Managing change when implementing a new CMMS

How to analyze what conditions exist in your organization that support the old way and what conditions support or work against employees behaving in the new way.

By Carl C. Hughes

Now you’ve done it. You have made the decision to commit your company and tons of resources to the implementation of a CMMS enterprise system. It holds great promise and is vaunted to improve decision-making, foster better planning, communication and interdepartmental collaboration. Well, it will certainly do all of that just by virtue of the fact that the software is programmed to provide you the instant data and reports necessary to build this dream. I will assume, for the purpose of this article, that you have done your homework regarding the right CMMS package for your company. I will further assume that you are at the stage of planning the implementation. We are going to take a journey through the reason behind most implementation failures and indeed, the failure of most behavioral based initiatives. That reason is people and people planning.

Studies have shown that 80% of employees when confronted with a behavioral change CAN do the behavior, they just elect not to do it.

When a new process or system is introduced into the work environment, employees have to react or perform in new ways. We would be extremely naive if we assume the employees will naturally change from the old way to the new way. In reality, people do not make transitions that easily. When asked to implement a system that has the capability of governing work flow, judging performance, reporting inequities in the performance of equipment and personnel, and eventually determining the efficiency of employees, do you really believe people will embrace the change without fear? We need to analyze what conditions exist in your organization that support the old way and what conditions support or work against employees behaving in the new way. We have to focus on both the current state and the future state when analyzing these conditions.

Let me make one blanket statement regarding what comes next. I am sure that with any blanket statement, there are exceptions and if your company happens to be the exception, count yourself among the blessed.

People do not accept change if it is not in their personal interest unless there are (1) consequences for not accepting the change, or (2) rewards for accepting the change.

For any project or behavior change, there are antecedents (this encompasses things that happen before the change is implemented) and there are consequences (things that result from the process or behavior change). Consequences have more than 80% influence on any particular change and antecedents only have 20% influence. Even though consequences far outpace antecedents in overall project success, it is generally the antecedents that enjoy the greatest attention and budgeting.

Antecedents can be classified as:

  • Training
  • Job aides
  • Personnel development

Consequences can be classified as:

  • Work process analysis
  • Tangible items such as awards, money, plaques, etc.
  • Employment, personal rebukes or disciplinary actions

Your job begins with a comprehensive analysis of every department in your organization. How will their day-to-day work process be affected by the implementation of the CMMS program? What employee workflow behaviors will be affected? You need to identify the antecedents and consequences of this workflow change. Pay close attention to the high-impact behavior change. This is defined as the behavior changes that have the greatest impact on the workflow process. Determine the current state and the future state of the process change.

Work process changes are the most difficult. They have the greatest impact on employee acceptance and the longest-lasting effect on your organization. Consider them wisely.

  • Develop a role-playing posture with determining consequences. Assume that the project is a tremendous success.
  • Assume that all of your future state desires have been met. This will help you identify the positive consequences.
  • Assume that the project is a partial or total failure. Assume that all of your future state desires have not been met. This will help you identify the negative consequences.

On your worksheet, remember that you will classify the behavioral consequences as:

  • Positive and/or negative … positive consequences make it more likely that a behavior will occur again. Negative consequences make it less likely.
  • Present and/or future … consequences that happen during or immediately after a behavior have a stronger influence than do future consequences.
  • Certain and/or uncertain … consequences that reliably occur after a behavior have a stronger influence than consequences that are uncertain.

Positive/immediate consequences

  • Sincere praise from a boss or peer
  • Completing a task more easily than before
  • Public recognition
  • Frequent positive feedback will sustain a behavior change much longer than a celebration dinner

Negative/immediate consequences

  • Adding complex steps to a work process
  • Being embarrassed in front of a coworker

Assuming you have done what I have suggested, you now come to the tough love portion of the implementation. Very few organizations are capable of standing on the outside and looking objectively at themselves. That is why, even though it sounds self-serving, you need a competent consultant to guide the process. The information that has been gathered now needs to be converted into a comprehensive plan of action. You will need to put plans in effect that will take the behavior and process information and turn it into actions that will achieve successful results. You will need to put into effect measurement tools that will supply timely and accurate data regarding the implementation progress. You will need to put a communication plan together to provide positive feedback to your employees and to the various implementation departments.

I hope you are ready for the guts and gore of implementation realities, because here it comes:

Past experiences predict, to a large degree, people’s current readiness for change.

When people have experienced or have perceived negative consequences from a change, they may resist the new change.

Some examples of negative experiences people might carry over from a prior change include:

  • Being uninformed about what was expected
  • Hearing mixed messages from different levels of management, and from different areas of the organization
  • Being confused about the business reason for the change
  • Feeling as though their concerns are ignored
  • Not being given an opportunity to contribute
  • Being assigned additional work without more resources
  • Having a comfortable work process, work environment, tool or product eliminated by the change
  • Having to learn new skills without understanding what benefits they bring
  • Being taken away from everyday work to spend time on activities of unclear value

People may also carry over positive experiences. The project team, to increase the likelihood that their project will be successful, can leverage these events. Examples might include:

  • Feeling included in the process
  • Having their contributions valued by the project team and organization's leaders
  • Being given extra resources to address the additional workload during the change
  • Having more control over their work after the change process
  • Being told clearly why the organization needed to change
  • Clearly benefiting personally from the change after it was implemented

In this plant environment, we have to be extremely careful when analyzing the reality of our employee base. We must never take the technology past the limits of our employees without a comprehensive training program to bring them comfortably up to speed BEFORE we expect them to do the work. Remember that you cannot judge a person’s performance until you have provided him or her with the tools to do the job. These tools are not necessarily wrenches.

The resistance and ultimate failure of a CMMS program to achieve the desired effect on your business is brought on by both the perceived and real fears of your employees. Using the wrong tools to approach the implementation can exacerbate this success. I am fond of saying, “Forget the people factor of a CMMS implementation and you can forget its success.

The author would like to acknowledge the Chevron CHPDEP process for some research material.

Carl C. Hughes is an international CMMS consultant who has consulted in 12 countries, and he is a contributing author. E-mail him at carl_lee_hughes@msn.com.

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