Change management in project management
— June 3rd, 2021
Whether you lead change management in your organization or have simply been part of a change or transformation program yourself, you’ll know that poorly managed change can have big knock-on effects for the overall project.
These may include missed deadlines, poor return on investment, and in the case of new technology implementations, staff continuing to use older methods or new workarounds that circumvent the updated systems.
Organizations who successfully manage significant change – such as introducing new business models, disruptive products that cannibalize older offerings, or new ways of working – understand that change management is a vital component of the project management process.
Here are some aspects to consider if you are investigating how to bring colleagues or the wider organization along on a transformation journey:
Communication is key to successful change management – Do it well in 6 steps
1 – Change with a capital C relies on people’s willingness to make changes
Change programs, by their nature, are necessary because human beings are involved. If your employees were robots, installing a new program would be all that’s required to make a new system or process operational and effective. Your human colleagues, however, need to be motivated – or, even better, inspired – to modify the way they have been working and do things differently.
That means effective communication is essential, via whatever medium works for your organization, be it an all-company meeting, a video message from the CEO or a thought leadership article in your company newsletter or blog. Remember, too, that communication doesn’t just mean telling, but listening to staff views and opinions on the plan to change.
If you share with your staff your vision for change, and the reason it’s necessary, you’re more likely to find them open to change and willing to help you: that small alteration in their routine, which they might otherwise have resisted, is more palatable when they understand why it’s necessary. And, as one Santander executive notes, it’s good to ensure that the “why” is relevant to the overall strategy, so staff can see how the new direction fits in with the company’s objectives.
2 – The “safe option” can be one form of resistance to change
The Wall Street Journal has an interesting change management project example about the leadership at a bank who’d identified the new software solution it wanted to use. But when management communicated this to the team, it was clear a number of team members had made up their minds on an alternative solution.
The story illustrates the extent to which familiarity – the alternative solution was from a provider whose brand the team members had heard of – can influence change programs and muddy the thinking about which direction to take. It was only when management took the step of asking the team to methodically analyze each of the two solutions in terms of the benefits to end customers that the team agreed its preferred solution wasn’t the best.
3 – Change is the only constant
It’s tempting for on-the-ground staff members involved in a change program to look forward to “when it’s all over” and a return to normality, albeit with the new system or process in place. But as change expert Lenore Miller notes, the enterprise will not remain static and another change program is somewhere on the horizon.
There will always be new upgrades, new technology platforms, and new product rollouts if the organization is to stay competitive and continue to innovate.
That’s why it’s vital to make change management steps and methodologies an inseparable part of project management disciplines: this increases the likelihood that team members will get used to the concept of continual change. It also helps prevent a potentially toxic cycle of failed projects and change fatigue, where negative experiences with prior programs make teams even less enthusiastic about new initiatives.
What are some change management techniques?
Applying a structured change management approach
Having an organized, detailed, and thorough plan in place will help projects remain on track as organizations navigate change. Using a structured approach will allow companies to outline their priorities and offer a clear starting point for what issues need to be handled first.
If done correctly and professionally, this type of plan can be utilized multiple times throughout an organization whenever change management is required.
Having an active sponsor in place
Any organization seeking to successfully undertake change management should understand the importance of having an active and hands-on sponsor in place to oversee the process.
This sponsor should be a capable individual who is consistently available to offer guidance and assistance throughout the cycle of change.
Duties of this sponsor include:
· Acting as a leader
· Motivating and encouraging members of the organization
· Making important decisions
· Effectively communicating with project management and change management teams
· Aligning company priorities
Regular and consistent communication
To effectively transition through change without affecting current projects, having strong and open lines of communication in place is essential. Organizations must prioritize communicating regularly, clearly, and consistently across multiple channels.
It’s vital that these communications include updates on the changes happening, what they mean for both the company and its employees, and what long-term plans are in place.
Engaging with front-line employees
Change management acts as a means not only to navigate employees through the changes that are happening but to help them understand what exactly these changes mean and how they will be personally affected by them.
Possessing this understanding allows employees to remain motivated and encouraged throughout the change process, and to be prepared and equipped for whatever comes next.
Dedicating change management resources
For a change management initiative to succeed, it requires funding and resources. Companies should have an individual or team in place responsible for handling these resources and ensuring that they are available and accessible throughout the change process.
Remaining engaged with project management
Some useful ways of aligning change management with project management include:
- Cooperating with the project team on change management activities
- Providing the project team with change management training
- Creating a project plan that includes change management processes
- Aligning change management plans with project plans
How to communicate change during difficult times
What are the 4 types of change?
For many companies, success is not something that comes easy, and often the only solution for these businesses is to find a way to reinvent their product or service. Organizations can achieve this change by applying their efforts to altering their mission entirely.
A great example of this is Instagram, who when first starting out, released an app called Burbn. After this app failed, the tech company decided to re-introduce themselves to the market with a new product. Instagram is now one of the most popular social media apps in the world.
Strategic changes are the changes an organization makes in order to handle an issue or problem they are facing. For example, a newspaper that’s not selling enough copies to keep it afloat may opt to create an online news site as an alternative.
In this way, they may be able to reach a larger demographic or secure new advertisers. Change management in a situation such as this also includes working to convince those involved of the new strategy’s value and making sure they understand how the change will take place and what it means for the company.
Organizational changes can be a stressful process for both employees and employers alike. An operational change is a change in the structure of the company and often incorporates letting employees go, team changes or reorganization.
With constant advances in technology, organizations should focus on implementing new software to keep themselves relevant. These updates in technology have a direct effect on how employees carry out their work, and often new training has to be provided.
Nevertheless, they are a necessary change if companies are going to contend with competitors, communicate effectively, and do business in a modern world.
The key to successful change management: Internal communication
In today’s business world, change is happening at an accelerated pace, requiring organizations to continuously introduce new processes and procedures. Change management is necessary to help those individuals or teams directly affected by change to navigate their way. If change management is effective, it will allow individuals and teams to remain engaged and motivated as new technologies or practices are implemented.
It is also essential that employees are prepared to use these new processes. This may require training, especially when new technology or communication systems are involved. Change management is a procedure that requires clear goals and objectives, detailed planning, and strong and open lines of communication.