When it comes to change management at an organization, where do you even begin? Especially with CMMS implementation, there are many processes, roles, and principles that need to be considered and carefully guided in order to execute change successfully. In fact, the idea of change management is so daunting to some that they avoid it entirely (not a great idea).
Fiix’s Customer Success Team Manager recently made another trip to the Rooted in Reliability podcast to discuss change management: What needs to be considered, who needs to be involved, and when people should get on board. They also talked about why change is a circular journey rather than a straight line and why CMMS champions are an integral part of every CMMS implementation.
Listen to the podcast episode here (also available on Accendio Reliability’s website) or read the transcript below. Be sure to stay tuned for more appearances from Fiix experts in the future.
James Kovacevic: It is my pleasure to welcome back Scott Deckers to the podcast. Welcome back, Scott.
Scott Deckers: Hey, thanks for having me again.
JK: Scott, you are Senior Customer Success Manager at Fiix. Fiix is a CMMS company previously known as Maintenance Assistant, you know, where I kind of started my journey with CMMSs, so it does hold a little place my heart. And you’re located just outside of the Toronto area, correct?
SD: That’s right. Yeah, our offices are in Toronto, but I come in from the suburbs.
JK: Excellent. So over your career you’ve worked in both industry and technology that wasn’t related to our current industry, and those two things have kind of a line to bring you to Fiix, correct?
SD: Yeah, that’s right. Before I was at Fiix I was at BlackBerry, which is obviously a pretty big name in technology. And before that, I was at a company called Nordson. They make a hot-melt glue equipment, and so a lot of your industrial customers would probably run into some kind of Nordson system or another.
JK: Yes. Absolutely. I know I have used Nordson systems in the past, and BlackBerry’s.
SD: Yeah, and so yeah technology and industry… it’s just the right time for it to really take off, so it’s an exciting place to be.
JK: Yeah, absolutely. Now, how long have you been at Fiix?
SD: Almost three years. I know it’s funny, because I got my LinkedIn anniversary for my two year anniversary. But that was almost a year after we made the change. I joined Maintenance Assistant in February of 2016. So it’ll be three years in February.
JK: Excellent. And you know, I started off with Maintenance Assistant as the first CMMS I ever used and, you know, setting up the basic program, that sort of stuff way back when. And I know Maintenance Assistant, now Fiix, has grown over time, adding capability, adding new features, all kinds of great things. And it’s a very great and powerful CMMS, but behind every one of those CMMS implementations, there’s something called change that we have to deal with. And I’m sure you’re well aware of what that change is.
SD: Yeah, I think it’s actually the biggest part of implementing a CMMS is the amount of change that is required at multiple levels of an organization.
JK: Yeah, usually requires, you know a change in business processes. How does the work management function work? How does the spare parts management function work? How do people enter and close out work orders? All those things. Might be some roles and responsibility changes and a variety of other changes. Now, what is your definition of change?
SD: Well, I mean that’s a that’s a big question. For us, change is about changing the process. So when you do go to implement a CMMS, it is a change in all those processes you just defined, and it has to be organizational. It can’t just be you know, a single person-led initiative. You have to get buy-in from the shop floor to the top floor. And that means the way you report on things is going to be different, the way you close things is going to be different, and everybody needs to be comfortable with things being different. I think, you know, one of the biggest things that I find is, especially in manufacturing, organizations are built inherently to keep everything the same, right? You call it a manufacturing process because it’s a process that’s repeatable and it happens the same way all the time. When you build that into an organization, you know, everybody wants everything to stay the same always, and so when you bring in something like a CMMS or any technology change, that can be very disruptive to something that is inherently built to be the same, always.
JK: Absolutely, and everyone has a limited capacity for change, no matter how well you manage it. Everyone has that limited capacity. So if there’s other stuff going on in the organization, you’re trying to bring in a new CMMS, you’re just adding more to that current change. And depending on how much is going on, you might face a lot of resistance, but just based on that simple fact alone.
SD: Yeah, absolutely. To your point, everything changes all the time and the rate of technology continues to change in every part of our lives. You know, I haven’t been out of school that long, but I still remember my first cell phone back in 2007 didn’t even have internet on it, and you think now about the level of change just in your personal life with something like a cell phone, and then you think about how that impacts, you know, everything else in the world and just the way people interact with each other over the last 10 years. You know, the amount and rate of change can be exhausting.
JK: Absolutely. We have to take that into consideration. Now what are some of the first things an organization should do to prepare for a change? They have to consider what else is going on, but what else should they be really looking at doing?
