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Is go-live always a celebration?

You may do a stellar job with training and communications—and still, some of your users may feel anxious, overwhelmed, or even angry about the upcoming changes. If you're in a situation where your users are concerned and tense about go‑live—this can be especially true if your organization has a failed project in its history—should you still have a celebration?

The answer is, absolutely. Here's why.

The purpose of a go‑live celebration is to promote your team, the extended supporting teams, the fulfillers, and the end users. You're celebrating their willingness to be open to a new solution, and acknowledging that they're being asked to do their jobs in a different way—and that isn't always easy.

Here are the top six reasons to celebrate—even (or especially) if people are scared.

  1. Focusing on the positive and connecting benefits to employees releases dopamine. 
    • Dopamine is the brain chemical that mediates pleasure in the brain. Put simply, when our brain releases dopamine, we feel good. And production of dopamine has been shown to improve a person's ability to learn new things and accept change. (To learn more, Google "does dopamine help people accept change".) How do you produce dopamine in a work situation? Through fun, novel situations; excitement; and anticipation of a reward (yet another reason to budget for SWAG). These are all ways to kick‑start dopamine production.
  2. Connecting with something bigger than ourselves decreases isolation.
    • Celebrating together will help them see that this is bigger than their own feelings. Adapting to new processes becomes a "team sport," versus something they have to do on their own. Rather than viewing the changes as punishment, connecting to others affected by the change can encourage a new mindset: It's a new way of doing something, and we're doing it together. The go‑live celebration is also an opportunity for more negative‑thinking employees to bump into ones who feel more positive about the changes—and that can help sway opinions.
  3. Stopping rumors in their tracks helps get everyone on the same page.
    • Go‑live celebrations are a time to pull everyone together, make a statement, and ensure that folks understand the true value of what is happening and why. Use the celebration to get and keep everyone on the same page. You can do this through executive talks, training (see below), handouts, and testimonials from other users.
  4. Using the time as a fun training opportunity helps reduce fear.
    • Based on the first point about dopamine, using go‑live celebrations to extend learning opportunities is a great idea to get knowledge to stick.
    • Have booths where process owners can demonstrate the new process and hand out desktop guides.
    • Use your SMEs and have a "Stump the Expert" booth—basically a fun Q&A—and give prizes for the most creative question, most questions asked, and perhaps for a question that actually does stump the expert.
    • Create contests for who can find a specific KB article the fastest or complete a request on the portal fastest—using a sub‑prod environment, of course.
  5. Letting out underlying aggression in a safe environment can release some pressure.
    • Have a piñata filled with goodies – complete with a logo of the old solution as a bonus.
    • Have a gripe board where people can post their concerns, and another where they can post what they love about the new system. Sometimes it's okay to let people vent and it's better to know what they are venting about. (You can take this info and address what's already been handled and what will be in the future.)
  6. Letting people relax in a party atmosphere helps them focus on the accomplishment—not just the hard work.
    • No matter how smooth or rough the change has been, everyone has put in extra time to make it happen. Letting loose helps people relax, realize what's been accomplished, and feel acknowledged for it.

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