Building an Actionable GIS Change Management Plan

Change Management is a topic that leaders have been challenged with since the beginning of time. Pretty much all change faces at least some resistance.   As such, scholars have been researching the psychology of this entrenched resistance for years to establish best-practices for managing this resistance.  Emphasis on “managing” as eliminating resistance is an unrealistic goal.  One such scholar in this field is Dr. Peter Gollwitzer at New York University.  The theory developed is one that takes into account why plans fail.  He determined that broad goals, while sounding nice, lack the needed connection to tactics.  In other words, stakeholders lack the clear direction on how to execute on the plan.   The prescribed solution from the research in this arena is having a plan communicated in Implementation Intention format.  Simply stated, this creates a plan that is communicated in “if-then” statements.  For the sake of building your GIS strategy, think of this as “Action-Outcome” statements to define the actions that the team will take with the ArcGIS Platform to generate a stated outcome.   When doing this, make sure to include in the action part of the statement when the said action will occur.   For example:
“If we implement ArcGIS Online by Q2 2016, then we’ll be able to utilize Story Maps to communicate our project work with the public to support our public outreach strategic initiative.”
The empirical evidence supporting this methodology is undeniably successful.   For example, Heidi Halvorson from the Harvard Business Review published the following statistics:
Building these plans requires the engagement of the various lines of business in your organization. With your “Guiding Coalition”, you can complete the following 4 steps to build your Implementation Intention GIS Change Management Plan:

Once completed, you’ll have a simplified plan that communicates the value of the ArcGIS Platform to the various lines of business in your organization.  Communicating the actions and outcomes reduces the resistance that you may encounter as you extend the ArcGIS Platform to new parts of your organization.  An example of what one of these plans may look like is below:

Essentially, this methodology helps to put to action the plans that your team invests valuable time to create.  Additionally, this helps to connect the enterprise value of the GIS activities of your team.

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4 responses to “Building an Actionable GIS Change Management Plan”

  1. Dave,
    Granted, one reason plans fail, as you point out, is the dis-connect between vision and tactics (i.e. a lack of clear direction on how to execute.)
    However, as a reality-check, a much more significant point-of-failure is a lack of shared vision within organizations. This is characterized by front-line staff as “Here we go again, implementing another arbitrary strategy established by an administration too distant from ground-truth to vision-cast effectively.”
    So, for the sake of building not just any GIS strategy but an effective one, consider engaging across levels of an organization to create plans which have ‘teeth’. (i.e. Those plans which will significantly and positively impact stakeholders in a near-term, cost-effective manner.)
    Consider If-Then-Why statements to attract and engage all levels of the organization into plan steps: “If we implement ArcGIS Online by Q2 2016, then we’ll be able to utilize Story Maps to communicate our project work with the public to support our public outreach, because our public has indicated a growing distance from our success and we want to reverse that trend.
    Simply put, no plan can be effective (from the stakeholder’s perspective) unless it adds value to them, so Step 0 is asking them what is most important — then build goals on those priorities!

  2. Connecting to the WHY is a really good point and will diffuse any objections to just chasing technology for technology’s sake.

  3. I agree with Dave; The folks affected in the organization nee to be engaged by the management early to get traction at the endpoint. Your can still use “if-then” logic,
    but there needs to be a “feedback phase” built in to allow the people who feel they have no voice to suddenly feel like their input was valid, and that they are needed contributors to the final decision.
    So it might go like this: Upper management decides old system has huge shortcomings that will disallow future goals.
    Then: Create a system to procure feedback from sub-managers and employees.
    The system should include reasons why the management is visiting the topic at all, and dialog that lets them know how important their feedback is, as part of the future solution. One might even include several options that are being looked at, rather than just one. And by the way, if you as a star employee have a suggestion on how we might accomplish such-and-such, while eliminating problem such-and-such, we are all ears.
    (This tells them their input matters)
    After giving the sub-management an email address to send their ideas, also give a cut-off date, after which all submissions will be considered.
    After the date has passed, communicate a thank you to everyone, and that all submissions are meaningful and will be taken seriously.
    Then review and communicate the submissions in abridged format back to the sub-management and employees. Pick a few outstanding ideas that were fed back that can be investigated further, and communicate these in the same email Such as Dawn Smith, from Planning suggested we do so-and so, and gave us contact information for John Doe, head of Sales, western US, so, we will follow up with John, to see if their product can help us achieve our goals. A big thank you to Ms. Smith, who will be getting a $50 voucher to XYZ restaurant for her submission.
    Also, we were impressed with a submission by paola Aletto for (such-and-such)
    Then after considering management, sub-management and employee submissions deeper, create the “if then” approach the author spoke of.
    At this point you have engaged the whole organization in the project, and they are onside by a huge margin.
    If the government governed this way, with every major policy, imagine how well loved they’d be term by term!

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