SD: Yeah, so alignment around two key things is: “Why?” I think that’s the big one. Always start with why, and then the other thing is the “What’s in it for me?” So starting with “why” across all levels from, you know, with us we deal with technicians, management, and then senior leadership. There actually is a value to be had, which we obviously as the people in charge of deploying that, tend to know, but this should even start before you start evaluating. You want your technicians to know why you need to collect the data on the role that they’ve been doing in a different way, right? A digital way that has less of a paperwork overhead. The management team needs to be bought in because they’re going to be collecting the data in a different way and they need to know why they’re doing it. And again, the “What’s in it for me?” of it is like, how that makes their job easier. And then the reporting tends to go to a leadership team and the leadership team needs to understand the “Why” and the “What’s in it” for them as well, right? So the earlier in the process you start with those “Why” answers and the “What’s in it for me” answers across every level, the more successful you’re going to be long-term. It’s like painting a room, right? The more time you spend prepping for the change in paint colour, the better the paint job is going to look at the end. And I think that that applies here as well.
JK: Yeah, I couldn’t agree more. The further ahead you can get of that communication piece, communicating why we’re going to change, how is it going to impact me? What’s in it for me? Those certain things, I think that goes a long way to quashing that rumour mill, eliminating some of the uncertainty about the change, which puts people at ease, which makes it easier to do. So, like you said, it’s all about that prep work up front.
SD: Yeah, a hundred percent. Couldn’t agree more.
JK: Now, do you have a list of activities or steps you use when you’re going to implement a change like implementing a new CMMS or something like that?
SD: Yeah, so there’s a bunch of good frameworks that are out there. I know you had mentioned to me about Kotter or ADKAR, things like that. I think, you know, alignment is the key. Once you get that alignment, there’s a bunch of ways things can go, so we try not to be too prescriptive. The quote I use, and this is a funny person to quote, but it is so applicable in change management, but in everyday life is that, “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” It’s a quote by Mike Tyson. And I just think it’s so applicable in any change management process, right? It’s important to get buy-in and alignment, but understand that that plan needs to be flexible, and it needs to be adaptable to different situations as different complications arise. So yeah, I like the frameworks that are out there, as long as when you go to implement them everybody understands that they’re flexible and that they’re just the basis, the foundation that’s there to get you started in the right way of thinking.
JK: Yeah, that’s—I have to agree with that. They’re there to get you thinking, to ask the right questions, to start doing that prep work like you said. There’s not a perfect Change Model. That’s why there’s so many of them, there’s different things, all kinds of different things, right? So we need to just take what they have and let us use what makes sense for our organization, what makes sense for our particular situation, those sort of things. Now, who should be involved in developing that plan? Analyzing these frameworks, figuring out what we need to do, who needs to be involved with that?
SD: So it’s really interesting, because when you look at the process of change, the most impactful members of that change team typically aren’t the ones that are initiating the change. What we see, and I would say this pretty consistent in a lot of organizations, but change tends to start in the middle. And I mean the middle-management type of layer. The executives at the top tend to be focused on broader macro business issues. Technicians on the floor are mostly focused on keeping the business running day-to-day. So the people that have the opportunity to really drive and make change happen are kind of sandwiched in between. But they actually absolutely need to get the buy-in of both the high and the low end of that spectrum. So change starts in the middle, but it really requires that buy-in of the you know, the floor-level people and the top level people to make it successful.
JK: Yeah. Absolutely, though the senior executives if you will, they need to communicate the need for this, the importance of this, they need to communicate it over and over, while those on the shop floor level, they need to understand, how is it going to benefit them? Why do we need to do this change, those sorts of things, right? And if we don’t have buy-in from either one of those ends, it’s not going to be sustainable.
SD: That’s right. Exactly. And sustainability of the changes is key, right? It has to happen and continue to happen. Actually, the change itself even needs to continue happening.
JK: Yes. It does. It’s continuous, right? You need to have—after you make that change, there needs to be some reinforcing to make sure it stays. If not, it’s going to go back to the way it was before, right?
SD: Yeah, sorry. I was going to say, James, that’s… Every organization’s inertia is to keep things the way they are, and it takes a long time to move the weight of that inertia into a state of change. But if you can keep that going, you can iterate and develop and make improvements in an ongoing way that, you know, to your point, it just becomes this boulder rolling down a hill.
JK: Exactly. Now, what should we have in that change plan? What really do we need to have there to make sure that we get this momentum and we keep it going?
