How would you feel if you spent the last 12 months managing a project and absolutely nothing changed upon completion? Your team spent Herculean effort to get it done, and you put in long days and sleepless nights. But, upon reflection, there wasn’t even a glimmer of something new, different, or better.
It would be disheartening, to say the least.
And, it would go against the reason we initiate projects in the first place, which is to grow business value, whether by increasing sales, reducing costs, or making a process more efficient. Here’s the catch… all of these project aspirations require change, and change requires people!
That’s where change management comes into play.
Why is Change Management Important?
According to PROSCI, one of the credentialing agencies for Change Managers, Change Management is “an enabling framework for managing the people side of change.” Nothing changes unless people change.
In Episode 86 of the Project Management Office Hours podcast – Understanding Change Management, Tim Creasey, Chief Innovation Officer of PROSCI says “There is always going to be a people side of change. We can tend to this side of change, providing thought, intent, structure, and purpose. Or, we can leave it up to chance, which is typically the historic approach”. It’s no surprise that leaving change management up to chance is not the way to go.
Project teams often assume people will love and embrace new processes or tools. How could they not like our work? Another assumption is that a change needs only one mention, the word will spread like wildfire and everyone will jump on board. It’s easy to fall into the “if we build it, they will come” mentality, only to find ourselves and our project team standing all alone in the field.
Change management solves both problems by making it easier for users to know about and embrace the results of a completed project.
But, I’m a Project Manager, Not a Change Manager!
True. You’re also probably not a developer, trainer, business analyst, tester, salesperson or any of the others involved in a project’s success. You are, however, the person that understands the big picture. You understand how all the pieces fit together, and know when something is missing. It’s your responsibility to find those missing jigsaw pieces, fit them into place, and make the puzzle look like the picture on the box.
The following questions will help you put this puzzle together faster, making sure your next project is change management aware.
3 Questions to Jump Start Change Management
Change Management is a discipline with its own processes and tools that require years to master. But there is a quick way to get started if you find your project is missing this piece of the puzzle. Let’s use a software project as an example, where a team adds a new feature to improve user experience, but it differs from what has been used for the past five years.
Ask these three questions and make sure the answers are included in the project plan:
- Do people know the change is coming?
Depending upon how large the change is, communicate it weeks or even months in advance by email, in company meetings, through software notifications, or whatever channels are in place to get the word out.
Err on the side of over-communication. It’s been said you can tell ten people in a room something seven times, and two will say they heard it once! Here’s a rule of thumb: once you’ve become sick and tired of talking about the forthcoming change, that’s when people are just starting to get wind that it’s coming.
- Do people know how to use what is coming?
Once people know the change is imminent, do they know what will be different and how to use the new feature? This training can take on many forms. It could be a one-page quick reference guide that shows them that what used to be done one way is now done a different way. Or, it could be a live training session or pre-recorded video that is sent out to everyone to view at their own pace.
Be mindful that people have different learning styles. Some like to read, some like to watch an example and others are hands-on learners. Make sure whatever training is included in the project plan covers these different styles.
Also, if the change is mission critical, you’ll want to include some type of training completion reporting and escalation in the plan. It’s always good to let people know that completion of training will be tracked and at what point lack of progress will be escalated to their manager. This eliminates any surprises.
- Do people know where to get help?
You’re at the point now where everyone knows the new feature is coming and how to use it. They now need to know where to go if something isn’t working as expected or if they have a question about the new feature. Give them the ability to report problems or ask questions via email, phone, chat, or whatever tool your company uses for Support.
And, make sure Support personnel know that the change is coming. Seems like common sense, but it’s surprising how often we overlook this part of a project until the week (or day!) before it goes live. Support team members also need to know where to get their deeper-level questions answered.
One Final Tip. Tune into WIIFM.
People change because people want to change. When jumpstarting a change, communicate some level of WIIFM, or, What’s In It for Me. Acknowledge that this change is going to be difficult in the short term, require more effort, take longer to do, etc., but in the long run THEY will save more time, become a better employee, increase sales or whatever else motivates them. People who benefit from a change and understand what’s in it for them are more likely to sustain that change and promote it to others.
It may seem like a lot of work to incorporate change management into your project plan. Remember, you don’t need to do the work yourself and, frankly, you shouldn’t, if you want to stay off the critical path. However, it is your job to ensure the success of change management, and that it makes a positive difference.
The result? All the Herculean effort, long days, and sleepless nights working on a project yield actual results that increase business value. Something we hope never changes!