Today I left work knowing that Monday is my final vendor transition project go live. Go live means the employees from the previous vendor will now officially be employees of my company. This is the third vendor transition I have been involved in/led in the past year and a half, so the feeling is somewhat bittersweet. On the one hand I am ready to move onto the next thing and on the other I have become comfortable (read: good at) these types of transitions. I was not always this way though. As mentioned in my previous post on learning about the importance of details in implementing change, I have learned a lot along the way that I was able to take with me in subsequent transitions and will be able to keep in mind should I do something similar again in the future.
In my first vendor transition, my biggest mistake was forgetting about the people. My focus was on the deliverables and the change itself and if people weren’t onboard that was their problem. I began to realize this was my problem. We had a serious issue on our hands in that the employees did not trust us. We thought if we told them they would have the same job that would be enough to ease people’s minds, but we hadn’t yet earned their trust in order to warrant such an assumption. Our communication or lack thereof, was all wrong. Instead of saying, “Nothing will change except the name on your paycheck,” we should have told them from the outset that there would be changes, but we will help them get through it. The main thing, their position, would remain the same, but change is inevitable no matter which company you work for and switching companies is a bigger change than just a name on paycheck. Different companies often do not have the same policies and procedures, benefits, organization structure, etc. Had we communicated the message differently, we may have avoided some of the pain endured early on. We learned from this though and were able to correct it. We began listening to the needs of the transitioning employees and shifted our focus toward them. They were the change and the deliverables would fall in line once we were able to gain the trust of the group and achieve stability.
In the subsequent two transitions, this lesson was used to develop a different approach to the transition. From the outset, our message was, “There will be some changes, but we will work through them. The main thing is that we value you and want to you transition over to us as we cannot run this business without you.” Our way of communicating had changed. Our openness and honesty enabled us to earn the trust of the employees, which enabled us to work through any attrition issues that arose.
Though this was my biggest lesson learned, there were several others as well:
- There should be a resource plan in place for all key transition resources.
- The leadership of the vendor team should be included early on in the planning as they know the peaks and valleys of the workload better than anyone and will be able to assist in setting deadlines and blackout periods.
- Open communication allows for quicker resolution of risks and issues.
- The project timeline and framework should be flexible enough to be adjusted according to the size and magnitude of the change transition.
What are some of the lessons you have learned when implementing change?