SD: For me, change planning needs to start with desired outcomes. I know that’s a big term that we use in customer success a lot is always focused on desired outcomes, but really I think a good change plan starts with an idea of what “better” is, right? Everybody starts change from this place of real positive intent. I know it creates a lot of unsettled feelings and emotions in people when you talk about changing, but the idea of change is actually that, you know, you don’t make changes intentionally trying to make things worse. So if you can focus the change and focus on those desired outcomes, you should be able to work back through the steps that you need to take to get there. And so for me, every good change plan, I think starts with, obviously organizational buy-in, you know, we’ve kind of talked a lot about getting alignment through all of the hierarchy of the organization. But once you have that alignment, I think where you need to focus is on your outcomes that you’re after. So whether it’s a, you know, a reduction in cost, an improvement in throughput, whether it’s you know—it just needs to be defined. If you don’t have a good problem definition, it’s going to be very hard to solve that in a meaningful way.
JK: Yeah, absolutely. We need to understand, what is that future state? What are some of the barriers? Using a simple SWOT analysis would help us to understand what are our internal strengths and weaknesses? What are the opportunities and threats external to this change that can impact us. Even understand those basic things. We can develop that change plan and, like you said, work backwards. What do we need to do to make sure we hit that end state or future state, if you will?
SD: Yeah, and just find those barriers or points of friction that tend to occur in the change process and you know, the best change plans call those out in advance. I don’t think any really good change plan is going to say, “Yes, this will go one hundred percent smoothly at every point.” So yeah, I think that’s a really good call out as well.
JK: Now. How long do these changes take to implement? Is this a we can do in the week? Is this something we have to do over multiple years? Where does it sit?
SD: Well I kind of hinted at this earlier, but I really think that the very best organizations just embrace change. There’s a bunch of new literature coming out about this, but it’s the idea that change is not a destination. It’s a journey. And if you can bake change into your organization, and I don’t mean change in like a turbulent way, I mean like a continuous improvement framework for every part of your business is just a really healthy way to think about modern manufacturing processes, right? We do it in the actual making of the product. You know, I think every time you can get some small gains in terms of less inputs being used or less time being used, everybody’s open to that. But you need to apply that to the whole organization, right? If the whole organization can adopt and embrace these changes sort of as a continuous improvement philosophy, I feel like, you know, it should be ongoing. There should be no ends to the change, but that should be a positive thing. I think if you say “no end,” people maybe think that that’s a bad thing. But, you know, even when you boil it down to a CMMS, you input your parts and your assets and your PM programs, but the very best organizations that I work with, they immediately take those PM programs and they start doing PM audits and they change the PMs to be more efficient or they look at, you know, parts utilization, and then they can optimize the parts reorder windows to improve there, and so, you know, the small act of change in terms of putting the CMMS in then immediately leads to these other change projects and all for the better, even though it’s sort of this continuous state of change.
JK: Yeah, there is no final destination like you alluded to. There’s constant reiteration, there’s constant change, and that’s how we get better at what we’re doing. So implementing the CMMS is probably the first stage of the change, but then like you said we’re talking about revising PMs, revising min-max levels, revising our job plans for corrective maintenance so we’re getting better at work management. Those sorts of things. And they’re all different changes that spin off and drive value, and it never really ends. We’re always trying to get that next level of better performance.
SD: Yeah, absolutely. I mean you could draw like a hard line in the sand and say “We’ve made a digital transformation and that’s good.” But I think the idea is that you know, really embracing the change across your team is what sets you up then to make more changes. Once that’s done, that’s kind of your new starting line rather than the finish line. And each change then drives another series after that.
JK: Yep. Absolutely. Now, how important is leadership in making sure that the organization is continuing that move forward, continuing to reiterate and drive that change?
SD: Yeah, so leadership is a funny term. I actually think leadership is required at every level of the organization. Senior leadership, obviously their buy-in will be important from a sponsorship level. But I think then the middle management layer, the technician or the end user layer requires leadership also. Really when we look to do a CMMS implementation, we look for what we call “CMMS Champions” within the end user group, and I don’t mean just like administrator champions, I mean like end-user champions who are willing to embrace the change. The number of those champions that you can get will really amplify the speed and the impact that this change can have, right away. And so that end-user leadership, that small group of people, whoever they are, end up becoming massively influential in your initial change management, but they can actually really become influential in the entire organization afterwards. You know, I can tell a small aside. We have a customer and they had four process team leads really adopt the CMMS and just get really, really deep into it right away on their first deployment. This was about two and a half years ago and all four of those, process leads or team leads are now either plant managers or assistant plant managers at different plants around the organization. So, you know, it’s an opportunity that the embracing of that change becomes an opportunity for the team development and development of your staff which again just adds to the core competencies of your organization. And then you have new change agents in that leadership position at other parts of your company now, and it just becomes like a like a virtuous cycle, I guess is how I would describe it.
