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Change management in project management – Don’t let poor planning throw you off-track

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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 being undertaken.

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:

 

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.

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