Change management is more than just training. It includes a comprehensive approach to developing and executing a set of organized activities designed to prepare and support people through the changes initiated by a project or organization. Change management, in many cases, is something every project team says is a critical component to success while at the same time is something that tends to be deprioritized, descoped, or delayed. This article makes the case for incorporating change management into your projects from day 1, as well as provides some useful and practical tips.
Start with Understanding the Change
First, it is helpful to understand the change via a Change Impact Analysis.
This analysis should compare the current state and future state to identify the areas of the organization most impacted by the change and to identify the stakeholders who are the most impacted. For example, if the change is to an organization’s system for entering expense reports, then compare how the reports will be entered in the future to how they are entered today. During this analysis, identify the people involved at each step along the way and determine how the change impacts them. This type of analysis can be done early on in a project even before the future state is fully designed. It can always be updated as you learn more from future phases of the project.
Build Awareness and a Desire for Change
A key component of change management is to ensure all impacted stakeholders are aware of and have a desire to participate in the change. To accomplish this, it helps to create a common vision of the future. This can be done by drafting a goal statement, a project charter, or even a set of guiding principles. Once the shared vision is known it is important to communicate it with the wider population in a manner that is easily understood and transparent. When drafting communications to inform people about the change, try to answer what is changing, when is it changing, how will the exchange impact them, and what can they do to prepare for the change. It is also helpful to include thoughts about how people should feel about the change as some change is exciting (expanded HR benefits) while other changes (a merger/acquisition) can cause concern.
Accelerate Change with Change Champions
Not everyone impacted by a change can be an equal participant in a project due to any number of constraints. So, it may be helpful to identify Change Champions who can represent larger groups of impacted stakeholders. These should be people who understand the current state, have a big picture view of what is possible with the future state, and are respected by their peers. Change Champions can be effective representatives of stakeholders on a project and serve as a communication mechanism to get the word out about the change. The more people feel represented within a project, the greater the likelihood they will adopt the change and buy into it.
Show Success Early On
Go for quick wins, if possible, to improve excitement and so people can start to feel concrete benefits, especially if the overall project has a very long time frame. The team should identify all potential opportunities and place them on a matrix indicating ease of implementation on one axis and amount of positive impact on the second axis.
To find quick wins, the project team should focus on efforts that can be more easily accomplished while still having a larger impact. Further, the team should ensure the quick wins are communicated so the success can be shared across all impacted stakeholders of the larger effort.
Dedicated Change Management Professionals Make a Difference
Change management is an important success factor for most projects and requires dedicated time to organize and accomplish the tasks. Consider identifying change management resources who will use an approach, methodology, and tools that are integrated with the larger project’s methodology and management. It is helpful to have resources who spend most of their time focused on managing the change rather than it just being an afterthought.
Interested in learning more? Attend the upcoming Elire Strategy Summit March 24-25, 2021. Register now and join sessions such as “Building a Successful Change Management Strategy: Expanding and Accelerating User Adoption”.
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