Minding the change

September 15, 2015
in Achievements

Following the recent conversion from the Acumen to the Wealthview Banking system across its Valley First branches, First West takes a look at what’s required to make a technology project of this magnitude and complexity successful. In the third of this four part series we spoke with project change management leader Cheryl Croeze.

To support the conversion project, First West used a dedicated change management team for the first time. Why?

Two major reasons: potential member impact and employee impact. Moving from one system to another brings significant change for system users. Some of our employees were going to have to essentially re-learn how to do their jobs and in other areas of our business there was going to be a transformational shift. For our members, we wanted conversion to be seamless, so we put ourselves in their shoes and tried to keep things as simple as we could.

Any time we experience change, good or bad, there’s often a tendency toward resistance rather than acceptance. As a change management team we wanted to acknowledge, understand and address issues and help our team members do the same. It was our goal to have 100 per cent of our employees understand why we were converting and what their role was so they could confidently provide a smooth transition for our members.

Where did you pull you change management expertise from?

In the early stages we were heavily supported by our change management partners are Tekara. They helped our change team and leaders understand the basics of change management theory, our roles as change leaders, define responsibilities and highlight interdependencies. Throughout the project they continued to help us build our change management expertise and root it in our weekly team meetings and change Playbook.

We built our change management team by inviting key department leaders to participate. By doing so we could cover off all functional areas from marketing and communications to technology, operations, member experience, people services and learning and development. The result was a fully engaged team with expertise in all areas of our business.

Employee training and process change was a particular area of focus, how was that training done and did you encounter a lot of resistance?

Ownership and engagement are key elements of affecting change and moving team members along the change commitment curve. As such, we wanted our people to be as involved as possible but also give them a degree of control over how they completed their training and prepared for conversion.

At First West, we use a 70/20/10 approach to learning – 70 per cent of learning is self-directed learning or on–the-job, 20 per cent is coaching and mentoring and 10 per cent is devoted to formal learning. This was really different for a project of this size, however, our employees embraced this format and were more than ready to go for launch day. This approach allowed branches to learn more collaboratively and help each other problem solve and knowledge share. Natural leaders or those who picked up the new system faster immediately started to emerge and act as informal change agents and advocates.

What would you do differently if you had to do it over again?

Build our change management capacity sooner. While we had dabbled in it before, a fully-fledged change team was new for us. You really need to look at it from day one and integrate it into your overall plans, especially if it is a new concept for your project team.

The other lesson is to ensure that you sustain your change management initiatives and resources until well after the end of project date. The official end of a project will see the team go their separate ways, but changes will continue for many more months. After two months there isn’t much confusion about the correct field to input information, but we are still dealing with procedural changes brought about by the new system and standardizing things among our branch network.

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