Thursday, December 27, 2007

Who's the guy with the blue head?

Recently, the organization I work for acquired another company within the same industry. Because the acquired company is very successful in their own right, all employees were retained and we are currently sharing best practices and working towards integrating what is now two separate divisions within a larger company. The end goal is to implement the best practices from each division, companywide. For the purposes of this article I will refer to the acquiring company as “Division A,” and the acquired division as “Division B.”

As human nature dictates, each division believes that there way is the best way and that any change would be counterproductive. However, senior management see’s the big picture and has done a great job of uncovering the best practices from each division. The first major change we are going to implement is integrating Division B into Division A’s Information Systems. This is going to be a big project for me because I am the guy from Division A, who trains everybody on the Information Systems. Therefore, I will be the guy who trains everybody from Division B on the new information systems being implemented in their organization.

In order to develop a training plan I needed to familiarize myself with Division B so that I know who to train on what and to get to know my audience so I can start thinking about what the best delivery methods may be. So, I put on my consultant hat and made a trip up to Seattle to spend a day in Division B’s corporate office for a scouting trip.

Boy did I feel like the guy with a blue face in Division B’s corporate office. I could hear the whispers of “Who’s that guy?” “What’s he doing here?” “Ohhhh! He’s from Division A!” There is definitely a level of resentment rooting from fear in Division B towards Division A. Although Division A retained all of the employees from Division B and gave them more perks then they had before there is still a fear of the impending changes. Because I come from Division A and play a key role in implementing these changes I am not exactly welcomed with open arms.

Prior to this scouting trip I thought my biggest challenge was going to be the timeline we are working on. Little did I know I was in for a rude awakening. I now know that my biggest challenge will be establishing credibility and overcoming Division B’s fear of the change. I can have the best training plan in the world but that won’t make any difference if I cannot gain their acceptance of the change.

This leads me into territory I am not familiar with. In my role I have a history of implementing change in Division A but that change was usually welcomed with open arms because they know I am there to make their job easier. Unfortunately my batting average doesn’t mean squat to Division B. Division B doesn’t have the understanding that this change will make them more efficient and is a huge improvement for the company as a whole.
At this point I need to come up with a plan for overcoming this fear and helping the general staff of Division B to see the big picture. If I can sell them on the benefits of these changes then my training efforts will go much smoother. This project is giving me a good taste of what an external consultant goes through when trying to sell their services to a client. I am usually the client so hopefully I can track down advice from somebody who feels my pain : )


Eric Blumthal said...

I have been here before - If you can get a relevant senior executive from Division B to communicate the strategic importance of these changes to the masses - and then get that same executive to hold a session with front line Division B management to reinforce this and to say that he/she is going to hold them accountable for driving adoption of this change, you then have a much softer target and an easier path. At the front lines, driving change is a difficult enough task - but if their bosses do not find it important, it is an impossible task.

Joe Deegan said...

Thanks for the advice Eric! I do have an Exec from Division B on my side, now I need to him to recruit the rest. I have also begun using my sales skills as if I am an outside consultant selling them a product. This is actually working but I am sure I will get the best return on my effort if I can get the VP that is on my side to bring along the rest of the VP's. Thanks Again.