By Cory Emmett

Realizing Change Management

The potential ramifications of a failed project are no longer simple cost overruns; they have the power to destroy an entire brand or organization.  This is due to the increasing reach of IT projects and the sheer amount of data that is generated by businesses, as well as the growing number of employees that must have access to this data.  If vulnerabilities in a system exist, a botched large-scale upgrade or implementation can cause global outages or loss of service that could bring an organization to its knees.  It is vitally important that project managers are able to detect, understand, and mitigate these issues with change management.

The nature of change management is not exactly hierarchical, although areas of importance are apparent. Once you’ve identified that a project itself or a change to be made within that project will require more involvement from your employees, change management becomes a necessity.  Modern business strategy recommends the following as part of a greater change management structure:

Lead with culture in mind.  Although most businesses recognize the value of cultivating a productive and comfortable company culture, project managers can overlook its importance.  Without understanding how the employees in an organization will react and adapt to change, it will be difficult to effect that change – especially in the midst of a major project.  Skilled change managers that are conscious of an organization will be able to tap into the way that employees think and behave to produce ambassadors for change and leaders within the project.

Involve everybody. Frontline and mid-level employees constitute the bulk of those impacted by a project and the customer base.  As such, they often have a more precise bearing on the pain points that would actually be effected by the project.  They also have a direct line to the customer and can predict how the clientele will react to a change made by the organization.  IBM used this approach directly following Levi’s failed project with a “values jam” – a website set up for a three-day period which allowed anybody in the company to post comments, responses, suggestions, and concerns.  The project leaders used this feedback and communicated clearly with those who would be most affected.

Encourage commitment with the emotional case. Business objectives are typically the driving factor behind major projects – entering new markets, exponential growth, and other strategic goals.  Beyond this, it’s important to reach people emotionally to generate genuine commitment.  Project managers find that employees often have emotional attachments or reasons for sticking with an antiquated way of doing things – these concerns, if not addressed, can create a group of employees resistant to the change which can delay or halt its realization.

Communicate and engage often.  Communicating the necessity of a change is not enough.  People require constant engagement to effect powerful and sustained changes, both throughout the project and after it is in place.  Communication through multiple methods helps to engage employees, and meetings are just the start.  Informal conversations, internal trade fairs, collaboration methods, and other forums should be utilized to keep the conversation going and to keep the message alive.

Leverage employees outside of the project management group. Through any project, certain types of people will emerge.  Pride builders help to encourage their peers and help them feel good about the change.  Trusted employees are the go-to people that are the storehouses for company culture – they can tell you what’s really happening in the company.  Ambassadors for change are eager to try something new and can spread the word about a new approach.  Encouraging these informal leaders is imperative for long- and short-term success

Reward with formal and informal solutions. Employees that are encouraged to go the extra mile to ensure a project’s success can be rewarded in a number of ways, but a balance of formal and informal methods is ideal.  An objective answer would be performance-motivated bonuses; these could encourage associates to implement the change and communicate its necessity internally and externally.  However, unconscious and long-held behaviors require informal solutions: paying lip service to those that spread the method in unconventional and subjective ways tends to alienate them and make them feel as though they’re internal volunteers.

Tying it Together

Most project managers are capable of using established and long-held project management methodologies.  An analysis of projects shows that a degree of failure is evident in most projects: one major reason for this is the inability to implement change before, during, and after the project.  Change management is a strategic approach to assist with guiding individuals and teams from a current state to a future state.  When fully integrated with project management, change management encourages an atmosphere of success and cultivates a culture that encourages employees to be ambassadors for change. 

Questions regarding project and change management and its impact on your business? Request a consultation today!

Recommended for you…