Change management is about communication first

Silverside is always looking for real stories about change management. This time, we interviewed Sander Verheuvel, Product Specialist and Business Analyst at Gunco BV. Sander is involved in many change management projects that regard the implementation of a digital platform, the migration to Office 365 and the re-branding of his company. How can he deal with so many change management projects? “Communication first” is his motto.

Q: Can you tell us something more about Gunco?
A: We are a Rotterdam based company, even though we also have some other branches in the Netherlands. We rent and sell lifts, other equipment and machines for companies, but we also offer lease solutions, we repair the equipment and also organize some training. Our strong point is that we deliver very quickly. If a customer gives us a call in the late afternoon, we can still deliver the machine the next morning. The competition is very high in this market and we are aware of it. Being quick in the logistics is our strength to deal with the low prices and discounts that other companies offer instead. Gunco is also part of a bigger Belgian company, TVH that acquired us in 2011.

Q: So, you do many things at Gunco and the quick delivery is your added value. Since you have been acquired, how do you deal with being a local company, acquired by a global company?
A: Well, it’s almost eight years now we are part of TVH, together with many other companies in Europe. That’s why every company was working with their own system and computer programs to do accounting, invoicing, and other operations… So they have started a project to have only one digital platform for every company so that every operation is aligned and the method is the same for all the companies in TVH. And this is why I got involved in change management.

Q: All right… So, user adoption and change management are for many companies “hot topics” nowadays…Do you agree?
A: Yes, totally…

Q: Despite this, we are lacking a bit of insight from the real world. So we started asking ourselves: ”How are these topics applied in the daily practice of organizations?“. We really need insights from real professionals in their daily working practice. And that’s why we are here today.
A: Yes, sometimes theories are good, but then in real life, it is totally different.

Q: Indeed. So how was the impact of change management on you?
A: Regarding the project of the digital platform for me was ok, I adopted very quickly because I was part of the project, involved since the beginning. But it’s a totally different story if we talk about other colleagues that just heard about the project….

Q: So, how was your strategy to deal with change management for this project?
A: First make everyone aware of what will happen with the new platform, what is the project about, what will change for them… In two words, communication and awareness.

Q: All right, so since when you started your change management strategy, how have been things going?
A: Well, as you also know, some people adopt change more rapidly and are more open-minded, other people are different and more difficult to onboard. For us, this category involves technical people and drivers for example, because they leave the company very early in the morning and come back at five in the afternoon or later. So they miss a lot of information and things going on. So I am now focused on this target to making them aware of the upcoming changes.

Q: So, the first step of your strategy is communication, especially with those targets that can be more reluctant to change, right?
A: Yes, informing everybody and communicate the change.

Q: And how are you going to deal with reluctance?
A: So, for now, we didn’t have big cases of reluctance, but in the near future we will encounter this barrier. For now, as I said, the main action is communication and involve everyone in the change project. Also because the digital platform is not the only change that will happen soon. We will also change our name and brand in November and we will move to the cloud with Office 365. And there are more change management projects. So the colleagues have to be prepared for all these little and big changes.

Q: And which channels or methods are you using now to inform people in your organization about all these changes and projects?
A: Via newsletter and emails, but we also attach informative panels to the wall or next to coffee break areas, so that everybody can read and stay updated. Also with meetings of course.

Q: Which barriers and difficulties do you expect will happen with all these change management projects going on?
A: Difficult question… we are expecting difficulties for users in working with Office 365 and the changes in the way of collaborating for example and the same can be said for the digital platform project… But then time is also another barrier. People have to deal with all these changes besides their normal job, tasks and deadlines… so time is a challenge. Another challenge is that we have several branches in different locations, so also making sure that the same information arrives at every branch and are understood correctly, is not easy.

Q: And regarding the Office 365 project, how do you make sure that communication around this project works for every branch?
A: We have selected some Office 365 ambassadors for every branch. They will work closely together from the start of the project and their role is to communicate with their colleagues about the Office 365 project, but also to train and inspire them.

Q: And how did you select these ambassadors?
A: Well, we picked up those guys that have more interest in ICT, are more enthusiastic about Office 365 and have the qualities to spread the information throughout their branch. I personally travelled a lot through the branches, so I also know a lot of colleagues. I knew who to pick for this project.

Q: Ok, so this is the strategy you are implementing right now: communication and ambassadors. But what is your vision about change management?
A: I think it is tough to find the right time for creating and implementing the strategy. So, managing time is essential and also the main challenge. Moreover, change management is about balancing constantly between pushing (because you know you have a deadline) and not pushing too hard (otherwise you can lose the attention and enthusiasm of people). Change management is a daily practice, you really have to do it every day, it’s not just a project of three months and then it’s finished. Once you get started with it, you really have to continue because it is a continuous process.

Q: Based on your experience, which will be your main suggestion to other professionals that are starting out a change management project?
A: I think that communication should be a priority and also involve the colleagues from the very beginning. Keep people informed about the steps of the change process and also which are the impacts of those changes for employees.
Change management is a hard process full of challenges: reluctance to change, people behaviour, lack of time, communication issues. However, small and big companies have to deal with it.

Sander Verheuvel’s strategy is focused on communication first. This is also what our PACE methodology suggests to do from the very beginning of the process. But communication is just the beginning.

Silverside PACE methodology is made of four phases: Prepare, Activate, Capitalise, Enhance and can help organizations to manage change in the method of working and in technologies. Download our whitepaper or register for our PACE workshop to know how we can help you to implement a successful change management strategy!

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