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Fit the man

May 2, 2003
Cultural changes come with any implementation -- if you forget the people factor, you can forget success
Now you've done it. You've committed your company and tons of resources to integrating a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) into the enterprise system. It holds great promise and is expected to improve decision-making, as well as foster better planning, communication and interdepartmental collaboration. You've picked a package and are now planning the implementation. The concepts of people and people planning, which are the reasons most implementations fail and the reason most behavior-based initiatives fail, must be considered.Studies have shown that when confronted with a behavioral change, 80 percent of employees actually can do the new behavior, they simply elect not to do it for any of a variety of reasons.Common sense tells us it's naive to assume they'll change of their own accord from the old way of doing things to the new way. In reality, nobody makes transitions that easily. Do you really believe people will embrace, without fear, a CMMS or EAM that's capable of governing their work flow, evaluating their performance, reporting inequities in the performance of equipment and personnel, and, eventually, calculating employee efficiency?Antecedents and consequencesThe people factor is important and there are ways to accommodate it.People won't accept change if it's not in their personal interestunless, of course, there's punishment for not accepting change or reward for accepting it. That's why it's important to analyze the organizational conditions that support the old way and those conditions that supportor work againstemployees behaving in the new way. Focus on both the current state and the future state when analyzing these conditions. Think in terms of antecedents and consequences.Antecedents occur before a change in process or behavior and consequences result from the change. Antecedents can include training, job aids and personnel development. Examples of consequences are work process analysis; tangible items, such as awards, money, plaques and the like; employment or personal rebukes; and disciplinary actions. Consequences influence more than 80 percent of any particular change and antecedents only 20 percent. Even though the effect of consequences far outweighs that from antecedents, it's generally the antecedents that enjoy the greatest attention and budgeting.Work process changes are the most difficult because success is so dependent on employee acceptance and process changes have the most permanent effect on the organization's future. Consider them wisely.Most successful CMMS implementations begin with a comprehensive analysis of every department in the organization to identify how the change will affect established day-to-day routines. The analysis identifies the antecedents and consequences relevant to employee behaviors and workflow. Pay close attention to high-impact behavior changes with the greatest effect on workflow. Evaluate the current state of the process and predict the future state.
Tough loveUse role-playing when determining consequences. Imagining the project to be a tremendous success that meets each future state desire helps identify the positive consequences. Then, imagine the project as a partial or total failure that meets none of the future state desires to help identify negative consequences. Then, classify those consequences as:Positive or negativePositive consequences make it more likely a behavior will recur. Negative consequences make it less likely.Present or futureConsequences that happen during or immediately after a behavior exert a stronger influence than do delayed consequences.Certain or uncertainConsequences that always follow a behavior exert a stronger influence than consequences that may or may not happen.Consider some examples. Positive immediate consequences include sincere praise from a boss or peer, public recognition or finding a shortcut that completes a task more easily than before. Remember, frequent positive feedback sustains a behavior change much longer than any celebration dinner.On the other hand, negative immediate consequences might include adding arbitrary, complex and unnecessary steps to a work process or being embarrassed in front of a co-worker.Mold the information gathered into one or more comprehensive plans of action. Measurement tools will be needed to supply timely and accurate data regarding implementation progress. A communication plan is necessary to provide positive feedback to employees and to the departments involved with the implementation. If the soft science of people issues is not a strong suit, consider using a competent consultant to guide the implementation process.History can hauntA person's past experiences predict, to a large degree, their current readiness for change. Those who have experienced or perceived negative consequences from change may resist the new CMMS project. Examples of negative experiences might include:Being kept uninformed about expectations.Hearing mixed messages from different levels of management and areas of the organization.Never being given the business reason for the change.Feeling as though one's concerns are ignored.Not being given an opportunity to contribute to the project efforts other than as a drone.Being assigned additional work without the necessary resources.Losing a comfortable work process, work environment, tool or product.Having to learn new skills without understanding the benefits.Being taken away from regular work for special activities whose value is unclear or dubious.On the other hand, it's also possible to carry over positive experiences. To increase the likelihood of success, the project team can leverage these types of events:Feeling included in the process.Having a project team and organization leaders that value a person's contributions.Being given extra resources to offset an additional workload.Having more control over their work when the change process is completed.Being told clearly why the organization needed to change.Benefiting personally and clearly from the change.Be careful when analyzing employee's realities and perceptions. Never take the explanation of the technology too far if you haven't provided a comprehensive training program to bring employees up-to-speed before expecting them to perform. It's unfair to judge a person's performance until they have the tools to do the job. Carl C. Hughes is an independent CMMS implementation consultant. He can be reached at carl_lee_hughes@msn.com. He would like to acknowledge the ChevronTexaco CPDEP process for some of the research material used for this article.

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