Understanding and Being Understood – Key for Successful Implementations


As Stephen Covey, the author of “the seven habits of highly effective people” says - seek first to understand, then to be understood.  He says this is one of the habits to be inculcated for achieving public victory. This is quite applicable for driving any successful implementation.

Once the project or initiative is formulated, the first essential step is to understand the impact of the implementation on different sets of users.  For some it may create new responsibilities, for some it may lead to additional work in their own area, for some it may lead to new learning and for some others it may lead to change of their work.

Different users may react and adapt to the impact caused in different ways depending on their personal, educational and motivational limitations. This may result into “resistance” - what we outwardly see and label it.  The perceived or real problem may not be the same for all implementations and may not be the same for all users in the same implementation.

Probable reasons for resistance/failures in the implementation can be one or many and understanding these will bring in more clarity in communications management and stakeholder management. Mentioned below are some of the reasons.

1.     The users are not aware of the purpose, outcome & overall impact (Why the initiative is taken up at all).

2.     The users are not aware of the big picture, milestones, timelines and status updates to all stakeholders, the communication of additional trainings that would be provided, and resources, incentives, etc. that would be given (What the initiative is all about).

3.     The stakeholders are not aware in advance about the quantum of their contribution, additional work involved, approximate time of their contributions in terms of schedules, timelines, etc.  (When will it affect them, when will they need to put more effort, etc.) 

4.     Not knowing who has to do what;  Not sure of whom to approach for all the support (Who is who).

5.     Not getting the information as to where will the changes happen intricately in spite of the overall idea of the outcome (Where will it affect).

6.     Not sure of having necessary material, online help, workshops, handholding (How to embrace the change).

To understand the impact on different sets of users and to be able to hear from them, the following steps should be taken:

1.     Create a Core User Group with key members from all relevant groups. Core users are to be selected in such a fashion that this group is the representative of the entire end user group.

2.     Involve them from the kick off onwards. Encourage them to do ground work with their teams in understanding the ground level difficulties along with functional requirements to bring back all suggestions,  issues, concerns and anticipated difficulties.

3.     Discuss and resolve issues, address concerns and take suggestions as applicable. As they are made part of the implementation process directly or indirectly from the beginning, the ownership lies with the end user through the core user.

4.     Arrange core user meetings with a defined periodicity and also as required.

In addition to addressing all the above, adopt the following best practices.

1.     Listen to understand apprehensions, assumptions, myths, etc. and address them.

2.     Make  everything simple.

3.     The stakeholders should not get intimidated with the work coming their way. It should look doable.

4.     Make them part of the success and celebration as well. Everyone’s contribution should be valued, linking to the ultimate goal.

5.     Use the best tools of communication – reading and writing as well as speaking and listening.

6.     Understand grapevines and try to clear miscommunications and misunderstandings.

7.     Try to break the ice; otherwise, the actual communication does not reach the recipient.

8.     Communicate what is required; do not confuse the users by overloading them with unnecessary information.

The greatness of understanding is that in the process of understanding, being understood would take place, leading to successful implementations.

(Image Courtesy: Pixabay.com)

Categories: Management

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K Annapurna Devi

K Annapurna Devi is Head - IT at L V Prasad Eye Institute....

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