Change is this odd dichotomy. We must change to survive, and yet by and large people fear change. And while this is certainly true in a larger, existential sense, it is also true in a smaller sense, as in, specifically, enterprise content management (ECM) projects.

Metrics are of course important, and anytime we change something, we want to be able to measure whether it is, in fact, an improvement. However, there’s more to change than just numbers. We need to deal with the fuzzy, human stuff too, or we never get to the numbers – or we set ourselves up for failure before we even start.

AIIM recently released a really helpful white paper with a useful checklist to help determine whether an organization is ready for change that lays out some of the specific examples of the fuzzy stuff that needs to be considered. It also partners nicely with some of the “methodology of change management” articles by applying it specifically to the different stakeholders in your organization.

While the checklist is specifically intended for ECM projects, the lessons it gives can be applied more generally to any kind of organizational or societal change. "The readiness of both the management to support the change and affected workers to accept and adapt to the change are the most crucial factors in the success, or failure, of your project," the paper notes.

Change readiness, AIIM says, can be broken into four areas: Vision, trust, motivation and respect.

The company's vision is a factor of how well the change fits in with the organization and how well that is communicated to staff. Examples of questions to be asked include:

  • Whose vision is it?
  • Is it shared?
  • Does everyone have the same interpretation of it?
  • Is it realistic? Relevant?
  • How well is it perceived?

Trust, AIIM says, is the most crucial factor, and is related to whether users feel the proposed changes are being represented honestly. Questions associated with this area include:

  • Is leadership trusted?
  • Are employees trusted?
  • Is the reality of change exposed honestly and openly?
  • Is there a history of mistrust?
  • Are consultants trusted?
  • Do employees and leaders trust each other?

The third area is the motivation. Why is the organization suggesting this change, and what's in it for everyone? Questions to be asked in this area include:

  • What is the leadership's motivation to change?
  • What is the employees' motivation for change?
  • Do these reconcile?
  • What's in it for me for staff and management?
  • Is there motivation to cooperate?
  • Is there motivation to support?
  • Is there motivation to enjoy the outcome?

Finally, there is respect. If the project and its leadership are not respected, "it is likely that users will buck the new system, and not believe in any proposed benefits, nor be willing to cooperate," AIIM warns. Questions in this area include:

  • Is the leadership that is recommending change respected?
  • Are the affected employees respected?
  • Are the consultants and business analysts respected by both?
  • How is the respect expressed?

You can see that these questions are applicable to any change, not just whether to change an ECM system.

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