When planning to implement any kind of significant change to the way an organisation runs, it is necessary to make sure you have people on board. This can be especially difficult when adopting digital change as it may challenge staff, trustees and volunteers to get behind a way of working which may feel outside of their expertise, knowledge and experience. Essentially this may represent a huge step outside the comfort zone for many.
Our expert, Dr Stephen Dobson, University of Leeds, explores how much you can generate an interest in digital change for your organisation.
In the field of management research, it is usually agreed that a change initiative such as digital involves three components, as shown in the pie chart below:
Being clear and honest about the need to make changes and to invest time and energies into digital projects or wider digital transformation of the organisation is really important. Sometimes this might result in quite difficult conversations, especially in small organisations. This is particularly the case if people feel threatened or challenged by the reasons for change, or if the results of change may disrupt their normal day-to-day working.
Conversations should be open and participatory with opportunities to brainstorm together to maximise the potential of shared ownership of the need for digital change.
To help you structure these discussions, you can also look at the root cause or ‘fishbone’ analysis in our resource ‘Using root cause analysis to help you identify where digital can make the biggest difference’.
When planning for change it is important to discuss your ideas with a range of people. External partners, contacts, consultants, peers as well as trustees, staff, volunteers and even your own visitors and wider audience. Feeding back to those in your organisation about the progress of developments will be an important way of keeping people informed. That way they can understand some of the rationale for change, especially if ideas developed in any initial scoping discussions with staff end up being discarded further down the line.
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Implementing change will, by definition, be disruptive and obviously this may require changes to budgets or even personnel.
Welch and McCarville (2003)  outline a valuable process for communicating change in the diagram below:
To minimise resistance to change and maximise employee engagement, it is important to create an environment where employees can “vent”. By managing this inevitable outcome to change it becomes easier to respond to concerns, or to show you are listening to them, in the moment. This helps us to address worries and build a more positive attitude to the change you are hoping to implement. You might hold a series of roundtable discussions or forums to provide a space for this.
Stories and metaphors can be really valuable ways to build positivity about change. Hearing the experiences of other organisations which have perhaps embraced new digital ways of working can help get even the most resistant staff on board.
Please attribute as: "Persuading your stakeholders of the value of digital change (2022) by Dr Stephen Dobson supported by The Heritage Fund, licensed under CC BY 4.0