CHANGE MANAGEMENT CASE STUDY: Top Ten Tech Company 

IN THE INNOVATION ZONE

THE CHALLENGE

A top 10 tech company that embraced innovation created a new department, which in turn began to generate many initiatives that required care and feeding. Soon the staff was reporting symptoms of overwhelm just when one of the most important long-term initiatives - requiring a switch in a technology platform that affected 200 jobs - began to roll out.

The initiative could not be shelved, yet it seemed clear that success could not be secured by just adding it to the pile of new requirements the staff was already managing. How could this project be introduced, and integrated “softly” into the daily life of the department? How could staff be encouraged to embrace the work to move between platforms as welcome innovation instead of additional imperative?

THE APPROACH

We developed an adoption plan consistent with ideas put forth by Martin Seligman, father of Positive Psychology: Imagine a three-ring target, the inner ring is the comfort zone, the outer the panic zone - but the middle is the learning zone. This exploratory place is where we best incorporate new ideas. Starting with a group of 30 early adopters, we identified five open-ended "missions" to accomplish before adoption date, then gave control of how to best accomplish the work to those who had to do it. From there, we developed a regular communications cycle between the leadership and the early adopters to demonstrate leadership was invested, and demonstrate to​ leadership that staff people were accomplishing the large tasks, albeit in many ways, at a pace that would allow for full rollout. A few of the moving parts:
  • Weekly "Lunch and Learns" where staff could get expert help on the platform.
  • Progress reports in the form of self-reporting “game” via the new platform, that showed leadership the growing expertise among early adopters, offered transparency to the whole organization, and gave leadership talking points for recognition of special accomplishments
  • “Soft-launch” blow up toys that denoted where Experts were, when people needed in-the-moment help.
  • Posters that served as message boards and puzzles to get everybody talking, and share Early Adopter insights about the impending change.
  • Thematic and fun training sessions specialized to the needs of different subject matter experts
  • An organization-wide party that gave coveted rewards to all who came, if they would first take a short tour of the tools. More people came to this party than any previous launch event.

THE RESULTS

By the time the system was ready for rollout to the whole organization, our Early Adopters had become Early Experts. Staff who were in the “majority” wave of adoption had become tangentially familiar with the platform. This helped them perceive using it as in their learning or comfort zones - as opposed to their panic zone – thanks to the exploration and fun they’d had prior to launch, and the “soft” but pervasive demonstration of capabilities over many weeks of activities and messaging.  

While the adoption will continue to be measured over the next year; initial results include:
  • Working groups have embraced the platform and are creating group-specific innovations within their niche of the platform.
  • People see the work to "switch over" as engaging more than constraining.