Over the years, I have had the benefit of being part of some great change experiences and also some not so great ones too! Out of those experiences come a set of lessons or insights that I thought might be useful for others in managing change.
It’s all about behaviours. People do not deliberately turn back and run the opposite direction but if they see no reason to change and they can work their way back to what they know, they will. We are, after all, creatures of habit. Are you being realistic about how easily your end users can change? You could be on a losing streak if you have under-estimated the skills required of the team taking it on and you haven’t planned enough for a step up in the capability required. One off training won’t cut it where you are fundamentally changing how people work. In which case what’s your post-implementation support plan look like? How will end users be supported in the months afterwards? Do you have enough resources built in to the plan so you can be sure people are supported? How many large projects don’t budget very much beyond the implementation date? It takes time to change behaviours.
Measure it. What’s the old saying what gets measured gets improved. Same for change. How can you know how it’s going if you don’t measure the adoption and let people know how they’re doing (good and bad). Some might view this as the stick approach but in my opinion it’s necessary.
Get the ownership right. Who is driving the need to change? Is your sponsorship of the project being driven out of the area most impacted by the change? Are your leaders leading the change or standing by the sidelines? What ownership levers can you use to ensure there is enough skin in the game? For example, where is your process, change and training delivery sitting – in your project office or with the business – how well do the business know what is really changing and are they really ready for it? Think about realigning the reporting lines of some project roles to drive greater ownership and accountability where it counts.
Break the change down. Structural change often brings the most distraction. Rather than distract the masses from the day-to-day with a big restructure communication, look at breaking the change down into smaller chunks. Low noise change might take you longer but the transition can be more successful simply because the distraction is less. This strategy, which applies equally to systems and process change, can also help build change agility for next time.
Make the time to think about the change. Is your project team able to do enough big picture thinking about what’s changing or have they become too swamped in the detail because of the timeline and budget being worked to. Whatever the change and wherever it is in the project lifecycle, pause for thought, do you have a solid strategy for the impacts the change will have and what are your comfort levels that the project will be a success? If the answer is no or not sure then it would be a good opportunity and sometimes a gutsy move to stop and review what you are really doing.
By Jayne Bailey, Director, The Change Place
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