JK: Yeah, it is that cycle. It is continuing to move that forward. Now you mentioned leadership being required at all the different levels within that change, but what about communication? Do we have to communicate that at all different levels, all different ways, all different messages? How important is communication and driving these changes?
SD: I mean, communication super important in almost every aspect of life. But yeah, to your point about communication. It starts from the beginning, right? You have to communicate the need for change. You have to communicate the evaluation of how you want to make that change. So again, what is your solution, and even communicating that there are multiple solutions available, I think communicating the need for change and already having a prescribed solution is just inherently, you know, not building consensus or coalition, right? And so you need to communicate early and often and transparently. The best change agents are just entirely open and honest with what they’re doing, why they’re doing it and how they’re going to go about it, and truly seeking engagement from all parties, and listening to the feedback that they get. You know, something that becomes really interesting is, often senior leadership can identify that there’s an area that requires improvement. So we won’t even say that there’s a problem. There’s, you know, a business need to improve in X. The best thing that those senior leaders—The best senior leaders you’ll see will not say how they think that problem should be addressed. They will sit back and listen to the feedback from all of the involved stakeholders. And what you’ll see is the people that are closest to it, you know, we see this all the time with our technicians. Our technicians know where things like inefficient PMs are, or things that need to be changed in a maintenance schedule or cycle on the actual assets, because they work with those assets every day. If somebody came and told them how to fix that asset, they would probably listen to that leadership, but it would be wrong. And so the best leaders are willing to go in with an open mind to that problem, listen to all the feedback that they get, communicate back as they make decisions, and then get, you know, a full consensus buy-in from everybody on “This is the direction that we’re going to go to address this problem or address this area of opportunity.”
JK: Yeah, it’s you know, taking that feedback, communicating, adapting based on the messages you’re getting back. All those different things. So we’re continuing to reiterate and even change their own communication to further support that change journey, if you will.
SD: Yeah, exactly. It’s you know, you wouldn’t you wouldn’t buy a new house without consulting, you know, your wife or partner or whoever you live with. You would say “Hey, I think that we would like to relocate for this reason,” and then you would listen to some of the challenges and maybe you don’t need a different house, maybe you need to renovate, or build an addition, or maybe even downsize. If you’re open to that feedback, you can have a much more positive outcome as a result, right? If you start with the outcome that you’re looking to get, you know, you can get there in a bunch of different ways.
JK: Yep. Absolutely. Now, do you have any recommended models that people can follow to start their change planning or to you know, really find their change methodology?
SD: So actually, you had sent me a bunch of good resources on this. I do like Kotter and ADKAR as far as change management frameworks. Google is your friend on those. John P. Kotter’s Leading Change is a good book for that. But again, I think where some of these frameworks fall down is that they do tend to focus on on an endpoint or like a “change is finished here. Set this in stone as your final destination.” And I think for me, if I could improve on any of these models a lot of them get, you know, say the first 80 or 90% of it right. But I think the point of it is that it becomes a circle rather than a linear journey with an endpoint. It should just be… the endpoint should be feeding back into a new cycle of change so that you can continue to grow, improve, develop your organization, because for me, remaining stagnant in an ever-changing marketplace is probably the worst endpoint you could aim for.
JK: Yeah, absolutely. You know, we’ve talked about it numerous times. Having to start new changes, having that main change spur additional changes after the fact. It’s never-ending. And the best organizations are always in a state of change. Like you said, they don’t want to become stagnant in the marketplace. So they’re constantly changing. So it’s, how do we adapt these models to suit that like, you said more of a circular fashion?
SD: Yeah, and it’s funny how all this ties together, because communicating that becomes important too, right? Being open to feedback, listening to the improvements that are available, making the changes and then listening for more feedback. It’s—it all just spills into itself, and we do go around in circles a little bit, but it’s all positive reinforcement.
JK: Yes, absolutely. Now speaking of that, what do you think makes the biggest difference in being successful with implementing these changes? Take a CMMS implementation, for example?
SD: Yeah, so we touched on it a little bit earlier, but the most important thing to do is, before you even go out and look for, say, a CMMS solution, is to start getting alignment with the whole team on what you’re looking to do. People don’t buy a CMMS just because they want a CMMS, or just because computerizing their maintenance is some sort of Silver Bullet. You know, our customers come to us to make meaningful business changes. They’re looking to standardize costs of maintenance, labor costs, parts costs. Ideally in a perfect scenario, they can start to optimize those costs and look for ways to improve asset life and labor costs, parts costs. All of these are business outcomes and you could address these in other ways, but a CMMS is an absolutely great way to get a handle on those things. But the best implementations that I’ve seen start with business outcomes in mind, and they get full alignment across a pretty broad spectrum of their team before they even begin the process of evaluating a CMMS. You know, it takes a lot of prep work to get to that point before you even consider what your options are in the market.
