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Harvard Business Review Change Management
Summary of the latest Journal Announcements and pamphlets, special issues, and more from the Harvard Business Review Press. Summary. New research from leaders at Infosys shows that across industries, lasting, long-term change is most effective when it occurs in a series of small changes. The authors identify three strategies for effective small change management: Break large changes into small steps, change behavior through small adjustments to behavior and procedures, and constantly measure, learn, and evolve.
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Business transformation has traditionally been associated with large, ineffective initiatives. After the Great Recession, they became smaller, faster, and more focused, but change management was still implemented through a waterfall series. The breaking point came in March 2020, when Covid-19 provided a global wake-up call that forced all companies to rethink their ability to adapt – and quickly.
At Infosys, we experienced this during our transformation over many years and again during the crisis. We also wanted to compare our experience with other companies, so we surveyed 1,000 corporate leaders around the world to understand what the best companies do to get their people into new environments.
In this study, we found that a continuous set of small, coordinated changes is the best way to bring about significant and lasting change in an organization. These small changes, when carried out continuously over a period of time, have a compounding effect that triggers larger changes and changes. We call this approach micro change management, or “micro is the new mega.” This approach is based on the Scale Adoption Framework developed by Pramod Varma and Sanjay Purohit of Social Forum, an organization that addresses large and complex societal problems.
Microchange Management was a key factor in the Live Enterprise initiative that transformed Infosys into a digitally native company over three years. The employee experience and business processes such as new hire onboarding were reimagined, and a “digital way” to launch capabilities was established through small implementations carried out every six weeks. This made Infosys more resilient during the Covid-19 pandemic, when 99% of our employees seamlessly transitioned to remote work, employee satisfaction skyrocketed, and customer value scores were the highest they’ve ever been.
Types Of Business Transformation
Small change management is based on human motivation and behavioral theory – not templates and communication, which are usually informal, impersonal and mundane. Short daily stand-up meetings ensure that change plans are aligned with rapidly changing needs, requiring minimal benchmarks to measure progress. The sum of small changes adds up to bigger changes, creating a big impact that leads to non-linear improvements and a greater likelihood of overall success. .
Acknowledging these behaviors is important, but often not easy. From our experience and research, we found three small change techniques that lead to successful change.
Large-scale business change takes time, and value realization takes even longer. However, micro-thinking allows an organization to break down larger reforms into a number of smaller initiatives that each have a well-defined goal and outcome. These are delivered by small teams consisting of diverse talents and functional skills.
For example, to meet increasingly stringent regulations, a major snack food company needed to improve their ingredient tracking. This meant asking local workers in factories across Europe to change long-standing practices in food production. To mitigate risk, the program team implemented sub-country projects to incorporate local language and regulatory requirements. Then, the project teams further separated the changes into smaller additions such as field adjustments or color palette improvements. This accelerated adoption by employees who had worked with the same legacy systems for a long time and were resistant to change.
Change Management: Harvard Managementor
To start thinking at a smaller level, ask why the change is needed, whether its value is incremental or exemplary, and what behavioral changes are needed. Agile teams can help take apart existing processes and then rethink them in a new context while designing targeted changes for each rapid, planned release to meet the larger goals of the program.
Small change management uses a balanced combination of cues, nudges and suggestions, as well as rewards and targeted recognition. It builds on popular thinking from books like Nudge and Atomic Habits by applying it to larger programs and moving beyond individual roles and goals to the team and overall plan. Every small change should drive a small adjustment in behavior or routine. We call this “Schedule +1,” a small but effective step that ultimately leads to the ultimate change in behavior with less resistance and risk along the way.
We studied 150,000 Infosys employees in 2,500 projects before and during the pandemic to understand how micro-replacement methods were applied to a company-wide re-hiring program. By changing only one learning variable at a time and providing a steady stream of positive gentle reinforcement, Routine+1 gradually but successfully changed the employee’s behavior. It reduced the friction of learning by using a series of personalized lessons on our learning platform. In the past, online training required a formal course that could last an hour or a series of them that could require an entire day, offered periodically and requiring formal registration. This often became a catch-all situation, where employees delayed training due to lack of time. Once the training was adapted to small modules and intelligent email nudges were provided, employees found it easier to use the training and progressed slowly. Results: Infosys employees now have an average of 35 minutes a day on rapid localization, which helps them develop new processes and achieve learning and business goals.
As small change programs are deployed, you need to regularly evaluate these programs to ensure that they are achieving the desired results. When they deviate, analyze the data, rethink, and iteratively adjust. Embed change measurement in existing tools and evaluate ease, adoption, behavior and value.
Persuade Your Company To Change Before It’s Too Late
Our research found that pilot projects should cover 2.5% of the user population. Learnings from testing should be used to improve and scale the publication across the entire user base. Adoption becomes significant when it reaches between 20 to 40%, and then to the 60% level. For 80%, it is considered embedded in the organization and culture. To automatically measure adoption, a process should be used to generate data such as usage patterns that can provide feedback for corrective action.
For example, as part of our digital transformation efforts, Infosys wanted to move from a suite of desktop employee applications, many of which required in-office or VPN access, to mobile. This required major changes to the user interface and underlying security of the software. To ensure employees will use the mobile apps, the project team guided users through a series of small changes through animated email prompts, activity recommendations and badges. 2.5% of test users were involved in multiple releases to provide early feedback that accelerated adoption. Combined with a solid six-week performance rollout of incremental functionality, this resulted in over 200,000 employees (>80%) using the mobile version.
To measure the adoption of small changes, especially for applications and software-driven features, we developed the two-pronged evaluation system shown below.
Every organization has a different vision and must find their own way to achieve it. Micro-change management provides a low-risk, rapid approach to turning complex changes into manageable changes, reducing the level of trust required to reach the other end. Over time, this leads to true adoption: the ultimate goal for leaders in any change initiative.
Strategies For Leading Through Uncertainty
Editor’s Note (5/4): This piece has been updated to restore data on Infosys employee rehiring that was removed due to an editorial error, and to give credit to the Mass Adoption System.
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