Karo Kilfeather | 07.19.17
Summary >

Seventy-six percent of field service providers report they are struggling to achieve revenue growth, which means the need for process and technology change is paramount. But according to McKinsey, 70% of change management programs fail to achieve their goals. Ask any company leader why, and they’ll be quick to quote truisms, proverbs, and cliches.

“No battle plan survives contact with the enemy...”

“People aren’t afraid of change, they’re afraid of being changed...”

“If you want to make enemies, try to change something...”

The problem with the vast majority of these truisms is they draw a big fat line in the sand between workers, and managers.

While it’s true that change is hard, it’s false to assume that service employees don’t want change. It would be more accurate to say our employees aren’t particularly interested in the pain that change often brings. But in today’s fast changing digital world, that’s exactly what many field service employees are experiencing on the job.

Consider the following:

When employees see a change management program walk through the door, here’s what they’re thinking: this is really gonna hurt, and be a huge pain in the butt.

So why does most change management ultimately fail? Below are three common reasons change management fails, and ways you can make embolden change at your service organization.

1. It’s Actually Training Masquerading as Change Management

All too often, change management comes in the form of extensive training. Thorough documentation? Check. Long-form communication and rollout plan? Check. 3-hour training sessions? Check. And did that 45-page manual help your service staff understand how to utilize new software?


In all likelihood, they won't get past page three.

To start with training is a huge miss. Your staff doesn’t want, or need that. They need to feel connected to the common vision, and purpose for change. When they agree with your vision, they’ll teach themselves how to use whatever tools you put in front of them, or be hungry for more training.

If you start with the “why” in field service, the “how,” and ultimately adoption of your change management program, will become more seamless.

2. Software Doesn’t Account for End User Need (Staff)

Many organizations in field service are adopting new software in order to keep up with changing market demands. While this is helpful to the profitability of the organization, and ultimately the customer, new software that doesn’t account for staff needs can often pose major challenges to organizational change, or any cultural progress.

Many field service change management leaders make the mistake of getting married to a new scheduling, dispatch, mobility, or customer management software before ever stopping to ask whether it’s a good fit for the customer, and the employee.  Bottom line, if the software is cumbersome or frustrating to your employees, your employees won’t make good use of new software. And that’s a surefire way for change management to fail.

Before making any big software decisions, do your homework. Perform investigative work among those who will be most impacted by the software (and have to use it every day). Here are a few tips for ensuring software that comes along with change management initiatives aligns with your staff:

1. Don’t get caught up with fancy features

In a world soon to be dominated by artificial intelligence, drones, and augmented reality, it’s easy to get ahead of ourselves, and chase after fancy features. Focus on finding software that improves core competencies like technician mobility, or technician efficiency while at a customer site.

2. Start with the biggest pain points

Field service software can improve the bottom line for your organization, but if it doesn’t ultimately alleviate pain, it won’t gain adoption. Talk to your staff and find out what hurts most. Are call centers under water? Consider implementing chat technology to alleviate some pressure. It your dispatch team struggling to manage service engineers? Scheduling software might be a good place to start.

3. Demonstrate quick wins

With any new software, there’s bound to be naysayers and skeptics. Focus on winning these folks over by demonstrating how new software will, or already has made their work lives easier. As adoption takes hold, software won’t always speak for itself. You must evangelize the positive things happening around new software, and raise awareness surrounding quick wins.

3. Change Management Fails to Account for Culture

The third, and most important aspect to why change management fails boils down to culture. Many change management initiatives simply do not take culture into account. Or, leaders fail to identify the cultural cues that will inspire change, adoption of new software, or improved production.

According to a PricewaterhouseCoopers study, a full 84% of respondents report culture as critically important to the success or failure of change management. But what is culture? Is it offering cake in the break room? A beer fridge for Friday happy hour? Higher pay? Unfortunately, many of these miss the mark.

Culture is much more deeply ingrained than most change management programs will give due course. Here’s how you can ensure your change initiative addresses, and is fueled by culture:

1. Audit your culture

Before you can influence culture, you must understand it. Seek to understand your employees strengths and weaknesses. What gets them out of bed in the morning? What drives them in their personal lives? When you build out the “why” of your change program, use these cues and values to drive the conversation.

2. Focus on select behavior

Many change management and software initiatives fail because they simply require employees to alter many behaviors at once. Focus on a select few behavior shifts that are achievable. Start by gaining adoption and momentum, and only add new behaviors or tasks after this new behavior has become ingrained.

3. Focus on pride over shame

Change is hard, and even harder when morale is low. Take the high road  by building employees up during times of change. Help boost their pride, and celebrate employees who adopt new softwares, practices, or change. In the long term, this will inspire a culture of pride, as opposed to one of shame.

In the end, change management programs are never easy. But, when field service change truly takes hold, amazing results and happier, more productive employees are the outcome.

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