JK: Yeah, I think that like you said, that stakeholder alignment, getting everyone on the same page, understanding what that journey is, those are all vital things to making sure the change is implemented and it’s the right change for everyone involved.
SD: Well and if everyone agrees to the change in the alignment process, then you’re removing barriers and friction at the end point of actually deploying the change, right? If everybody says, “Yes, we really need a CMMS to improve our process,” then, you know, we come in as a CMMS company and to do the training and everybody’s like, “Yes. We really need this. Please help us.” And they’re pulling for information instead of you know, some organizations that are kind of safe pushing it from the top down. You’re immediately meeting resistance like “Oh, my boss said I have to be here.” And you know what I mean? It’s doomed to failure before you even get started.
JK: Yep. Absolutely. Now if you had a magic wand, what would be that one thing you would change in a typical implementation or change project?
SD: I would start almost—even the best ones, I would start them six months earlier than where we engage with them. I would start right at the beginning with getting organizational alignment. And we’ve probably spent a bit too much time on that, but it really really really is the entire framework for change success. If you’re not aligned and communicating openly and effectively, you know for us to come in and try to implement something puts us on our back foot the entire way through the process. It can be successful in that case, but it’s a lot more work to do so. And really, what you’re seeing happen a lot of the time is in organizations that are under prepared for the change, we come in and become the initial change agents, and so you know, you’ve bought a system or CMMS and you might pay for it for six months to a year before you really start to get those change benefits, and a lot of the times what ends up happening is you could even end up doing a full re-implementation of the system at a year in, and that’s more common than I wish it was, so if I had a magic wand I would you know, I would get everybody to get aligned internally on the business outcome that they’re looking to drive before they even start evaluating CMMSs.
JK: Yeah. Absolutely. I’ve seen that time and time again, like you said, the re-implementation, all that stuff. So having a magic wand to make sure everyone’s ready, having the organization align, all those things is vitally important to not wasting all that stuff, wasting all the time and effort. That definitely goes a long way. Now, what is the one action you want our listeners to take away from our conversation today on change?
SD: Actually conversation is the action, James. Honestly, I would like for everybody to if you’re listening to this message, if you can hear this, just go have some conversations with other members of your team people, you maybe haven’t talked to. Talk about you know, some of your objectives, your goals or your business’s goals for the coming year, and just honestly go into it with an open mind about how they would approach the problem or how they would look to change or improve things. You’d be shocked what you can find out just by going and having those conversations, listening with an open mind, and seeing where you can get to. You know, I would love to be selfish about it and say everybody should go look at implementing a CMMS. But like I said, I think what you really get to is just, open communication drives change on its own, and a lot of the times we just become part of your broader journey.
JK: Yeah, I really like that action. It’s just going to have that conversation, making it simple, making it easy. It doesn’t cost anything, but it’s going to drive you in the right direction. So that is probably one of the best actions I have heard people say. I appreciate that.
SD: Thank you, James.
JK: Now Scott, I want to thank you for taking the time to talk to us today about this, but where can people find out more about you, Fiix, and all this other stuff that we’ve talked about today?
SD: Yeah, so obviously I love directing people to our website. We have a lot of great resources on change, change management, bunch of others on fiixsoftware.com. If you’re interested in me, my best online presence is on LinkedIn. You can just search Scott Deckers I’m pretty open to connect with anybody in our space. So look forward to having discussions there. And as always, I hopefully I can continue to make some of these appearances on your podcast, James, because I always enjoy those as well.
JK: Yeah absolutely, we’ll definitely look to set up some more. I truly appreciate your time talk about change today I know you said it, sometimes people go to implement CMMSs and they end up redoing it a year, two years later because they didn’t manage the change properly, but that happens with everything else too, not just CMMS implementation.
SD: 70% of all change initiatives fail, according to McKinsey and Company. That’s in my notes here, so whether it’s CMMS, or otherwise, 70% of all new change initiatives are failing because of all the reasons we discussed today.
JK: Yep. Exactly. And that’s why it’s so important to even do a little bit of prep work. A little bit of this prep work goes a long way to ensuring that success, or at least making a little bit easier.
JK: Well Scott. Thanks again. I truly appreciate your time today.
SD: Yeah, hey it’s always fun, James. Thanks.