Our client is Australia’s central bank and banknote issuing authority, based in Sydney.
Our client had already implemented an Electronic Document and Records Management System (EDRMS), but adoption rates were low—only around 20% of staff were using the system. They sought to increase the usage of the EDRMS, and to get a group of records managers to transform their habit-driven, document-focused approach, and become a cohesive internal service team that could improve business processes and productivity, and reduce risk.
Before we could begin to change habits, we needed to change attitudes. In the case of EDRMS users, we need to overcome the commonly-held belief that the EDRMS was little more than a bureaucratic imposition, and an impediment to effective and efficient work. For the records management team, we needed to educate them so they were able to connect with and speak the language of other parts of the business, and provide greater value by assisting business units to manage risk, and improve their business processes.
This change needed to be accomplished within ten months, in an environment where support for the EDRMS was already very low.
Before we could begin to transform the practices, we knew we needed to work on the attitude to the change itself. So our initial workshops focused on giving a clear understanding of the objectives and getting support for the project.
In our first two-hour workshop, we aimed to transform a mainly hostile, impatient, and uninterested group of participants–all of whom were important stakeholders–into positive change supporters who would then influence others. Dispensing with ‘out of the box’ icebreakers, we dived straight into talking about who we were and what we were there to do. Rather than sell the benefits of the system, we sought instead to be transparent and open about the known objections to the system. We emphasised how important the attendees were to the change process, and checked regularly for confirmation of understanding.
We knew we had to comport ourselves in a way that showed we were not there to dictate a methodology or teach the audience something they thought they already knew, but instead to provide tools for achieving better outcomes.
The next set of workshops focused on coping with change and leading change. These were kept focused on the EDRMS project, but also gave foundation skills for helping others through change.
The participants were middle and senior managers, who we worked to dispel myths about the use of the EDRMS and introduce them to functionality which had significant capacity to improve their business processes and reduce risk.
Later, we also taught the records management group how to easily map records and processes to develop file structures consistent with the business classification scheme. This is an area the records management team was convinced they knew how to do; they were sure we weren’t going to teach them anything new, so they were hostile, too. We did teach them something new – a simple way to create file plans. Most were opposed when they saw it initially, but came to see that it was a better way of doing things.
In subsequent workshops, we worked with the records management team to brainstorm new techniques to influence managers and end users. We then went on and taught them how to facilitate and influence others, which vastly improved their ability to gain the trust and support of other business units.
Further workshops were designed and delivered to different groups, to demonstrate that the EDRMS software had functionality to dramatically improve productivity and reduce risk, and to dispel myths about its use. We conducted twelve of these ‘mythbuster’ workshops over a nine-month period, which ensured that everyone understood the true system capabilities and the implications of the implementation. This gave us the opportunity to have conversations about the reality, rather than the assumptions people operated on.
We apply these principles often when we encounter significant resistance to change. The vast majority of the time, resistance can be overcome with facts and evidence, so long as everyone is looking at the same facts. By clearly stating what is, and what is not true, we are usually able to reliably change opinions.
The records management team was able to influence the senior management team to support the rollout program, when some senior stakeholders had been opposed to it. By the time the system had been rolled out, the records management team had eliminated almost all resistance to it, with adoption increasing from 20% use to over 90% use.
Records managers who had previously only supported the use of EDRMS for archiving were able to demonstrate and advocate benefits of the system – for example, controlling workflow processes. Adoption of the EDRMS increased dramatically and the programme was viewed as a ‘true transformation’. Some divisions have since shut down their shared drives voluntarily. This has enabled the records management team to propose and roll out a change in the information security framework with little resistance. They are now seen as credible – and indispensable – in the organisation now.