A few years ago, we asked some of our customers a simple question, “What has Pharos helped you to achieve?” Most of them easily recognized that we help them save money. While that’s an inevitable result of working with Pharos, we sought to understand on a deeper level what it is that really drives that result, from the perspective of our customers.
We delved more deeply and one other response surfaced repeatedly. Our customers universally sought to change the relationship their organization had with printing, and we were viewed as a key agent in that change. We help our customers implement and manage change to create a new printing reality that is more secure, efficient, cost-effective and sustainable. But getting there isn’t always easy because change is not easy.
When we discovered that our customers really wanted us to help them drive this change in their organizations, we embarked on our own internal discovery process. We realized that we had to become experts in change management just as we were already experts in print management. We had much learning to do as an organization, first and foremost about ourselves.
We made a significant investment of time and resources to help us understand the nature of change so that we can better serve ourselves and our customers. Today, every Pharos employee goes through change management training; it’s an essential part of how we do business.
Growing commitment through many unknowns
On campuses and in corporate offices all over the world, printing is habitual; it’s something that people do constantly, often without giving it much thought. Our print monitoring software demonstrates that on average, people print about 7-8 times per day. Not too many things are done that frequently. Changing these habits to become more mindful and secure is not an easy task.
Change brings many unknowns, and we tend not to like unknowns. These voids in our understanding of how things will be makes us want to hold onto the way things are. We become attached to what’s familiar; even if it’s not the best way or the best solution, it’s still familiar and we tend to cling to what’s comfortable and familiar. We resist change because change threatens our comfort, competence and confidence; something familiar to us is going away.
But change is not a singular event, it’s a process. It can be initiated with an event, but whether it’s a welcome change or one that is thrust upon us, it’s still a continual process in which we learn to let go of how things used to be while we grow our commitment to how we want things to be in the future.
As an example, one of our customers recently started a large rollout of our secure print technology, which eliminates the need for expensive personal printers to achieve document confidentiality. Thousands of people in this organization are accustomed to printing a certain way, and that way is ending. Now they will use their employee ID badges at a network printer of their choice to authenticate and release their documents.
Even though this secure printing workflow is simple and flexible, it still represents a change to established habits, and some people cling to how things used to be. They don’t want to give up their personal printers and some try to make the case that an exception should be made or perhaps the entire initiative should be halted. This is why executive leadership and a deep understanding of change management is critical.
This customer has strong executive support and sponsorship for the change taking place. They lead by example and clearly convey the benefits that the change will bring to each individual and the entire organization. These actions grow commitment to the change and make it easier to achieve early success.
Recognize and understand the common voids
It’s important to recognize the common unknowns that people inevitably experience and communicate the benefits of any new system or process. The typical voids that our customer employees experience include: Why do we need to change? Printing is only pennies per page, what impact can it really have? What’s in it for me? Am I being monitored by Big Brother? Are they taking away personal printers because they don’t trust me or value my role?
Change is personal, so be compassionate. When you move away from personal printers toward network pull print workflows and some employees seem upset by the change, understand that it’s not about their personal printer. It’s about their perception of the change and what it means to them personally. They might think that organizational leaders believe their roles don’t warrant the investment or privilege of personal printers. They may even incorrectly assume that management values technology over people.
Again, it’s critical to help people fill in these common voids by communicating clearly and regularly the benefits that the change represents—for each individual and for the entire organization—so that everyone can grow their commitment to the change. If people don’t have a positive perception of the change they are headed toward, there’s no commitment and you’re not likely to be successful.
Learn as you go
We recently completed a reorganization at Pharos to better align our organization with the customer experience we want to provide. This involved a lot of change and change requires leadership. As the leader of this change, there were voids for me, too. You can’t always know exactly how things are going to be and what challenges will arise. But you go forward and commit to the direction and learn as you go.
Otherwise, there would be no movement, no growth. No matter how much time you spend planning change, and no matter how good your plans are, plans can’t predict every eventuality. In fact, plans often don’t survive the first day of reality. There is no change without endings, there is no change without unknowns, and there is no change without new beginnings.
Critical roles in the business of change
When change is introduced in an organization, breakdowns often occur when critical roles in the change management process are missing. Three distinct roles are involved in change: the sponsors, the agents, and the targets.
All change begins with a sponsor. The sponsor ensures that the change is going to occur and that there is support for it across the organization. It is essential for the sponsor to be committed to the change and lead its implementation. This leadership makes the change credible; it creates buy-in.
The agent makes the change happen or provides the conditions that make the change possible. In our example, the agent is typically an IT director who deploys the technology and provides some basic information about the new procedures. It might also include the customer’s marketing staff, who help to communicate the reason and benefits of the change.
Then there are the targets, the people who are affected by the change. For printing changes, this usually involves all employees, including the sponsors and agents. If the agent doesn’t have strong sponsorship for the change, frustration with the change is likely to occur and it may be rejected. Without the credibility that executive sponsorship provides, people may protest the change and cling to the way things used to be. This makes the change process longer and more painful that it needs to be.
Also, a sponsor needs an agent just as an agent needs a sponsor. Imagine an executive who declares, “Starting next month, we’re going to change the way we print. We’re going to be a more sustainable organization and we will reduce our printing costs by 25% across all departments.” Without an agent on board to implement the change, nothing happens. This might seem like common sense, but such breakdowns do happen.
It’s critical to ensure that these roles are well defined in your organization. If we don’t take the time to understand the voids that people will likely have, communicate the benefits that the change presents, and grow commitment to the change with strong sponsorship, we limit our likelihood of success.
Successfully implementing change
Of course, if you don’t implement the change you wish to see, it will all be just a great idea that never materialized. If you choose not to move forward until you think you have a handle on all the unknowns, you risk paralysis by analysis. Start by growing awareness that everyone is in it together, that the change applies to everyone.
Recognize patterns in people and be patient and compassionate. Understand that the people who are most affected by the change didn’t ask for it; they will need time to grow their commitment and understanding. You will need to have patience to weather the inevitable storms of emotion.
Find successes and celebrate them. Grow positive perception in yourself and others. Change is hard; if we focus only on how much more of the hill we have to climb without pausing to look back and reflect on how much of the hill we have already climbed, then people can become disillusioned and lose their sense of commitment.
Pharos is a technology solutions and services provider, and we are change agents. We embark on a journey of discovery with every one of our customers—often working on site to help organizations implement and manage significant change. It’s never easy, but by building awareness of the change and helping everyone involved to understand the benefits of the change and their role in it, we steadily grow commitment to it. Together, we will always arrive at a better place.