“All that sounds great, but we need to get things done.” This was said to me during a recent conversation I had with a client while discussing the benefits that Organizational Change Management (OCM) can have on her major projects. It occurred to me at that moment that I needed to do something to demonstrate how OCM actually accelerates – not inhibits – progress. So here we go…
Most of my clients, business partners and, in general, the industries we serve are realizing that to achieve the business benefits of any major initiative, Organizational Change Management activities are critical to success. And although some OCM aspects may be addressed by project teams, these activities need more structure and focus in the project to enhance engagement, increase end-user adoption and achieve strategic goals.
In any major project, traditional PMs focus on getting the solution in place, with the required functions and processes defined and operational. This is difficult in itself, but they often overlook – or address at only a very high level – the things that are needed for adoption of the new system. After all, the ultimate goal of the project should not be to roll out a new system, but to get everyone performing in a way that meets the strategy, goals and needs of the business. It’s the subtle difference between delivering a new platform and ensuring your workers embrace and use the new platform as intended.
It is this difference in mindset or stated goals, which leads to project managers often lacking the skills, desire or temperament to perform the tasks required for effective adoption of change (this is not meant to criticize the PM – it’s just a different job). So when introduced into a project, change agents can often be a viewed as an obstruction to progress of the new system rollout, introducing “soft” requirements that are considered inhibitors to the project’s progress, and therefore carrying a negative connotation.
What’s interesting is that, when properly integrated into the PMO, a good Change Professional will help accelerate the successful completion of a project, with a higher success rate once delivered. How do they do this? Here are eight ways we see Change Professionals driving successful change within your organization, all while speeding up your time to delivery. The effective Change Professional:
1. Brings complementary skill sets. Project Managers mainly focus on the technology, the related business processes and, for the good ones, some level of project risk management. However, understanding the impact of change, how it affects people’s daily work, and the best way to ensure optimal end-user adoption require skill sets that are different than classic Project Managers possess. Change Professionals focus on people, with the primary goal of end-user adoption and the ongoing behavior required by the business strategy that drove the change in the first place. This requires a different mindset, approach and set of skills than are often found in the traditional PMO.
2. Demonstrates a vision for change. Often the change initiative starts with the project sponsors communicating that a new organizational structure, system or set of processes is being rolled out to adjust to changing market conditions, enhance operations or fix identified problems.
Critical to success is defining exactly why the change is needed and how it will affect stakeholders. The Change Professional clearly defines the change occurring with the project, how it affects the people involved and why it matters to them (the WIIFM effect). They then engage and communicate with the stakeholders, soliciting input and informing them why this change is happening, what is being done and what they should expect. Ultimately, everyone understands the vision and becomes champions of the cause.
3. Defines and engages key stakeholders throughout the organization. The success of any major project depends on a wide variety of stakeholders, including executives, IT, business process owners and knowledge workers. It is imperative to define the entire set of people affecting and affected by the change – and involve or inform them at the right times and to the right level. The Change Professional goes beyond working with the folks necessary for a system implementation, for example, and includes those required to successfully bring about the needed change. This is likely to include Corporate Communications, Human Resources, Marketing, Training, system vendors, line or regional management, Help Desk support, Audit, etc. Each will play a different role and be involved at different junctures during the project. The Change Professional will get them engaged when and in the manner that is appropriate. This is done by clearly defining their roles, informing and involving them throughout the process and driving their cooperation when necessary.
For example, I recently had a PM tell me that aligning the leaders on his project, creating messages for them to send (and getting them to do it when they are supposed to), working with HR and the Help Desk when people inquired/ complained about how their lives will change, and consulting with Training for the right level, type and timing of training for the various worker types are all things he hadn’t planned on and was thrilled he didn’t have to be distracted by. He also appreciated that he didn’t have to be the bad guy in many interactions (see item 6).
4. Introduces focus and structure. Integrated into the PMO, Change Professionals take ownership of those areas that are important to the people who must be involved in driving the change and those who are affected by it. Many of the change management tasks described in this blog are undertaken during the course of a project even without Change Professionals, but they are often done on a piecemeal basis, lacking structure and thoroughness. The change manager involved in the project will be accountable – and will hold stakeholders accountable – for delivering on assigned responsibilities for change. The creation and management of a governance model, impact and readiness assessments, the overall change calendar (including communications and training), change risk register, etc. are all part of their charter.
5. Develops and executes a Communication Strategy. For any change, it is critical that informative communications are delivered timely to drive acceptance and avoid the natural pushback or discontent where people are feeling uncomfortable. Change Professionals will determine what, when, how and to whom communications are delivered. They will follow the communication calendar, often write the content, and ensure the right people are sending it to the appropriate recipients at the most effective times. Among other things, this will require aligning and engaging the leadership team, defining the entire set of stakeholders, understanding the effects at the point of change, creating an effective marketing campaign and ensuring Training is on board every step of the way for all types of users.
6. Manages through conflict. For any project, there are often differing agendas, priorities, expectations, resource constraints and timelines between the stakeholders. There will be times when conflict arises. It is the Change Professional’s job to identify and help work through many of these issues. This also allows Project Managers to avoid change-related conflict, providing a buffer and allowing them to continue with traditional PM tasks and interactions.
7. Introduces optimized training methods. There are many different methods for providing awareness and training. Roles, learning styles, new process types, work breakdowns and costs all affect the type, timing and style of training to be developed and delivered.
In a recent OCM engagement where we entered late in the project, we learned that vendor-produced training was not going to work for the client’s rollout as it was not the right level for all users, but as go-live approached, this was the only training considered. Additionally, the Change Champion Network were to attend web-based training, which would have been insufficient for their needs, requiring a change in schedule and type of training (moved to in-class). And as it turns out, executives only wanted quick tips on their approval process, which led to the creation of short video clips that they could watch at any time (they loved it). Furthermore, there was no training calendar to ensure timely delivery of training to the various groups as the project rolled out in phases. These are only some of the examples of training issues that the Change Professional discovered and corrected before it was too late.
8. Understands and prepares for cultural differences. Cultural variances can be found by group, business units, managerial style or geography, any one of which can make adoption difficult. By engaging with the end-users and understanding their unique needs, Change Professionals will discover these potential issues and proactively address them before they have the chance to derail the project.
There are clear benefits to working with Change Professionals from the inception of the of change initiative. In fact, when done as an integrated part of the PMO this could be the best way to ensuring adoption and achieving your business goals faster. Change Management Professionals positively impact people and projects, accelerating timelines, mitigating risks and resulting in a smoother transition for your organization.