assign tasks for the team to complete.
The goal is simply to demonstrate the software’s benefits and ease your less tech-savvy employees into the new functionalities. Once they feel comfortable using the software for small tasks, they’ll find it much easier to adapt when it’s time to use it for large projects.
In an article from ‘MIT Sloan Management Review’, Stewart Small, founder of software company KTTP, shared the following:
‘Our most common hurdle was resistance to change, particularly with less technically savvy staff. To overcome these hurdles we have found that introducing new collaboration software is best done [in] small baby steps. This gets staff used to the overall look and feel of the software and creates an increased level of confidence before we move on to any serious training.’
As your employees begin to adapt to the new teamwork software, it’s important to highlight small wins and benefits.
Some leaders opt for formal training and make sure to give out positive feedback, while others advise using gamification.
An article in ‘Harvard Business Review’ cites the case study of William Vanderbloemen, founder and CEO of Vanderbloemen Search Group. In the study, Vanderbloemen explains how he onboarded his team to Hubspot in an effort to improve sales.
Initially, he shared his vision with them and personally showed them how to use the tool. As his company grew, Vanderbloemen began hiring more people. Of course, these new team members had to learn Hubspot too. To move things along, Vanderbloemen started a contest to encourage fast adoption.
He offered two first-class plane tickets to anywhere in the U.S. to the employee who generated the most internet traffic from a single piece of content using the platform. Before he knew it, even the most unlikely employees had become Hubspot experts and were now teaching others how to use it.
It's not breaking news that incentive is a great motivator. But you don't have to offer something as grand as plane tickets. You can leverage people’s natural competitive instinct by simply setting up a scoreboard and rank employees based on their progress. This can fuel their motivation to adopt the new software faster.
You can also find teamwork software that already integrates the fun, competitive and social aspects of teamwork, like Samewave (which is free).
In a 2013 survey on embracing digital technology, ‘MIT Sloan Management Review’ and Capgemini Consulting conclude the following:
‘Companies that succeed [in adopting new technology] tend to have leaders who share their vision and define a roadmap, create cross-organizational authority for adoption and reward employees for working towards it.’
Persuading your team to adopt new technology is no easy task, even at the most agile startup. But with a careful approach to change, you can make the transition to a new teamwork software virtually painless.
The key element in every successful transition is always the same: communication.
Avoid falling into the trap of pretending you have it all figured out. Be open and direct about what you know and what your team can help you with.
Remember that adopting software for teamwork projects is more than just learning a new tool. It's about changing people's mindsets and behaviours. Make sure you're leading that change by example.
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